In a world rapidly readjusting to the post-pandemic era, a striking 90% of organizations are requiring their teams to return to the office. Yet, the heartbeat of many offices remains faint with utilization rates in numerous cities hovering below half their pre-pandemic vigor.

Amidst this evolving landscape, where the voice of the workforce yearns for flexibility, emerges a harmonizing solution: the concept of anchor days and weeks. This article explores how businesses are striking the perfect chord between office camaraderie and the comforts of remote work.

Pressed for time? Here’s a quick summary…

  • Anchor days & weeks: This work model mandates employees to be in the office on designated days or weeks while allowing remote work for the remainder of the year. Successful implementations by companies like The J.M. Smucker Company, Marvin, and Wellable emphasize an employee-centric approach.
  • The upsides: Beyond the scheduled meetings and emails, anchor days open doors to spontaneous chats by the coffee machine, collaborative brainstorms, and on-the-spot learning sessions—recreating the magic that’s hard to capture virtually.
  • A different lens: The rhythm of ‘deep work’ can get disrupted amidst the office hustle. Extended meetings and the hum of activity might mean longer workdays for some.
  • Tailor to employee feedback & experience: Use feedback from employee surveys and focus groups to shape spaces that cater to both collaboration and solitude, and sprinkle in opportunities for growth to make the office more appealing.
  • Continuous adaptation & evolution: With AI reshaping roles, and events like the emergence of new COVID variants, adaptability isn’t just desired, it’s essential. A resilient organization dances gracefully with change.

Introducing Anchor Days & Weeks

A hybrid work policy with anchor days and anchor weeks includes designated mandatory in-office times while allowing for remote work flexibility for the rest of the year. This approach has gained popularity among organizations that are seeking to revive on-site presence, striving to balance the benefits of in-person collaboration with the newfound preference for remote work.

Introducing Anchor Days & Weeks

Companies that have successfully implemented this model prioritize an employee-centric approach: 

  • The J.M. Smucker Company instituted 22 anchor weeks a year, which has not only been met with acceptance but also high employee satisfaction due to the blend of in-person collaboration and remote flexibility. 
  • Marvin, a windows and doors manufacturer, based their two to three anchor days a week policy on internal surveys and focus groups, ensuring employees felt like active participants in the RTO process. Rooted in company culture and employee feedback, Marvin achieved a balance between organizational and employee needs. 
  • Wellable implemented a hybrid work arrangement with two anchor days per week, encouraging face-to-face interaction and camaraderie to promote social well-being among employees. 

Perks Of Embracing Anchor Days

Perks Of Embracing Anchor Days

1. Fostering Collaboration & Brainstorming

Anchor days facilitate in-person brainstorming sessions, creating a dynamic environment for spontaneous idea-sharing and problem-solving. These interactions can lead to innovative breakthroughs that remote work may struggle to replicate.

Real-World Examples: Wellable and software company Datasite schedule company-wide meetings on anchor day Wednesdays to encourage face-to-face collaboration, brainstorming, and a sense of unity.

2. Building Relationships

Anchor days enable casual social interactions and impromptu networking, allowing colleagues to build stronger professional relationships. Whether it’s project updates over a morning coffee or an unplanned hallway chat, these encounters can strengthen community bonds and enhance social wellness in the workplace

Real-World Examples: Wellable’s anchor day Thursdays feature a “Wind Down” hour after work, allowing employees to relax, socialize, and build camaraderie through activities like happy hours, casual chats, and team outings. Datasite holds similar fun events on anchor days.

At our headquarters in Minneapolis, at which about 400 employees are based, we’ve held several fun and educational events, such as a Minnesota Vikings party and a taco lunch with leadership and board members, to give employees a specific date on which they can come into the office and likely reconnect with colleagues

Deb LaMere, Chief Human Resources Officer at Datasite

3. Promoting Learning & Development

Anchor days serve as platforms for in-office training sessions and interactive workshops, fostering a culture of continuous learning. These growth opportunities enhance employee satisfaction and professional development.

Real-World Examples: Advertising agency Making Science implemented anchor weeks specifically for skill development, learning opportunities, and accountability.

