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The genesis of “summer hours” or “summer Fridays” is unknown but it was first embraced in New York City during the “Mad Men” era of the 1960s when movers and shakers at ad agencies and publishing houses high-tailed it out of their Manhattan offices early each week to reach their summer homes some three hours away in The Hamptons.

“Beginning in the 1960s, thousands of professionals working at publishing houses and creative agencies deserted the office early on the Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Some left around midday; others took alternating Fridays completely off. That way, they could beat the weekend traffic to the Hamptons,” wrote Stephanie Buck in 2017.

Of course, in 2023 you do not need to work in “The Big Apple” or rub elbows with Jay-Z and Beyonce at Bostwick’s Chowder House in East Hampton to enjoy summer Fridays as research from Gartner shows that 55 percent of American companies now offer the perks of a modified summer schedule to employees.

Your company does not need to be the size of IBM or Pfizer to offer summer hours as a SHRM survey before the Pandemic found that small businesses were more likely to offer flexible working hours than larger companies.

Flexible work appears even more popular post-pandemic – as the benefit shifts from being called telecommuting to “work from home” – with 63 percent of employers saying in the 2022 SHRM Employee Benefits Survey that they offered most of their workers the opportunity to adopt a hybrid work model, which involves a combination of working both remotely and in person.

Summer Hours: Options Companies Offer Their Employees

Summer hours are a very specific type of flexible work arrangement for those months when the kids are out of school, co-workers are posting Instagrams from tropical locations, and employees left in town watch the clock on Fridays like a freshman in high school algebra.

“On many Friday afternoons in the summer, work slows to a crawl. Employees have their minds on the weekend. Customers and vendors do, too. In some offices, very little work is getting done,” says Nationwide Insurance.

So, to cope with this reality, many businesses, from Wall Street to Main Street, offer a modified summer schedule that might include:

  • Early Dismissal on Fridays: One prevalent option is allowing employees to leave work early on Fridays, typically in the afternoon. This Summer Friday approach provides an extended weekend and allows individuals to spend more time with family and engage in recreational activities.
  • Compressed Workweek: Another approach involves extending the workday from Monday to Thursday, allowing employees to enjoy a full day off on Fridays. By condensing the usual workload into four days, individuals can benefit from a long weekend while maintaining productivity.
  • Remote Work Flexibility: In recent years, the rise of remote work has made it easier for companies to implement summer hours. Employees may have the option to work from home on certain days, reducing commuting time and enhancing work-life balance.

Pros and Cons of Summer Hours for Your Company

Like many workplace topics, there is not unanimous consent on the benefits of summer hours with some singing the virtues of summer Fridays and others saying it’s “bad for business”.

On the positive side, U.S. News and World Report said some studies found that “66 percent of employees who use Summer Fridays feel it boosts their productivity, helping to reverse the summer slump.”

And SWNS Digital said a poll last year found that 59 percent of 2,000 working adults surveyed had jobs that offered “Summer Fridays” and 85 percent felt the benefit from this perk made them feel much happier at work.

On the negative side, a study from a decade ago found that summer hours were bad for business with “decreased productivity and increased stress are unintended consequences of well-intentioned programs.”

Clearly, it’s worth examining the pros and cons of summer hours for your company:

Advantages of implementing summer hours for companies:

  • Enhanced Employee Morale: Offering summer hours demonstrates a commitment to work-life balance, fostering a positive work environment and increasing employee satisfaction.
  • Increased Productivity: Studies have shown that when employees are given the opportunity for leisure and relaxation, they return to work feeling rejuvenated and more focused, leading to improved productivity.
  • Attracting and Retaining Talent: Summer hours can be an attractive perk for job seekers and a key factor in retaining top talent. It showcases the company’s progressive and employee-centered culture.

Disadvantages of implementing summer hours for companies:

  • Operational Challenges: Certain industries, such as customer service or manufacturing, may find it challenging to implement modified schedules due to the need for consistent coverage or specific production requirements.
  • Client Expectations: Companies need to manage client expectations effectively to ensure uninterrupted service during reduced working hours.
  • Equity and Fairness: Ensuring fair and equitable distribution of summer hour benefits among employees can be crucial to maintaining a harmonious workplace.

How a Small Business Can Implement Summer Hours

It’s not too late for your business to test the waters of summer hours in 2023 as the backyard grills are still cooling down from the burgers and hot dogs cooked over Memorial Day Weekend.

Implementing summer hours, however, is not something that can be accomplished in a dashed-off email on a Monday morning but takes some planning.

Nationwide suggests that employers contemplating summer hours should start by asking questions such as:

  • Is summer a slower time?
  • Are employees engaged (on Fridays) or are they trying to look busy?
  • Are the people you need to deal with outside the company around on a summer Friday, or does your No. 1 client have a summer hours policy?
  • Will you need to notify clients about this?
  • Do you want to make this mandatory or are employees free to maintain regular hours?

“If your customers are used to stopping by your physical location to say hello, drop off materials or ask questions, they may resent it if someone is not available,” says Nationwide.

Here are nine steps that your small business can take for a successful launch of summer hours:

  1. Assess Company Needs and Operations: Before implementing summer hours, it is crucial for a company to evaluate its specific needs and operational requirements. Consider the nature of the business, customer expectations, and any potential challenges that may arise from modified schedules.
  2. Define Clear Guidelines: Establish guidelines and policies that outline the parameters of summer hours. Clearly communicate expectations regarding working hours, time off, remote work options, and any specific requirements or restrictions.
  3. Employee Input and Buy-In: Involve employees in the decision-making process by seeking their input and feedback. Conduct surveys or meetings to understand their preferences and concerns. This inclusive approach fosters a sense of ownership and increases the likelihood of successful implementation.
  4. Create a Summer Schedule: Develop a schedule that outlines the designated summer hours, whether it’s early dismissal on Fridays or a compressed workweek. Ensure the schedule provides a fair and equitable distribution of benefits among employees.
  5. Address Coverage and Client Expectations: Evaluate the impact of modified schedules on client expectations and service delivery. Determine strategies to maintain uninterrupted services, such as overlapping work hours, alternative staffing arrangements, or effective communication with clients regarding reduced availability.
  6. Provide Training and Support: If remote work or compressed workweeks are part of the summer hours arrangement, ensure that employees receive adequate training and support. Offer resources, technology tools, and guidance to help them manage their workload effectively during the modified schedule.
  7. Communication and Transparency: Transparent communication is key to successful implementation. Clearly communicate the details of the summer hours program, including start and end dates, expectations, and any relevant policies. Regularly update employees on any changes or reminders throughout the summer period.
  8. Evaluate and Adjust: After implementing summer hours, regularly assess the effectiveness of the program. Collect feedback from employees and monitor productivity levels. Adjust as necessary to address any issues or concerns that arise.
  9. Compliance with Labor Laws and Policies: Ensure that the implementation of summer hours complies with applicable labor laws, employment agreements, and company policies. Consider consulting with legal or HR professionals to ensure adherence to regulations.

Business News Daily says that when you implement a summer hours program “your No. 1 priority should be to create a policy that makes sense for your business. Take a holistic look at all of your operational needs and get thorough feedback before committing to a schedule.”

“Setting summer hours may be a low-cost way to energize employees. Especially if you live in a part of the country where summer is a special time, giving people more control over their hours may lead to happier, more productive employees,” Nationwide concludes.


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