I can still remember the day I got the email that my company would be offering me four days during the summer to take a half day. Just four days that I could leave at 1 pm — and I was ecstatic.
Once I came down from the excitement, I put some thought into it. And I realized that my company was offering a very inexpensive, but morale-building perk to us that could have long-lasting benefits towards the firm's success.
Offering summer hours is a business policy where companies give paid time off, typically on Fridays that occur between Memorial Day and Labor Day, in addition to employees' paid time off. Fridays' hours can ultimately be anything: half days or full days off are common, as are accrued hours off from working longer days through the rest of the week.
One survey has pointed out that about 30% of companies offer altered summer hours. Irrespective of the variation, the goal is the same: to give employees time off that was separate from their allotted vacation, sick, and personal time.
But to understand why you should offer summer hours, it helps to talk about why many companies are resistant to it.
Hours Matter, Don’t They?
If you look at the great American companies, it’s easy to see many large manufacturers. Ford is one of them. And what made American manufacturing so great was the assembly line. The constant repetition of a task allowed someone to become an expert at doing that one task, allowing the assembly line to work more efficiently.
Every hour, employees stood at their spot on the assembly line was an hour that they were being productive and helping the business to continue growing. If your employer offered you off on Fridays, suddenly you couldn’t actually do anything for the business and what good are you then?
This obsession with hours worked has lingered with a belief that the more hours employees work, the more productive they are. In fact, it's the opposite. Productivity at the office drops sharply when employees work more than 50 hours each week. Overworked employees also sleep less, drink more, and cost companies more for healthcare.
Humans aren’t on the assembly line nearly as much anymore, so equating productivity to hours is often incorrect. The reality is, hours really don’t matter. Studies have shown that bosses can't actually tell the difference between employees who are putting in the extra hours and the ones who only appear to. And as businesses start to realize this, they are starting to open their minds to the less obvious (but relatively cheap) perks, like Summer Fridays.
Why You Should Offer Summer Fridays
The primary reason that you should offer summer hours off is because it gives your employees more time to recover from work-related stress.
I’m a big believer that the weekend isn’t long enough. Saturday is spent coming down from your workweek and then Sunday is spent doing chores and preparing for work on Monday. Adding another day there would give an actual day of relaxation.
By leaving work on Friday, employees see that you value their mental health and work/life balance. You'll be able to prevent burnout and also boost productivity. Because efficiency is not measured in hours, giving your employees more time to relax will ensure that the hours they are at the office are spent in a more productive environment.
But it’s not just about the easily described productivity that is gained from this. When people are less stressed, they are less likely to get sick. Decreased illness means that your company’s healthcare costs will be less and, on top of that, your team will be more present, more active, and more engaged.
Another way that this benefits you is that you can literally save money on your electricity. It’s a small reason, but if your entire office is shut down on Friday, that’s a significant amount of time that you’re not running dozens of computers, the A/C, the lights and all the other costs that go along with running an office.
What Types of Summer Hours Should I Offer?
There are a few ways to set up a Summer Friday. Each has its merits as well as disadvantages. Which you choose to implement is entirely up to you. Consider these options:
Extra hours during the week, for hours off on Friday. Employees can work an additional hour every day of the week in exchange for the ability to take off early on Friday. Many companies take this approach and apply it throughout the year because employees are already working, so they leave an hour later in exchange for not coming in at all. The negative here is simple: just because they are “mandated” for another hour doesn’t mean they’re working.
Half of Friday off. Employees come in the morning to ensure that everything is done, then leave right around lunch. They still get to enjoy some of the day and you get to ensure that everything is done.
Every other Friday off. Stagger days so that half of the company is off on one Friday and the other half is off the other Friday. This way, people can answer calls, but it also allows people take a break. The downside here is that you are not gaining any benefit in having the office completely closed.
Every Friday off, go home and have fun. This is the most generous of the options, but 14% of companies make this a year-round policy, including places like like Reusser Design, Basecamp, and KMPG.
Offer flexible hours off for employees to choose from. Consider giving your employees the flexibility to choose when they apply their summer hours each week. Perhaps some team members would prefer Monday mornings off, or Wednesday afternoons. Being flexible could help you use your company's summer hours policy to its maximum impact.
Every option could be a viable one for your company, and is definitely one your employees will appreciate. Having Friday's hours back for recreation will allow employees to have an extra day to recharge, deal with the stresses in their lives, and come back ready to work. It’s a nice and inexpensive perk that shows that you appreciate their hard work to grow the business every day.
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