Summer Fridays are a hotter perk than ever, a new survey suggests.
More than half of North American employers (55%) will allow employees to skip out early or take the whole day off on Fridays this summer, according to a poll by the research and advisory company Gartner Inc.
That’s a 9% jump from the share of companies in North America that offered the perk last year, according to Gartner, and a 43% increase from how many companies globally offered it in 2012. Gartner surveyed 94 human-resources leaders in North America during the second quarter of 2019.
“Employers are understanding [that] employees need and want to have more flexibility and have more time away from work,” human-resources consultant and employment lawyer Kate Bischoff told MarketWatch. “One way to do that is to institute Summer Fridays, whether it’s a full Friday off or a half Friday off.”
Bischoff thinks workplaces with Summer Fridays don’t necessarily see a loss of productivity, because employees tend to rearrange their work habits to ensure they get their work done before Friday.
In practice, work during the summer does tend to slow down a bit, regardless of Summer Fridays – but the “significant” morale boost they can provide may help offset that, she added.
Gartner’s finding runs counter to some previous survey research. A 2017 survey of 300 human-resources managers by Robert Half subsidiary OfficeTeam, for example, found that just 20% of HR managers said their companies let employees leave early for Summer Fridays – a steep decline from 63% in 2012.
Summer Fridays can create legal-compliance issues for employers
There are, of course, some caveats to Summer Fridays. The fringe benefit may be contingent on individual employees’ performance – is the work still getting done? – as well as the nature of the business or industry, Bischoff said. If Fridays are a busy day for the hair salon that you manage, for instance, it might not make sense to give everyone the day off.
And from a legal-compliance perspective, she added, employers should consider the implications of Summer Friday for overtime. “If we’re in a state or on a particular project that calculates overtime at every hour worked after eight, that may mean that we run into overtime issues earlier in our work week than we normally would,” she said.
Employees want flexible schedules – but are Summer Fridays the answer?
Not every HR professional is a fan. Raleigh-based human-resources consultant Laurie Ruettimann, for example, believes that “Summer Fridays are for suckers.”
“You’re still working the same amount of hours; you’re just shifting your time to get off on a Friday – and your organization is making you feel like they’re doing you a favor,” Ruettimann told MarketWatch. “This is just another way for companies to pretend like they’re offering you a benefit, but it’s really not a benefit if it’s just the same amount of work distributed differently.”
And many workplaces have a rotating Summer Friday schedule, she added, with one or two folks obliged to stick around the office while their coworkers enjoy fun in the sun. “The Friday that you have to stay in the office when everyone else goes home is the worst Friday,” she said.
A better way to improve employee morale and engagement would involve a more nuanced approach to work flexibility, Ruettimann said, and “a customized and personalized solution.”
Employees could work individually with their managers to understand what work needs to get done, when it needs to be done by and where the employee will be during that time, she said, while ensuring that their arrangement won’t pose an impediment to the business. In return, workers receive more autonomy and flexibility around how they get work done.
Company leaders should create a work environment and culture that either encourages people to work with their managers to figure out work time and scheduling, she said, or have a system in place that allows people to go through HR.
Indeed, 52% of employees say they want flexible schedules like condensed days and the ability to work from home, according to a survey of workers’ summer-perk preferences released last month by Robert Half subsidiary Accountemps. In contrast, just 27% said they wanted to leave early on Fridays.
“Summer Fridays are not customized and personalized. They’re just a blanket system that you either participate in or you don’t,” Ruettimann said. “It’s not about big programs and policies; it’s about two-way communication between a manager and a member on his or her team. And that takes time – a lot of organizations are impatient.”
But if organizations are going to institute a Summer Friday program, they should give employees the full day off rather than a half day, Ruettimann said. While a half day might allow workers to spend less time in the office, she pointed out, they still had to go through the rituals of getting dressed and commuting. Their minds, bodies and schedules still revolve around work during that day, she said.
“Also, don’t brag about it and think that you’re doing something that’s avant-garde or you’re doing a favor to your employee,” she added. “If anything, shame on you for not doing it sooner and trusting your employees to manage their own time and get their work done.”
Gartner is up 23% for the year to date and Robert Half is down 5.4%, compared to an 11.6% increase for the Dow Jones Industrial Average and a 14.9% increase for the S&P 500 over the same period.