Counter Perspective

While anchor days and structured hybrid arrangements have gained traction for enhancing team building and collaboration, it’s critical to consider the opposing view. Research on “deep work” underscores the drawbacks of anchor days in terms of individual productivity.

Deep work

Three fundamental types of uninterrupted time play a pivotal role in accomplishing tasks: 

  • Deep work requires long periods (2+ hours) of concentration on detail-heavy tasks. 
  • Focus time is shorter blocks (1+ hour) of uninterrupted time to gather thoughts and make plans. 
  • Prep time is essential for roles that require preparation time (30+ minutes) to excel in customer interactions, presentations, and other similar activities. 

Uninterrupted time is closely linked to self-assessed employee productivity. Knowledge workers need substantial portions of their day free from meetings, distractions, and work notifications to report feeling productive. Anchor days can negatively affect the following dynamics:

  • Impact On Deep Work: While anchor days are intended to encourage collaboration, frequent social interactions come at a price. Increased physical presence in the office can lead to distractions like office chatter and other disruptions. These interruptions can eat into the time needed for deep, focused individual work, ultimately hindering the productivity of individuals who rely on uninterrupted time to complete their tasks.
Negative affection of anchor days
  • Meeting Overload: Anchor days typically coincide with a surge in meeting volumes, sometimes extending beyond traditional work meetings. Informal gatherings like catch-up coffees, team-building activities, and lunch outings become part of the workday. This can diminish employees’ control over their time and impede efficiency. 
  • Extended Work Hours: Anchor days often come with heightened meetings, distractions, and limited quiet spaces, which can lead to employees having to extend their workdays to compensate for lost deep work time. This can negatively impact their work-life balance and well-being. This comes with additional risk for employers: those who work more than nine hours a day are at a significantly higher risk of quitting. 

As organizations navigate the adoption of models like anchor days, they must carefully consider the balance between encouraging in-person collaboration and preserving uninterrupted work time. This is crucial to maintaining employee productivity and well-being, benefiting employees and employers alike.

Shaping The Future: Using Employee Insights

There’s no standardized solution for work arrangements and return-to-office strategies. The key to a sustainable and balanced approach lies in tailoring the model to meet the unique needs of both the organization and its employees while prioritizing adaptability.

Shaping The Future: Using Employee Insights

Data-Informed Approach

Employing data-driven insights through avenues like employee surveys and focus groups provides a foundation for refining the anchor days and anchor weeks model. This iterative process ensures that organizational goals and employee preferences remain closely aligned.

Creating Office Appeal

Enhancing employee experience within the office can attract workers back. One survey indicated that employees are more inclined to work in person if their office provides a balanced mix of spaces that cater to their needs, such as quiet spaces and collaboration zones. These features enhance satisfaction and promote inclusivity by accommodating the unique work requirements of individuals who thrive in a less distracting environment. 

Organizing learning and development events can further encourage employees to return to the office. Such events offer opportunities for skill enhancement, networking, and knowledge sharing. They foster a sense of professional growth and community, making the office a hub for continuous learning and career advancement.

Continuous Adaptation & Evolution

The path to achieving a balanced and effective work model is not static. As organizational goals, employee needs, and global conditions evolve, the anchor day model must remain adaptive. Consider the following examples: 

  • AI Integration: As AI shoulders routine tasks, employees may focus on more complex, creative, and strategic responsibilities that require heightened concentration. Consequently, a potential adjustment may involve allowing employees to choose in-office days for AI upskilling and development activities and increasing remote days for undisturbed work. 
  • Individual Roles: Diversity encompasses not only gender, race, and age but also work preferences and individual needs. The anchor day model should be modifiable to accommodate employees and teams who thrive in different environments. Some may excel in collaborative office settings, while others may require quieter, remote spaces. For example, allowing teams or individuals to select their own anchor days based on role requirements, team dynamics, and personal preferences, can ensure an environment that maximizes job satisfaction and overall performance.
  • New COVID Variants: The global landscape has been profoundly influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic. With the emergence of new variants, the anchor day model may need periodic adjustments to accommodate fluctuating conditions. For instance, in response to a surge in cases, organizations might temporarily shift to remote days to ensure employee safety and well-being. 

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