Though it might be a tough sell to convince your employer to change corporate policy from a 40-hour workweek to a 4-hour one (sorry Tim Ferris)–what about a four-day schedule? Or, work-from-home Fridays? As summer comes to both an unofficial and official close, so do summer Fridays for those offices that allowed them. Though not a standard across all industries, many feature this perk between Memorial Day and Labor Day, giving employees bonus “vacation” days or the opportunity to meet deadlines and dial-in to meetings remotely. Apart from the obvious reasons professionals look forward to this time of year, some experts rave about a shorter week year-round, saying that it not only fosters productivity but can bolster a positive work ethic.
Here’s a look at the benefits of this approach, along with effective strategies to propose the 365-day concept to your higher-ups:
The history of summer Fridays
As career expert and cofounder of Early Stage Careers, Jill Tipograph, puts it, the American attitude toward work can be best described as a “rush.” Whether battling through the peak hours of commuting before or after work, or sprinting to satisfy a client’s demand, showing up slowly isn’t the norm. This means by the time TGIF rolls around, we really do feel the “TG” of the acronym. Though the verdict is still out on the official origin of a freebie day off, Tipograph credits the Mad Men advertising golden years in the 1960s as the motivator, giving executives the option to head out of the office earlier to begin weekend festivities.
Career expert and author Marya Triandafellos also sources magazine editors as the force behind the trend, too, explaining the current incarnation of summer Fridays originated in the media/publishing industry in New York City to give editors an early jump on their commute to the Hamptons or other summer homes. “It was customary for editors to work from home to review books, so the argument was they’d work over the weekend to compensate for their early Friday exit. The practice spread to other staff, then to other industries,” she explains.
Today, it’s estimated 42% of organizations offer summer Fridays to their employees in some form or fashion, whether with full days off, amended hours, or a mix of the two.
Why summer Fridays work, year round
Why not spring Fridays or winter Fridays? Branding expert Wendi Weiner explains since summer tends to be a slower season for many sectors, and a more popular time for vacations and travel, it was sensible to use the time smartly. Not only does it provide more flexibility for parents, or employees who want to travel, but it has the added benefit of capitalizing on the natural endorphin-boosting properties of vitamin D. “It has become a way to boost the employee morale and to benefit employees or reward them for harder work to bring in more revenue and increase profitability,” she explains.
This sort of affability isn’t just appropriate when the sun’s out though, even in busier months of the year. Tipograph explains employers can extend this policy to all 52 weeks, and, in turn, transform the dynamic of the office. How so? Like it or not, most employees mentally check out by mid-afternoon on Friday anyway, and if your company is international, time zones trigger communication barriers, as Saturday arrives faster for those in Europe or Asia. By applying the focus on Monday through Thursday, attentiveness will soar.
It also gives companies a competitive advantage in attracting talent, since many look for a healthy work/life balance when switching gigs. Not only are parents able to spend more time with their children (and save on childcare!), but they will be more attracted to the concept of a company that prioritizes the happiness of their employees.
Tipograph explains a year-round summer Friday policy acknowledges various working styles, allowing creatives and data moguls to operate at their own speed and time. “The fundamental flexibility of the benefit is priceless–employees who need to finish up time-sensitive work look forward to the peace and quiet of these afternoons. Working uninterrupted, with no stream of incoming emails and calls, a refreshing chance to ‘do your work’ with the option to sign off earlier than normal,” she explains.
How to convince your employer
Much like illustrating your merit for a salary bump or standing up for a title change when you’ve dutifully earned it, providing research and options for your employer makes it much more likely they’ll drink your Fridays-off Kool-Aid. Here, some points to consider before scheduling that meeting (on a Monday, of course, to prove your point):
Use data. Triandafellos explains your most compelling tool for this conversation is data. First and foremost, any studies around productivity that highlight short stints of focus are a smart place to begin. She gives the example of recent research, which found employees only remain on task three out of eight hours per day, making the argument for a four-day week or abbreviated hours on Friday a no-brainer. Moving from a 40-hour Monday-Friday schedule to at 32-hour Monday-Thursday routine might feel off-balanced at first, but, if you can demonstrate the reduced week would extend attention spans and deliver more quality work, you might have a case.
Push for a compromise. If your manager isn’t buying into your logic, Triandafellos recommends pushing for a comprise program that allows employees to build their schedule as they please. “The professional agrees to work a certain number of hours per week within a certain range of hours. The schedule could vary weekly and would coordinate with their immediate team to ensure coverage,” she continues. Instead of focusing on Fridays only, every week could look different: taking a Monday off, or coming in late on a Thursday and working a few hours past 6 p.m. “Your employer will get the same number of hours of work from you, and you’ll be happier with a flexible schedule,” she adds.
This arrangement could also mean an employee still has to work on a Friday, but can do it from their couch in pajamas, or from a beach somewhere in the Caribbean, if they want. The point is to iterate and stress the value of self-motivation, giving employees the opportunity to prove their ability to function, no matter the date or time.
Propose an experiment. It’s unlikely your boss will instantly agree to let all employees sign off on Thursday year-round. But as the saying goes, place the pudding in front of him or her, and serve a scoop to all–or rather, to those professionals whom they trust will remain on task and not take advantage of this perk. Sekou Bermiss, associate professor of management at McCombs School of Business, suggests this approach, as these leaders would create the framework and expectation, and filter their success to entry-level employees. “Parkinson’s law would suggest that there is likely little productivity actually lost by reducing the number of hours employees work in most professional settings,” he explains. “The biggest potential advantage to a four-day workweek is that it is largely appreciated by employees, which increases organization satisfaction and commitment. Implementing this policy should improve employee attraction and retention, which is a critical strategic resource in most professional sectors.”