Not many workplaces have "summer Fridays" — that genteel tradition of closing down around lunch once a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day. According to a survey done by Ultimat Vodka, just 12% of employed adults get this perk. Officially, that is. Because anyone who's tried to start a new project or close a deal on a summer Friday has probably noticed that, well, not much gets done. People are slipping out. They're watching the clock, or doing a little cyberloafing. That's what I've always thought was the genius of Google's 20 percent time. Office workers admit to goofing off around 20% of the time anyway. Why not encourage them to do something useful with those hours?
Officially creating summer Fridays acknowledges this reality, and I'd argue is better for business for the same reason that 4-day workweeks are also preferable for many people. Around the time El Paso, Texas went to a 4-day, 10-hour workweek for its City Hall workers — in part to save money on utilities — it discovered that 61% of employees preferred this schedule (30% liked the 5-day version; see above link for this statistic). There are certain things that people need to do that are just much more convenient during the hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Think doctor and dentist appointments, bringing the car in, even getting your hair cut. If people never have guaranteed time off from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the workweek, they will take the time unpredictably during the 40 hours they are scheduled to work. But if you know you always have Fridays off, you tend to schedule all such things for Fridays. So you don't take that time off during the 40 hours you are scheduled to work.
Of course, one of the reasons people like having a weekday off is that you can do things like go to museums when it's less crowded. If everyone has the same time off during the workweek then this wouldn't help with crowds. Indeed, Friday afternoon is pretty packed at the zoo these days. But in general, summer Fridays (or even 4-day weeks) are perks that don't cost much, and might save you money with reduced absenteeism.
Does your organization have summer Fridays, or a compressed workweek? What's the effect been on productivity?
Photo courtesy flickr user jeeheon