7-to-7 is the new 9-to-5: Research shows that workers’ days in the office are fewer but longer than pre-pandemic

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If Dolly Parton was mad about the exhausting toll that grinding 9-to-5 took, then she’d probably have some stern words to sing about 7-to-7—the new way to make a living.

That’s because new research shows that workers are increasingly clocking in at 7 a.m. and not leaving their desks until after 7 p.m.

The water cooler company Bevi examined usage of its machines—according to the company, 25% of Fortune 500 companies have at least one Bevi in their office—to get an idea of how much time workers are spending in the office. 

The Boston-based company compared usage of water dispenser machines in offices today with 2019 when most workers were based at their desk, five days a week—and it found that workers’ days in the office are fewer but longer than pre-pandemic.

“A greater portion of in-office hours now take place before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. than before the pandemic,” the company noted in its latest return-to-office report. 

The data shows that since 2019—when the majority of workers began their workday between 9 a.m. and 10 a.m.—there’s been a 25% increase in workers starting work at 7 a.m.

Over 2% of workers are in the office even earlier (between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m.) compared to 0.6% of workers pre-pandemic. 

In-office attendance still hits a peak (10.6%) around noon, before workers steadily start leaving their desks. Although office attendance is marginally lower in the afternoons than it was in 2019 (this recent phenomenon is called the “dead zone”) this trend suddenly shifts after 7 p.m. where in-office attendance stands significantly higher than pre-pandemic.

While just 0.2% of workers were still working at their desks at 11 p.m. in 2019, this has now surged to 0.6%. 

One reason for this, the report explains, is that people could be coming in earlier or leaving later to avoid the commuter rush hour. 

Another explanation could be that they’re making the most of their office days, seeing as they are now fewer and farther between than in 2019. 

Whereas office attendance was more evenly dispersed across the five-day workweek before the pandemic, Bevi’s data shows that most workers today are showing face on Tuesdays and Wednesdays (68%) with Thursdays following closely behind (66%).

As the British serial entrepreneur Debbie Wosskow OBE, co-founder of AllBright previously suggested, people are going to have to become intentional about how they use their office days in a hybrid working world. 

“How do you make those two days count? How do you make sure that you’re seen because we shouldn’t pretend it doesn’t matter,” she said. Perhaps, that’s exactly what workers are doing to ensure they’re still getting noticed by their boss.

Pandemic gains risk being erased

The world of work has changed—or at least, many would have hoped it has. The proliferation of remote and hybrid work during the pandemic significantly helped working mothers juggle the demands of childcare and a career. 

“There were so many things that we’ve learned from that around the need for flexibility, particularly around the fact that you can still do the job, but it doesn’t have to be within the nine-to-five framework,” Alicia Iveson, CEO at Hijinks Collective, an advertising agency with YouTube and the Royal Navy among its clients, previously told Fortune.

The growing acceptance of core hours, work-from-anywhere schemes, and the four-day week has offered a glimmer of hope for those seeking lasting changes in how we work.

However, if the new normal is in an office from 7-to-7, it’ll undoubtedly have an adverse effect on the careers of working moms.

The lack of flexibility since offices have re-opened their doors and summoned the back-to-work claxon has already left working mothers with limited career options.

According to Fawcett’s research, over a third of mothers could advance their careers but they are stuck in their current job due to the flexibility it provides. Meanwhile, over 40% of the mothers surveyed have had to turn down a promotion because they worried it would not fit with childcare arrangements.

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