The CollabSystem Analysis: How many days should your employees work in the office?

Look HR Data Analytics. Photo by Serpstat on

At CollabSystem we recognise HR Analytics is all the rage. Nobody does it. Everyone talks about it. So when we heard that our clients were struggling to determine just how many days in the week their employees should work from the office in a global pandemic, we knew that we could bring our fearsome HR Analytics capabilities to bear across our customer base.

So we asked an intern to look at the question: “How many days should employees work in the office?’

The intern came back surprisingly quickly. They said none. Apparently the question you ask is important to the outcomes you get from HR Data Analytics. The intern had fixated on the word ‘should’ and years of wasteful philosophical training led them to the conclusion that nobody should have to ever work. We agreed our intern shouldn’t have to work.

We all know that when HR Data Analytics fails to provide the right outcome, you try again. So we got a new less philosophical & more mathematical intern and asked a different question: “What is the average of the answer of our client organisations who have announced return to work policies on the number of days employees should spend in the office, excluding zealots who are working their employees to death and showboaters who say all their employees can work from anywhere?” We felt this question nailed the analytical problem most of our clients need to solve.

Now, Kate, our new intern, is a smart young woman who will go far. Before she began the complex and involved work on HR Data Analysis, and watching the other intern pack his box, she asked us a critical question: “Before I start this, I think we should have a hypothesis to test. What do you think the answer will be?” As founders of CollabSystems, we are sure in our in depth understanding of our customer base and answered two days without thinking at all and relying on that great entrepreneurial instinct called gut.

HR Analytics in action. Kate taking notes as a founder explains the way of the world. Photo by cottonbro on

After an extensive period of analysis which seemed to take Kate far from our office and racked up a great deal of expenses, Kate returned with the answer. We are pleased to share it with you now:

Two days

That’s how many days a week your employees need to spend in the office to receive magical office culture vibes of collaboration, culture and serendipity. Industry is irrelevant. It doesn’t matter which days or who else is there. It doesn’t even matter what they do or what office they work in. Two days is the answer.

We interrogated Kate on her methodology but she pointed out that data analysis using machine learning can be a black box, particularly where the number of independent variables is high. We had to agree whatever she had done with her time and money, Kate now sounded like an HR Data Analyst.

After a while and the dangling of a permanent paid role, Kate revealed the foundations of her analysis. Sadly, this wasn’t based in some time and motion study of work patterns and productivity. It wasn’t underpinned by the changing nature of work, new technologies and the transformation to a knowledge economy.

The analysis was much more simple. Kate explained that there are five days in the week. Nobody wants to commute for a half day and Fridays were a write-off already. Therefore it seemed fair to everyone to split the difference at two days. Now your employees can spend two days on video conference at home and two days videoconferencing in the office. Friday is a casual day. Now that’s maths for you.

For safety’s sake, we went to check with a number of clients, influencers and other HR Analysts before publishing our results. Everyone agreed that two days seemed like the safest compromise answer with no basis other than it falls nicely between extremes. We met absolutely nobody who objected to two days unless they were five to seven day maniacs or zero day radicals. We then spent some time making Kate the Group Head of HR Analytics and reverse engineering a bunch of complicated maths to underpin the two-day answer. Two days it is.

So for any CollabSystem client pondering their employees return to work, the answer is two days, regardless of industry, role, workload or prevailing pandemic conditions. Two days. We can live with that (assuming we are vaccinated, wear masks and follow covid-safe protocols at all times)>

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