Should Your Organization Introduce ‘Summer Fridays’?

The sun is shining. The beach is calling. It’s summertime, and that means workplaces may consider tweaking work schedules to boost employee morale.

While work still needs to get done between Memorial Day and Labor Day, many organizations have found that workers are happier and even more productive when they can leave early on Fridays or make other accommodations during the summer months.

 "Giving employees the gift of time via Summer Fridays is one low-cost way to improve employee engagement, which in turn can increase employee productivity and drive business results,” writes Brian Kropp, the HR Practice Leader at Gartner.

Popular summertime adjustments at the workplace include:

  • Early Friday closings: Many offices will let employees depart after lunchtime on Fridays, allowing workers to get a head start on traffic heading to the beach or other destinations. Often, workers can take advantage of this benefit by working an extra hour on the other days of the week.
  • Every other Friday off: Workers can log extra time to earn a three-day weekend as often as twice a month during the summer. Some extra-generous organizations even offer every Friday off.
  • Expanded telecommuting: Workers may be permitted to work from home more frequently during summer months.
  • A push for vacation: Many companies actively encourage workers to use vacation days during the summer. Some have gone so far as to offer financial rewards to those who take a lengthy uninterrupted break from work.
  • Relaxed summer dress codes: Companies may allow more casual dress during the hotter months.

About 40 percent of offices had a “Summer Friday” policy in 2017, according to a Gartner survey of 200 HR professionals. That’s a 20 percent increase from 2015.

For the most part, Summer Friday or similar policies are viewed as inexpensive ways to improve morale and, in the long term, increase employee retention and even help the bottom line. This is especially true these days, when unemployment is low.

“Organizations that offer this type of perk may have a competitive advantage when trying to retain their top talent,” Gartner writes.

In many cases, organizations can afford to offer flexible work arrangements during the summer simply because it is their least demanding time of year. But there is some evidence to suggest that Summer Fridays can work even at busy offices. Happier employees can be as much as 12 percent more productive than those who aren’t, according to one study by the Social Market Foundation.

"It's natural for employees to get distracted when the weather's nice and thoughts turn to plans outside the office,” writes Brandi Britton, a district president for OfficeTeam. “But savvy companies maintain staff productivity and morale by embracing summer in the workplace. Letting employees modify their schedules, leave early on Fridays or dress more casually when it's hot out are easy ways to keep them loyal and engaged."

Is there a downside to Summer Fridays? In some cases, yes. Because workers may feel pressured to work additional hours on other days to allow for an early Friday exit, this can lead to stress and the potential burnout—the opposite of the intended effect.

“We used to offer Summer Fridays but stopped offering them for psychological reasons,” Elizabeth Edwards, Founder & President of Volume PR tells The Ladders. She says that working longer hours the rest of the week was adding stress because it cut down on “room for brain breaks.”

There’s also a danger that by allowing for shortened hours on Fridays, employees won’t be interested in working at all on that day. Matthew Reischer, CEO of Legal Marketing Pages Corp, tells the National Federation of Independent Business that his company did away with Summer Fridays after seeing productivity grind to a complete halt.

“Half the staff would show up just to show their face but weren’t interested in working, while the other half simply called in sick,” Reischer says.