What happens when summer Fridays end?

photo-189While 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?



6 Responses to What happens when summer Fridays end?


  1. Alissa W says:

    I have taken a couple of half days this summer and I would say I’m definitely more focused to get my work done before I leave for the day. The same is true the week before vacation – I focus more on what I need to do and don’t succumb to Facebook checking and water cooler gossip. Also, I wanted to share this column about lack of time our local paper ran. I find it a depressing commentary and I also disagree. I’m trying to craft an appropriate response. http://www.pekintimes.com/article/20140812/OPINION/140819739/2011/OPINION/?Start=1

    • Laura says:

      @Alissa- wow, that was a whiny column. Americans are not working more and more and more. Overall, we’re working about 200 fewer hours per year than in 1950 and 100 fewer hours per year than in 1970. There is, as she points out, some bifurcation in the workforce, but just saying “Americans” means you get everyone. I hope she gets to go visit her granddaughter. Maybe she could share a ride with a friend who has family near there if her husband can’t go.

      • Alissa W says:

        Exactly – it was whiny – that’s what I couldn’t stand. I want to tell her time decisions are a choice – I understand she has a good job here, and with workforce reductions she might feel like she has to work more hours, but why not look at moving closer to her granddaughter?

  2. I’m crazy busy this summer. And I don’t even teach in the summer. I keep finding myself going, “Oh, we’ll just put that off until summer when we have more time,” and the realizing, “Wait, this *is* summer. There will be no more time.” This bodes ill for the school year especially since we just barely missed a grant deadline (mostly not my fault– there was some miscommunication) and will have to aim for the winter deadline instead which means something I thought was going to be off my desk will not be off my desk.

    • Laura says:

      @nicoleandmaggie – yes, I had some things I thought I’d have time to tackle this summer that…haven’t happened. I guess the lesson is that summer is less less-busy than we think.

      • My current problem is a good one– many more opportunities than expected. More revise and resubmits than expected. More people wanting to work with me than expected. If everything was going as expected, I would be more relaxed but I’d also be getting a lot less stuff done. I just hope I’m still alive by November.
        *
        And a few bad things like either Home Depot or the contractor losing our new bathroom flooring after the plumber took out the toilet. Or an email that I thought I’d sent 3 weeks prior never getting sent. Or a head cold that lasts over a week that everybody in the family gets and makes me stupid. And so on. But those are still easier to deal with in the summer than during the school year.