While it’s not a universal perk, some industries (including some publishing houses) still have “summer Fridays.” From Memorial Day to Labor Day, offices close on Friday at mid-day. The institution is both a perk (time off!) and a nod to reality. Lots of people take off early, at least mentally, on a lovely summer Friday afternoon anyway.
In theory, if a workweek is 40 hours, then a summer week is 36 hours. So here’s the question: Are these summer weeks 10 percent less productive than other weeks? Do people get less done in July — because they’re working fewer hours — than they do in October?
It would be an interesting natural experiment to figure this out. Compare the same office, and same teams, during weeks with summer Fridays and weeks without summer Fridays. You might be able to see if working a few more or less hours on the margins changes things considerably.
To be sure, it’s not a perfect experiment. More people take vacations in the summer, so teams might be less productive in July just because there are fewer people around. People might behave differently in summer than during the buckle-down months of the year.
Time is highly elastic. I suspect that at least in the short run, many people with office-type jobs can do the exact same amount in 36 hours that they do in 40. In the long run, though, more hours gives you more space to do more good things. Not all this time is wasted. You build your skills and connections. While not much happens on Friday afternoons, probably something would happen. The productivity difference likely isn’t 10 percent, but it’s not nothing either.
Do you get the same amount done in weeks with a half day off as you do in full weeks?