Summer Fridays are a relatively small gesture that can make a tremendous impact on employee happiness. What exactly is a Summer Friday?
Well, it depends. 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' regularly allotted paid time off. There are many ways to structure summer hours, from offering half days or full days off, or allowing employees to accrue hours off from working longer days through the rest of the week.
According to a research by Gartner, 42% of companies surveyed offered Summer Fridays last year — an increase of more than 20% since 2015. Clearly, this perk is growing in popularity among businesses of all kinds.
No matter how the policy is defined, the goal is the same: to give employees time off separate from their allotted vacation, sick, and personal time. In all likelihood, there's a version of summer hours that fits your business.
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In our often overworked culture, many people believe that the more hours employees work, the more productive they are. In fact, it can be the opposite. Productivity at the office drops sharply when employees work more than 50 hours each week.
In addition, overworked employees can be stressed, which is bad news for both the employee and the employer. According to the Harvard Gazette, 36% of U.S. workers suffer from workplace stress — and it costs U.S. businesses $30 billion a year in lost workdays.
Related Article: 10 Ways to Reduce Workplace Stress
To begin to combat some of these issues, many companies are starting to get on board with less obvious (but relatively cheap) perks, like Summer Fridays.
Having a head start on their weekend makes people happy. And when employees are happy, everyone wins. That’s not just a hypothesis — several studies back up these claims. One study found that happy people were 12% more productive.
Related Article: The Bottom Line: Employee Happiness is Good for Business
One reason to offer summer hours is that it gives your employees more time to recover from work-related stress. 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 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.
Related Article: Improve your Mental Health at Work With These 6 Midday Break Ideas
But it’s not just about the productivity that can be gained from this. Taking vacation or paid time off improves mental health, heart health, and even relationships. Decreased illness means that your company’s healthcare costs may 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.
According to Justworks HR Consultant, Moses Balian, “Employees are going to take Summer Fridays. The question is whether you make them stay at their desks and daydream, or allow them to go out and enjoy the afternoon.”
There are a few ways to set up a Summer Friday policy, and whatever 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 even take this approach and apply it throughout the year.
Half-day Fridays. Employees come in the morning to ensure that to-do list is handled, then leave around lunchtime. 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, someone is always around to answer the phones, but it also allows people take a break.
Every Friday off, go home and have fun. This is pretty straightforward — and also the most generous of the options.
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.
Of the options listed above, Moses generally recommends offering half-day Fridays.
“If you define Summer Fridays as 1 p.m. dismissal, it has that last-day-of-school magic,” he says. “That way Fridays also maintain a semblance of structure, and it might organically encourage team building when a group of employees all leave early together.”
Related Article: Fun Team Building Ideas That Employees Will Enjoy
Some companies in geographies with particularly strong cultures of outdoor activities have come up with some creative alternatives. “I’ve heard of flexible time off policies for fresh powder in Utah, great surf in Hawaii, or deer hunting in Wisconsin, for those days where conditions are just perfect for a certain pastime,” Moses said.
Even if you’re in an urban center, consider letting your employees use Summer Fridays without advance notice. We’ve all had days where the fresh air and sunshine are just begging us to go outside.
Of course, any option could be a viable one for your company, and is definitely one your employees will appreciate. Having 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 you appreciate the hard work they put in to grow the business every day.
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