Should You Be Offering Your Employees Summer Fridays?
It’s summer time! Outside the office, the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the afternoon ice cream truck is calling your name from down the street. Inside, it’s a little more sedate. Despite the weekend being mere hours away, everyone is slumped in office chairs, staring listlessly at monitors. Perhaps it’s time you introduce summer Fridays.
If you haven’t heard, summer Fridays are a popular trend where companies give their employees Fridays off all summer. This allows everyone to get a jump-start on the weekend and enjoy life in the sun with friends and family. But are summer Fridays really beneficial to companies or just another soon-to-fizzle fad? Let’s find out.
Do Summer Fridays Decrease Productivity?
Contrary to what many people think, working more hours doesn’t increase productivity. It simply gives us more time to stretch out our to-do lists, a concept illustrated by the Pareto principle.
The Pareto principle—a.k.a. the 80/20 rule—states that 20 percent of what you do gives you 80 percent of your results. In terms of productivity, this means that 20 percent of the time you spend at work nets 80 percent of your productive output.
Think about this in terms of traditional office work. Most employees probably don’t spend that much time in deep focus on important projects. The majority of the day is taken up with trivial work, such as instant messaging, printing copies, going to meetings where they provide little input, and so on. That’s not even counting afternoon slumps, water cooler chats, and the occasional comfortable stare, none of which boosts productivity.
Expand that to the whole office, and there will be large chunks of time where productivity is effectively at a standstill. And we call the largest of those chunks “Friday.”
Flow, a project and task management software company, looked at usage data for over 37,000 users. They found that Monday and Tuesday were the most productive days and Friday was the least productive, with users getting 35 percent less work done. By cutting out summer Fridays, you’re losing very little in terms of annual productivity.
Yes Way to Norway
But, we hear you say, even if Fridays are the least productive day, work still gets done. Wouldn’t that still decrease productivity and hurt revenue? While it may sound counter-intuitive, data suggest that the reverse is true: Less hours at work can boost productivity and, with it, revenue.
Consider Norway. The World Happiness Report lists Norway as the second happiest country in the world. It is also the second most productive country according to a 2017 analysis, despite its citizens working fewer annual hours than many other developed countries. You read that right: the country produces more but works less.
It’s not just Norway. Compare those two analyses side by side. You’ll see that many of the happiest countries are also the most productive, while their citizens work less and enjoy the most days off a year. Of course, there are some notable exceptions. (Looking your way, United States.)
The lesson is obvious: Productivity doesn’t come from hours worked, but from happy employees with quality work-life balance. Days off reduce burnout through stress reduction; they provide employees with more time to spend with family and friends, granting them the health benefits that come with an active social life; and they encourage disengagement from work, which helps reduce distraction and increase focus when employees return to the office.
It is happy, healthy employees that are better motivated to be productive with the 20 percent of time when the real work gets done.
Additional Benefits of Summer Fridays
Companies see a bevy of benefits when instituting perks like summer Fridays. Employees trust their employers more, leading to loyalty and increased retention. The public views such companies as having a positive work culture, which helps with talent acquisition. And these kinds of programs boost morale and can be used as an opportunity to build community.
Of course, taking Fridays off all summer won’t work for every company. Some businesses have to be staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and others may find Fridays to be the busiest day of the week during the summer.
Feel free to adjust the concept to your specific needs. Maybe offer every other Friday off, or make Fridays half days year-round. If you need staffing every day, offer half the office Friday off and the other half Monday off. Or if you’re a weekend-centric company, how about Summer Wednesdays?
The point isn’t that Fridays magically zap productivity, but that offering employees additional time off benefits them and the company, especially during the summer months. Additional days off reduce distractions, make employees more efficient, and promote mental and physical health throughout the office. It’s a win for the employees and a win for your company. So, get out there and see if you can’t flag down that ice cream truck and start the summer off right.