Across industries, employers have been offering nontraditional perks to new and existing workers for years in a bid to attract and retain employees. One example: Some companies let their employees work less or not at all on Fridays during the summer. Here’s what to know about this practice, known as “Summer Fridays.”
Summer Fridays are a type of flexible scheduling that allows employees to either leave the office early or take the day off at the end of the week. As the name suggests, these reduced hours occur during the summer months and apply to Fridays only.
Employers may offer Summer Fridays to give themselves a competitive advantage in the eyes of job seekers looking for flexibility in their work schedules. They remain a powerful perk even as more teams have transitioned to remote work amid the COVID-19 pandemic. By allowing employees to have a lighter work schedule on Fridays during the summer, staffers are able to recharge, tend to personal obligations, enjoy the weather and disconnect from their work life. As a result, workers have a better sense of work-life balance, which boosts their morale and makes them more productive when they are working. [Learn how to create a great employee benefits plan to attract and keep workers.]
A Monster survey found that 69% of remote employees were nearing burnout even while working from home. Summer Fridays can prevent dips in employee morale even if your employees aren’t physically going into the office.
Keeping your employees happy should be a key goal as an employer. Low morale in the workplace often leads to serious operational problems, but offering incentives like Summer Fridays can lift spirits. When you support work-life balance for employees, you help them avoid the negative health effects of burnout, which ensures they remain productive contributors to your business.
When employees know they have extra time to look forward to during the summer months, they are more likely to be high performers during their normal working hours. Workers are often motivated by rewards, and Summer Fridays can be viewed as a reward for getting through the workweek. And when hard work is rewarded by extra time off, employees are more likely to stay at a company, reducing turnover rates.
While the idea of Summer Fridays sounds great in theory, its practicality may be difficult for some companies. The feasibility and successful implementation of a Summer Fridays policy depends on a number of factors, like what industry your business operates in. For some sectors, like publishing and advertising, Fridays during the summer months are generally less productive than the rest of the week. In such instances, it makes sense to turn a down day into a long-weekend perk.
But not all businesses have slow days during the summer, as sacrificing 20% of the workweek can have consequences for a company’s bottom line. Businesses in food service, retail and shipping may want to consider other perks when trying to attract and retain top talent. After all, many restaurants cannot afford to close one day a week or be short-staffed during the Friday lunch rush.
Summer Fridays don’t make sense for every business. Will shifting eight hours of work to other days of the week disrupt productivity? How problematic will it be to give Fridays off without shifting these hours to another day? Ask these questions to determine whether Summer Fridays could work for your business.
If Summer Fridays seem right for your business, you can take the following steps to implement them.
Not all Summer Fridays policies work the same for all companies; in fact, they may even vary within a company. Maybe some team members get one Friday entirely off while others work. Then, the next week, the employees who had off must work, while the team members who worked now have their own day off. Or maybe your whole team gets to head out every Friday in the early afternoon. Look at what other companies do with their Summer Fridays to see if their models work for you.
Maybe you can’t afford to lose eight hours of work per week but really want to give your employees Fridays off. In that case, you could offer a compressed work schedule, such as a four-day workweek. Your employees would work 10 hours each day Monday through Thursday. Across four days, that amount of work adds up to 40 hours. That means your team can take Friday off without losing the eight hours of productivity that a fifth day usually entails.
Let’s say you’re switching to four-day, 40-hour workweeks to introduce summer Fridays. It’s not enough to simply vocalize the change; you also have to update your time tracking and payment procedures accordingly. For example, you should ensure your payroll software is processing pay for 10 hours of work on Monday through Thursday and none on Friday. Even if your payroll software comes with added HR services (as our best pick Gusto does), you should check that your HR professionals are ensuring employees are being paid for the appropriate amount of time. After all, accidentally paying for 48 hours per week instead of 40 does your cash flow no favors. [Find out how to choose the best pay schedule for your business.]
Summer Fridays work best when you commit to them in writing as you would any other policy. That means detailing the rules in your employee handbook, alerting employees to the new policy and asking them to acknowledge it.
Your Summer Fridays policy should clearly state the time of year during which it applies. For instance, you could set your policy to apply from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Your policy should also explain how Summer Fridays will affect your team’s hours on other days of the week. Be sure to note that the policy is subject to change in case Summer Fridays wind up posing challenges to your team’s productivity and thus your company’s bottom line.
Let’s say you let your team stop working at 1:30 p.m. every Friday. Say you also start hearing from clients that they’re getting work that seems rushed. Maybe that’s because you’ve offered Summer Fridays without adding those chopped-off hours onto other days or haven’t otherwise accounted for a shortened time frame in which employees have to complete the same amount of work. Reviewing your policy and its effects can help you proactively catch these troubles and address them before the consequences become severe. Be sure to inform your whole team of any policy changes.
You may also want to seek both formal and informal feedback from staffers to see how the policy is working for them. Are Summer Fridays serving their intended purpose? Are employees taking advantage of them? Do they still feel able to fulfill their responsibilities in a quality way? If not, your program should be adjusted accordingly.
Employees don’t always give themselves enough time off, and as an employer, you can change that. Simply encouraging your employees to take time off and embrace your Summer Fridays schedule can get them to take healthy time away from work. When you make Summer Fridays a priority, staffers won’t feel like they’re slacking off by working less or looking lazy in the eyes of their employer. They’ll instead realize that their employer cares about their work-life balance and genuinely wants them to take advantage of the opportunity for extra vacation time.
While it’s no surprise that having more time on Friday to do what you enjoy instead of working would be popular among workers, research from Digiday indicated that employers are taking Summer Fridays more seriously than ever. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, business owners have found it increasingly important to recognize the personal and professional stress their employees may be under. Summer Fridays are one way business owners can alleviate that pressure.
There are several examples of employers heavily encouraging their employees to take off for part or all of Summer Fridays. One company even paid its employees every time they used 40 hours of their PTO. That’s a stark contrast from the business environments of yesteryear, in which employees were often afraid to take vacation days. But since there are plenty of benefits for business owners and staffers alike, it makes sense that more employers are offering this perk.
Andrew Martins contributed to the writing and research in this article.