It’s a Friday afternoon and the weather is glorious, but you’re stuck inside trying to focus - unsuccessfully - on a project. The sun is shining through the window and you’re longing for 5pm to arrive so you can go and enjoy it.
It’s a situation many of us have found ourselves in over the summer. During the warmer months, work slows to a crawl and employees have their minds on the weekend. Little work gets done, and you’re just trying to pass the time.
An alternative that can benefit a business is setting summer working hours. The idea is simple: Employees opt to work an extra hour on Monday to Thursday in order to leave the office early on Friday afternoon. People get more time to enjoy the summer, while the same amount of work gets done.
“Offering this benefit to employees is a way to encourage them to reduce the amount of time spent in the office or the total number of hours worked during the warmer months,” says Ian Wright, founder of Small Business Prices. “Summer hours have taken many different names; summer Fridays, half-day Fridays, early out Fridays, etc. Although the names may vary, the concept stays the same.
“One of the main reasons to offer a shorter working week is that it gives employees more flexibility. Flexible hours have increasingly become popular across many businesses over the last few years - especially during the COVID-19 pandemic where a good work-life balance was a struggle for both employee and employer alike,” he adds.
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“Granting workers more freedom when it comes to their schedule allows them to maintain a better work-life balance, which in turn makes people happier.”
Summer hours can also prevent burnout and boost productivity to boot. Employees feel more motivated to complete their workload in the given time, to keep the benefit you have given them. Often, nice weather outside makes staff feel demotivated and trapped inside. Summer hours have the potential to boost morale among employees during the middle of the year - and it also gives them something to look forward to at the end of a week.
“Finally, and maybe one of the most important benefits of summer hours, is that it shows your employees that you trust them. The shorter week displays to staff that you have confidence in them to handle their workload while also enjoying time in the sun,” says Wright.
While there are huge perks to offering this benefit to employees, it also has its drawbacks. Sometimes, stress levels may rise among workers during the shorter hours. Going from having five days to complete their work to just four could result in them feeling under pressure to get their work done in less time.
“But it’s not just that; there is a chance that some workers who are offered these days off won’t take them as they will say they have too much to do,” says Wright.
“Some people could use the shorter working hours as a way to slack off. Although many employees aren’t the most productive on Fridays, if you have summer Fridays, the morning can be unproductive in terms of getting work done. Productivity can grind to a halt as staff are no longer interested in working and are focused on counting down the hours until they can clock off.”
Moreover, it can cause disintegration in communication among staff members. When employees are not working at the same time, collaboration and meetings can be challenging to schedule which may result in employees being left out of the loop and a drop in productivity.
“A flexible arrangement may not be the best thing for your organisation. A business that needs a certain number of employees won’t benefit from staff that can limit their time on the job – especially with certain client-facing positions,” he says.
“If you do decide to move forward with summer hours, it’s important that the new policy is communicated effectively amongst employees so that what is expected of them is understood by all.”
Additionally, you should stay consistent with what you are offering. Don’t go back and forth between giving workers every Friday off to half days on Fridays. Not only is it confusing, but it’s demotivating to staff.
“Lastly, be aware of deadlines, stress levels and the flexibility of your business,” adds Wright. “Offering every Friday off may not be the best thing for your company - consider what will work best for you and your employees so that your business will continue to run effectively.”
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