Summer Fridays: Better for Business?

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

 



13 Responses to Summer Fridays: Better for Business?


  1. Arden says:

    Hi Laura,

    I’m a longtime reader of your blog and wanted to congratulate you on being front page Yahoo today for your ebook.

    :)
    Arden

    • Laura says:

      @Arden- thanks so much! For being a long-time reader and your kind note. It’s a bit overwhelming, but awesome.

  2. Cara Marcano says:

    umm not sure … about this one… I can’t really get my work done as it is … not sure how i would take Friday off.. I could see leaving an hour or two early but I’d have to work that time on sat .. which is sometimes ok.. but it is also nice to work early mornings or just start at 7 a.m. on a friday and be done by 4 or 5.. sometimes you get more decision makers in the office at 4 pm on a Friday..

  3. Given how packed my office was yesterday with people needing my attention for last minute things, I need today to catch up with what I’d planned to do yesterday. I suppose I’m more likely to get those things done if nobody else is in the office (but couldn’t have gotten the kinds of things done yesterday that I did if people hadn’t been there). I guess some things require other people to be there and some things it’s easier to do uninterrupted. Perhaps yesterday wouldn’t have been so packed if people weren’t planning on taking today off.

    • Laura says:

      @NicoleandMaggie – it’s a fascinating question of optimization. How much time do people need to be available, and how much time is best spent alone/focused/quiet? Different for every profession, of course. But I wonder if some data-loving company like IBM or Deloitte or some such has analyzed that.

      • Not my area of research, but I do know there are productivity studies around the topic of flexible work schedules and telecommuting about how best to make it so people can be at work at the same time for when that is needed and yet still do things like telecommute when that’s not needed.

        Telecommuting research was pretty hot before the recession, and flexible work schedules are still an active area of research. The Sloan foundation is funding a lot of research on flexible work options.

  4. oilandgarlic says:

    I think summer Fridays can work if people get in the habit of optimizing Mon-Thursdays, and everyone or most people are on board with the idea. I definitely think that people are zoning out by 3pm Fridays and often resent those who set up late Friday meetings!

  5. Laurie says:

    Laura,
    Great post. As a business reporter, there is no such thing as “summer Friday’s” r our profession since news happens all the time. However from a personal standpoint, I always get jealous of my many teacher friends around this time of year as they embark on an 8-week vacation. I think a perk like offering employees half-day Fridays (or even 3pm) would go a long way in employee retention and boost productivity the rest of the week. (Let’s just say I know I would be making sure my work was done so that I could get a half day on Fridays!) I also agree with oilandgarlic, employees are definitely less productive once 3pm hits on Friday and resentful of any late meetings!!

    • Laura says:

      @Laurie – thanks! Yes, within reason, work expands or contracts to fill the time available. On days that I can only work a few hours (for some reason or another) I am amazed what I can crank through. I think the only reason summer Fridays might be annoying is if you had a really long commute. Then it would seem like it’s not worth the transaction costs — though that is a good argument for working from home!

  6. parv1 says:

    For what it’s worth, our small company of 50 people in a Philly suburb has had summer Fridays for a few years. Most see it as a nice perk because it’s offered at all, and others feel it’s a joke since it’s not classic paid time off and “just a reshuffling of the regular work week.” The latter group unsurprisingly finds the policy surrounding it too onerous as well. The opinion split isn’t always constant but I think it hovers around 70/30.

    (By the way Laura, love your writing. Got to know it from the old BNET site.)

    • Laura says:

      @parv1- thanks so much for your comment, and for finding me – glad I’ve still got a few BNET readers around. I find I inadvertently take summer Fridays…because I lose a lot of momentum by the end of the afternoon when it’s nice and sunny out and the weekend is coming…

  7. Katey says:

    I used to have Friday’s off but changed jobs and have every other Friday off. I hate the new schedule. I’m closer to home now but honestly those Friday’s I’m working are a waste of company time. I’d rather tack on an extra hour to my day than work 9 hours Monday thru Thursday then every other Friday 8 hours. I would love to be able to present it to my supervisor but since I’m new I don’t think that would go over well.

    • Laura says:

      @Katey- thanks for your comment. That is frustrating to see that nothing is getting done of consequence on Fridays, but not feeling empowered to change it. I think the best approach is to start documenting inefficiencies. You may never use the list, but it’s helpful to have it. And over time, if you start to produce great results at the new job, you’ll have more ammunition for asking for an accommodation that will help you work better.