Boston’s biggest employers say five-day office weeks are over

Companies embrace flex schedules to accommodate workers

Five-Day Office Weeks Done For In Boston
(Illustration by The Real Deal with Getty)

The five-day office work week may have gone the way of the Boston Braves.

Indeed, Beantown’s largest employers are having a hard time getting employees back to the office five days a week, as flexible work schedules and hybrid work arrangements have become the norm, the Boston Globe reported.

“I think most companies have resigned themselves to the fact that flexible work schedules are here to stay,” Jim Rooney, president of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, told the outlet. “Could I see a day when it’s viewed as better for the business, better for the employee, and better for society if people are getting up and going to work? Yeah, I can see that coming back — but it’s not going to happen in the short term.”

The trend toward hybrid work arrangements is gaining momentum nationwide. Data from the U.S. Survey of Working Arrangements and Attitudes reveals that in August, 50.5 percent of full-time workers with jobs suitable for remote work split their time between onsite and remote work, up from 46.8 percent a year earlier, the outlet said.

Even tech giants like Google, Meta, and Amazon, which have large Boston or Cambridge offices, are implementing three-day office workweeks, despite initially imposing stricter return-to-office policies.

Many employers and employees are seeking middle-ground solutions to strike a balance between remote and onsite work, the Globe reported.

Several factors are contributing to the persistence of hybrid-work arrangements. The ongoing talent shortage, particularly in Massachusetts’ tight labor market, has compelled employers to offer flexibility to attract and retain workers, especially women and individuals from marginalized groups. Cost-saving measures also play a role, with some companies downsizing or subleasing their offices, while others aim to avoid having employees endure long commutes for days when their presence in the office isn’t mandatory.

Some firms, like Point32Health and ezCater, emphasize the importance of maximizing in-person collaboration and interaction when employees do come into the office, rather than adhering to a rigid schedule, the outlet said.

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While tech companies are well-suited for hybrid work arrangements, traditional industries like financial services and law may require more in-person presence, with some firms implementing four-day office workweeks.

Nevertheless, companies are experimenting with different models and arrangements, allowing employees more freedom to choose. Mintz, a law firm, asks employees to come to the office about 60 percent of the time on average, with most employees adopting a Tuesday-Wednesday-Thursday schedule.

Athenahealth, a health care software company, has about 35 percent occupancy at its headquarters, according to chief people officer Brittany Podolak.  

“It all comes down to, we want to have an engaged workforce,” she told the outlet. “This is where I just don’t know that mandates do that for you.”

The report comes at a time when office values in Boston are cratering.

Real estate firm Synergy Investments recently purchased One Liberty Square, a 13-story office building in the Financial District of downtown Boston, for $45 million, which is a 17 percent decrease from the building’s value a decade ago, the Boston Globe reported

It’s the second office building sale in as many months in the city; Rhode Island-based Washington Trust provided the financing.

The acquisition, which is the second office building sale in as many months in the city, comes as Boston’s office market faces challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, with office space availability at an all-time high in Greater Boston. 

Ted Glanzer