Bulletins

Hybrid work is fantastic. Except when you're the only person who shows up.

"I think we're alone now."

An empty office

For hybrid workers, commuting to an empty office is the stuff of nightmares.

Photo: Moment/Getty Images

What’s the biggest bummer of hybrid work? Going to the office and finding nobody there except you.

After two years of remote work, the office is shaping up to be a place that many workers only want to visit for a particular reason. For most, that reason is to see and collaborate with co-workers — and it’s hard to do that without planning ahead.


Clearly, flexibility has its limits when working with other people: More than 70% of workers say they want the freedom to choose their own schedules. But even more (75.6%) want to go to the office on the same days as their colleagues, according to a February survey of U.S. workers from WFH Research. Most workers don't want a rigid work-from-office schedule, but they do seem to want enough structure that their office visits are worthwhile.

And for most, that means they're not showing up to an empty office. College-educated workers cited in-person collaboration (61.3%) and socializing (56%) as the two biggest benefits to working on site.

Those two were mentioned even more often than face time with the boss, which only about one in three respondents cited.

So, how are workers avoiding the commute to a sparsely populated office? There’s some evidence from the office software maker Envoy that they’re planning their work-from-office days in advance.

As part of its 2022 workplace trends report, Envoy looked at its clients’ desk booking records for clues about how workers planned their trips to the office last year. Envoy found that during the spring and summer of 2021, desk bookings only came in a day or so ahead of time. But by November, workers were booking desks as much as three days in advance, Envoy found. (Advance bookings then dropped off in December, when office traffic took a hit from the omicron variant.)

“Part of this [increase in advance bookings] was due to COVID related workplace capacity limits,” Initialized Capital’s head of content, Candy Cheng, wrote in a blog post about the report. (Initialized is a longtime Envoy investor.) “But the data indicates a growing trend that employees are becoming more proactive about planning their hybrid work schedules ahead of time.”

This trend toward planning ahead might also have to do with snagging some non-video face time with particular co-workers. An Envoy survey last year found that knowing who was going to be in the office played a role in 37% of workers’ decision about when to go in.

There's no shortage of enterprise companies that want to sell you desk-booking software, but your company might already subscribe to a software suite that provides the same features. Companies with at least one Zoom Room license subscription can use Zoom's new Workplace Reservation feature that lets employees reserve spaces and see maps of which of their co-workers are coming into the office and where they plan to sit. Microsoft lets you use Outlook shared calendars or Teams to schedule in-office time together.

If you work at a smaller company where reserving space isn't an issue, you could just, you know, talk to your co-workers and tell them when you're going to be in the office. If you don't remember how to talk to your co-workers, you can always Slack them.

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Bulletins