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By Vivian Manning-Schaffel

It's the last full month of summer and you're stuck toiling away in your office on a hot Friday afternoon, while your friends’ Instagrams boast pix of them lollygagging near a body of water. Sadly, you’re likely among the many employees without the benefit of Summer Fridays.

The good news is, Summer Fridays are catching on fast among companies and organizations. According to a 2017 survey from Gartner (formerly CEB Global) — a consultancy that offers advisory services and technology solutions to companies — 42 percent of the 220 companies interviewed instituted a Summer Fridays policy, double the amount since their 2015 survey.

“During the summer, employees often try to get away for longer weekends to spend time with friends and family. By giving employees Summer Fridays, companies are able to give to their employees the gift of time to make it easier to spend more time doing this,” says Brian Kropp, group vice president for Gartner’s HR practice.

According to a recent Gartner survey, 42 percent of the 220 companies interviewed instituted a Summer Fridays policy, double the amount since their 2015 survey.

Contrary to some schools of thought, shaving a few hours off of the end of a Friday workday doesn’t result in a productivity loss. “The concern that most employers have is that by giving employees Summer Fridays off, that productivity will fall,” says Kropp.

“Net, Summer Fridays can actually improve, not decrease, productivity. We are giving off the lowest productivity time period, rather than a high productivity time period. Second, if employees know they are getting this time off, they will spend time earlier in the week making sure all of the critical work gets done. Third, when employees get this time off, they are actually more engaged overall, and in turn more productive for all of the other hours when they are at work,” he explains.

“I have been in business for 20 years, working in publishing, TV, fashion, advertising, branding, real estate, music, construction, not-for profit, professional sports and many other industries, and I have yet to hear any of my clients complain of the detrimental effects of Summer Fridays,” says Alan Ibbotson, founder of The Trampoline Group, a consultancy that works with companies on leadership development and employee engagement.

“Our remote-working, always on culture has long since proven productivity has nothing to do with the number of hours spent in the office. If you’re hiring well and nurturing a healthy company culture, you will simply not be competitive as an employer if you don’t offer some kind of flexible working policy that includes time-off perks your employees can use over the summer.”

Contrary to some schools of thought, shaving a few hours off of the end of a Friday workday doesn’t result in a productivity loss.

By offering Summer Fridays (a grand total of 7 days of PTO over 14 weeks, between Memorial and Labor Day, given at a time when employees enjoy it the most), Ibbotson says companies benefit by:

  • Winning the best talent
  • Boosting morale, motivation and productivity
  • Showing they care about employee well-being and work-life balance
  • Boosting teamwork and camaraderie because colleagues make tradeoffs with each other to ensure office coverage

Making a case for Summer Fridays

So, if you don’t get Summer Fridays, what’s the best way to advocate for them?

“The best strategy for an employee to broach the subject is to find a talent competitor that does, then go back to their employer and suggest they offer this benefit as a way to stay competitive in the labor market,” says Kropp.

Ibbotson recommends building your case for Summer Fridays by:

  • Getting a handle on your company’s flexible hours policies. “Some companies don’t institute a formal Summer Friday program because it’s effectively already covered by existing flex-working practices and to do so would actually cause confusion,” says Ibbotson.
  • Finding out if the company has ever tried Summer Fridays before. If it didn’t work, find out why. Says Ibbotson, “Understand where any resistance might come from if you expect to overcome it.”
  • Examine what competing companies are doing and present the contrast. If competitors aren’t offering Summer Fridays, you can still suggest the concept in the name of attracting more talent. Use this information to build your case.
  • Armed with your information (and the support of key colleagues), arrange a meeting with management to suggest a 30-day Summer Fridays trial. “This makes it easy for your employer to give it a shot and a little bit harder for them to say no,” says Ibbotson.
  • If you’re in management and anticipate resistance, offer to work with your employer to help frame out the policy so it causes the least amount of disruption — maybe offering the 30-day trial to colleagues while sitting out the policy yourself. “They will love you for being their champion and you won’t look like you were doing it just to get some time off for yourself,” says Ibbotson. “You’ll also be able to assess the program more objectively and suggest improvements before advocating for something more permanent. Showing these true leadership skills can only be good for your career.”

Who knows? If all goes well by next August, you might be stashing a beach towel in your desk, along with that aluminum water bottle.


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