Why Mandating ‘X’ Days a Week in the Office is a Stupid Idea

Herb Bowie
5 min readMay 11, 2022
Silly stock photo of team meeting in a modern office
Is this really what execs think office life is like? (image credit: iStock / .shock)

As the pandemic eases, increasing numbers of companies and employees are running out of health-related reasons why everyone who can work from home needs to do so.

And yet employees have gotten used to skipping the daily commute, have proven that they can remain productive in their pajamas, and are often struggling to find good reasons why they need to return to their pre-pandemic office hours — or even some semi-reasonably mandated hybrid schedule.

One high-profile example of the rebellion brewing is Ian Goodfellow, Apple’s director of machine learning, who recently announced his departure from this bastion of high-tech due to its return-to-work policy.

I understand the tension. There are many reasons why companies want their employees toiling away in their offices — some of them good, and some of them bad. And there are many reasons why employees might want to work from home — most of them good and, in a few cases, some not quite so good.

And so, when occupants of the C-suite ask themselves, “How many days each week must our employees come into the office?”, it is understandably a hard question, and there’s no one answer that is going to please everyone. But that’s why they make the big bucks, right?

Wrong.

Apple execs should remind themselves of the time when Steve Jobs came back from a visit with Sony in Japan, all fired up with a great idea for Apple employees: they should all come to work everyday wearing the same slick corporate vests. Jobs later recalled “Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea.”

But if execs cannot mandate the same corporate attire for everyone, what makes them think that mandating a certain number of days per week in the office is a good thing?

The same flaw lurks in both approaches: every employee is not the same. Every situation is not the same. Every team is not the same.

And so, Jobs realized that the idea of having a corporate uniform was not really a good idea. Instead, it was best to let each employee decide how to dress each day. In other words, it was best to grant each employee autonomy in regards to their own attire.

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