How much work do you accomplish on a Friday afternoon during the summer?
If you’re like many people who have activated their out of office email notifications by 1 p.m. Fridays, a truthful answer might be “not much.”
During the summer, many organizations choose to give the precious natural resource of time back to their employees in the form of summer Fridays, which permit office workers to leave early on Friday afternoons. Brunet-García has offered this early release program to its employees for the last three years. Each employee gets six half-Fridays off between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with the understanding that any urgent tasks are completed before leaving for the day.
“We launched summer Fridays to give the staff time to recharge with their families and friends,” said Diane Brunet-García, partner and vice president of Brunet-García Advertising. “We believe this investment benefits the creative work we do.”
In a survey of 220 human resource leaders at Fortune 1000 companies by CEB, the Arlington, Virginia-based research and consulting firm, 42 percent offer their employees summer Fridays this year—a 21 percent increase over 2015. They defined this perk as anything including a short day before big holiday weekends to getting every Friday afternoon off from late May to early September.
Where did this seasonal perk originate? Its ancestry is shrouded in mystery. Most people attribute the tradition to glamorous Manhattan publishing and advertising firms in the 1960s. Think “Mad Men” escaping the sweltering city heat for a beckoning Hamptons beach house.
The practice has spread to other industries throughout the years. L’Oréal’s corporate headquarters has been shutting down at 1:30 p.m. sharp between Memorial Day and Labor Day for 20 years, allowing their New York City employees to beat the weekend rush out of the city. The practice is so common that power consumption in New York City dips by an average of 4 percent on Fridays during the summer.
Summer Fridays also have roots in the labor movement. Abbreviated Friday hours were a bargained right dating back to the 1930s. Coincidentally, that’s around the same time office buildings began to get air conditioning.
The advantage for employees seems obvious, but employers see benefits as well:
- Builds productivity the rest of the week
- Creates a positive feeling about the work environment
- Increases loyalty and retention
- Reduces burnout
- Boosts morale throughout the week
- Maintains a better work-life balance
- Enhances working relationships through more socializing with coworkers
Downtime is essential to the mental processes that spark creativity. Rest fuels innovation. We need time not only to produce great work but to reward ourselves for the work we have accomplished.