As summer winds to an end, so do half-day Summer Fridays at some companies. But others are mulling whether to make the perk more permanent.
A bunch of employers have decided to extend their half-day Friday expiry date beyond Labor Day on Sept. 5. For them, the boost to worker engagement and morale they claim to have seen since implementing the shortened work week, is worth the trade-off.
Roughly two-thirds of working adults (59%) have been offered half-day Fridays through the summer, according to a survey by OnePoll in partnership with Wisetail. And of the 2,000 working adults polled, eight in 10 said the perk makes them feel happier at work.
Tech company FullContact is among those to have extended its Summer Friday offer beyond its original deadline this week, through the month of September. WorkLife parent company Digiday Media made half-day Fridays a permanent policy last year.
“I thought it was going to end this Friday, and while I was sad for it to go, I had a lot of gratitude that we had it in the first place so I never took it for granted,” said Ila Goldanloo, talent acquisition partner at FullContact, who uses her half-day Friday to get ahead on chores, travel or relax. “Now, I can fully relax on Saturday and Sunday and come back to work Monday feeling refreshed.”
For those who will lose their half-day Friday through the fall, there will be a psychological adjustment period. “People have proven and gotten used to that degree of flexibility,” said Dr. Andrew Monroe, director of experienced talent research at recruiting analytics firm Veris Insights and an expert in social psychology. “Taking that away is likely to feel like a loss,” he added.
But for employees like Goldanloo, having had it at all is beneficial. “I’m sure once the Friday arrives and it’s a full Friday, it’s going to feel like the longest Friday, but it’s nice looking back and knowing we got that chance,” she added.
Digital advertising platform Basis Global Technologies implemented “flex Fridays” for the first time this year as a trial run. Employees are allowed to sign off at noon local time on Fridays. The trial, which started around Memorial Day in May, will run to the end of September. The company named it “flex Fridays” instead of Summer Fridays to account for the fact its global workforce doesn’t experience the same seasons at the same time. Expanding the half-day allowance through September means those emerging from their winter can benefit from having a shorter work week with warmer weather.
“We want to see if it helps improve with higher levels of satisfaction, less burnout, improvements in mental health and hopefully prove we can maintain productivity and efficiency along the way,” said Emily Barron, evp of talent and development at Basis Global Technologies.
The result so far has been overwhelmingly positive, said Barron. Employees have expressed their appreciation for having that time to spend with their families, run errands or head out early for a weekend trip. While the company hasn’t yet made the decision to continue flex Fridays beyond September, Barron said she’s hopeful they can at least reinstate it next summer.
Like most workplace trends, half-day summer Fridays existed before the arrival of the pandemic and sped up as a result of it. In 2019, Gartner found that 55% of organizations in North America offered the benefit, a 9% increase from the year before. However, now, more and more employers are responding to employee demand for flexible working benefits and understanding the benefit of flexible work hours has on productivity and morale. Many companies have taken this even further, and have adopted or are trialling a four-day work week.
Promotions and loyalty solutions company Clarus Commerce first implemented half-day Summer Fridays five years ago, and in 2020 extended that across the entire year. CEO Tom Caporaso said it made that decision because it was still peak Covid time and people were dealing with a lot, both professionally and personally. “We thought it was the right thing to do,” he said.
Caporaso said the company has no reason to ever pull that back. “It’s been a great benefit for the team,” he added.
The only time that a Clarus Commerce employee might not have a half day on a Friday is if there is an urgent client need or project to do, which everyone has a clear understanding of.
Other companies, like global employment platform Oyster and marketing tech firm HubSpot, discourage employees from booking internal meetings on Fridays year-round so that time can be used to do work in the morning without interruption, so they can head off early for the weekend.
“For us, it’s an indicator of trust for the team that we know you can get your work done,” added Caporaso. “The work day has changed since Covid and has stretched into different hours of the day and not always in an office. We want to give our employees the flexibility they deserve. At the end of the day, the work is getting done, the business is doing well and we continue to grow.”
Messaging is a huge part of making sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to whether a company will extend their Summer Fridays or not.
“Being really clear about whether we’re going to test this out, what we’re looking for and what the fundamental goal is here [is important],” said Monroe.
Even if a company decides to return to full Fridays after Labor Day, how it informs staff will be critical. In some cases, workers might need to find child care for Fridays, readjust schedules at home, or simply mentally prepare for 40 hours again.
“It’s proactively messaging that this policy that we have is coming to an end, as we always planned, and that it’s not something being taken away but it fits within the norm and expectations of what work looks like at this company,” said Monroe. “And giving people the time to plan as necessary.”