To many, the concept Summer Fridays—a half day or day off every week during vacation season—seems more myth than reality.
Instead of leaving work early on a Friday, we often spend more time chained to our desks, struggling to come up with new ways to keep our productivity up, turning the so-called summer slow-down into a time just as busy as any other.
But what if the solution to lower summer productivity levels is more time off? How could this possibly make sense?
Well, we asked a number of bosses for their thoughts on implementing a Summer Friday policy, and what they had to say may surprise you.
Denise Blasevick, CEO of PR and advertising company The S3 Agency, says that while her company's Summer Friday policy is still pretty new, she can already see that it refreshes her staff. Her employees work a little harder to get their work done by 3 p.m. Friday, she says, and the extra time they have to enjoy their non-work lives and avoid rush hour makes all the difference. "Getting out a few hours early to kick off the weekend has made everyone smile, including me," she says.
Employee happiness has a huge role to play when it comes to company morale and employee retention, something Credit Karma's VP of Talent Ragini Parmar understands.
As a company, we put huge emphasis on wellness, so we encourage everyone to be healthy and balanced all year long . . . These aren't perks as much as a way of working and living. Summer Fridays are just one example of the fact that we aren't clock-watchers; do your work and do it well. I think when you build a culture of trust, respect, and balance from the start and work hard to maintain it, you build a high-performing team with great morale and excellent employee retention.
Polly Blitz, multimedia brand Beauty Blitz founder, believes employee happiness also leads to greater productivity, and because of this she takes making her employees happy to the next level. "I believe that happy employees who respect the ethos of your company are generally more productive and are proud to put effort into their work day."
Blitz has not only implemented Summer Fridays half days, but she also encourages her employees to work from home during the first half of the day. "The work from home part is an added perk, because why not let everyone sit on their couch in pajamas or workout clothes, instead of commuting from Brooklyn and New Jersey for a couple of hours." She says using Google chat as the virtual office suffices, as long as the work gets done.
CEO and cofounder of ed tech startup Flocabulary Alex Rappaport is a firm believer in Summer Fridays: "Maybe it's because we're an education company and we're nostalgic for summer break" he jokes.
More likely, though, his reasoning is based on employees' need to recharge. Of letting his employees leave at 2 p.m., he says, "It . . . makes Friday mornings feel unique—that final productive sprint before the extra-long weekend."
Rappaport believes pacing out time off by giving a few hours back each week leads to less burnout and more usable hours when everyone is present. "It may seem generous to give the whole office four paid hours off every week, but it leads to happier people and more focus during the hours we're here."
Matthew Reischer, CEO of Legal Marketing Pages Corp., says he has decided against reimplementing his company's Summer Friday policy this year after what happened when he implemented a policy last summer. He says that letting his staff, a group of former attorneys, off at 1 p.m. seemed like a good idea at the time, since most of the staff weren't as productive on Fridays anyway.
However, by the end of last summer it became immediately clear that productivity was grinding to a halt on Friday. Half the staff would show up just to show their face but weren't interested in working, while the other half simply called in sick.
Public Relations Account Manager Anthony Stipa of Slice Communications doesn't feel the idea is all bad, but he agrees that it turns Friday into a sort of non-day. "While it's improved morale and incentivized getting assignments done, it has sapped a bit of motivation from Thursdays, knowing Friday is essentially a half day."
Jessica Cohen, Executive Vice President of Aria Marketing, says her company tested a few Summer Fridays policies, but most just didn't work. To improve morale, Cohen says the firm changed its policy from 3 p.m. dismissal to a noon dismissal every Friday during July and August. Soon after implementing this policy, though, Cohen says the company received the first of several client complaints. "People were calling the office and no one was answering, and that was the end of our summer Friday half days," she says.
Offer a Few Fridays Off a Month
Senior Account Executive Jessica Becker of PR firm Ebben Zall Group says her company's employees enjoy four to five paid Fridays off between June and August in addition to vacation time.
This offers our employees more flexibility with weekend plans and vacations versus just the afternoon off. Oftentimes, despite an early Friday closing policy, employees stay well past that time to catch up on work.
Let Employees Out a Few Hours Early Every Friday
Andrew Royce Bauer, CEO of Royce Leather, believes Summer Friday policies that allow employees to take a half day set a poor precedence for workers. Instead, he suggests you make every Friday Summer Friday and allow employees to leave two hours early on Fridays, regardless of whether it's truly Summer or not. "We want [our employees] to spend time with their families to keep them happy," he says. "I can speak from experience that it makes my employees more productive throughout the week—especially on Thursdays." Bauer also attributes his low employee turnover rate to his Friday policy.
Unlimited Time Off
At online financial advisor Betterment employees can choose to leave anytime they want, just as long as the work gets done, according to Betterment's PR Associate Arielle Sobel. The company's vacation policy states:
Vacation and personal days off are unlimited. Everyone takes standard market holidays. Work and play hard, travel or relax when you like, and return refreshed.
Party It Up
At All Points Public Relations, Account Lead Rosie Gillam says the firm rewards its high achievers with a party to replace a Summer Friday policy:
Each month, we host a company goal-setting meeting. Team members share their goal for the coming month. On a weekly basis, the leadership team assesses whether one of the goals has been met. If so, we host a party in our break-room on Friday afternoon. The employee who met their goal gets to choose the food and beverage that will be provided.
Party offerings range from veggies, dips, and white wine to pie and beer—winner's choice.
Gillam believes the parties engage employees without losing too much valuable work time. She says Summer Fridays policies "promote an office culture that is obsessed with getting out of the office." Instead, Friday parties bring people together and allow employees to enjoy each other's company and let loose, Gillam says.
Send Your High Flyers on a Trip
Since Konnect Public Relations CEO Sabina Gault couldn't see her whole team taking time off as a feasible option, she instead implemented a policy that would award high achievers with weekend trips. According to Shelby Fox, a manager at the firm, if employees book a great publication for all of their clients, they will be awarded with a trip to a drivable location that weekend. Hotel stay, food, and one perk is given, and a trip to Las Vegas has already been awarded.
Divvy Up Time Off
At K'NEX Brand, employees are allowed to leave at noon eight Fridays of the summer. They are trusted to work it out with their bosses so their department is covered during business hours. "It turns out a win-win because everyone gets a chance to benefit and managers can plan around what works for their department," says HR Manager Lisa Christman.
And at Aria Marketing, employees are split into two teams who alternate taking every other Friday off in July and August. This way, there would always be someone to handle the workload and be responsive to clients. "Employees love the additional vacation days . . . and clients are happy because they can always reach someone on their team and can ensure that nothing is slipping through the cracks," Cohen says.
Allow Employees to Work Remotely
Heather Anne Carson, cofounder and president of Onboardly, began incorporating a "Work From Anywhere Friday" policy last summer, which she says was a success. The policy allows team members to work from wherever they choose—be it the beach, a coffee shop, or their own beds—every Friday during the summer. "We're in the business of being creative," she says, "and while some may think it's hard to stay focused in the summer months, we believe that our team's creativity and productivity only improves when we allow them to work from wherever they're happiest, at least one day a week."
Image: Flickr user JD Hancock]