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You only need to go to the office 1 or 2 days a week, says new Harvard Business School study

April 14, 2022, 5:25 PM UTC

Managers take note: One or two days in the office each week is the ideal setup for hybrid work, according to a new paper from Harvard Business School.

As the debate continues around what the future of office work will look like, researchers find that spending one or two days in an office each week gives employees the flexibility they desire while maintaining social connection.

Over nine weeks in the summer of 2020, the researchers conducted an experiment in which more than 100 human resources employees were randomly assigned to one of three hybrid work schedules. One group spent between zero and eight days in the office over the course of nine weeks; a second group spent between nine and 14 days in the office, translating to one to two days a week; and a third group spent more than 15 days in the office.

The group that spent one to two days at the office each week—deemed “intermediate hybrid work” by the researchers—produced more original work than the other two groups, according to the researchers. Managers also rated that group’s work output as being of higher quality than that of the other two groups.

“Intermediate hybrid work is plausibly the sweet spot, where workers enjoy flexibility and yet are not as isolated compared to peers who are predominantly working from home,” the report reads. And in fact, workers in the intermediate group reported greater satisfaction with working from home, greater work-life balance, and lower isolation than their colleagues in the other two groups.

The results may not be welcomed by many executives who have been clamoring for employees to return to offices full-time, saying in-person work fosters collaboration and adds to company culture. In fact, a recent report found that nearly all managers surveyed believe remote workers are at a disadvantage compared to their on-site counterparts.

Companies that employ office workers who can do their work from home—and have for the past two-plus years—are split on the post-coronavirus work plan. Some, like Apple, Google, and Goldman Sachs, are taking a hard-line approach, requiring employees to return to the office at least part-time.

Other firms, like SalesforceTwitter, and Meta are allowing employees the choice to work from home full-time.

It’s clear where many employees stand on the matter: Nine out of 10 workers want to maintain remote work to some degree, according to a Gallup poll from October 2021. Some workers, including at Goldman, are ignoring the full-time return-to-office call, while others at companies like Apple are threatening to quit over in-office policies.

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