Summer hours have become a popular offering at companies across the U.S. over the last 10 to 15 years. According to a new survey conducted by CEB, 42% of Fortune 1000 companies offer summer hours as a company benefit. But does an adjusted schedule and additional time off increase employee satisfaction or cause undue stress to get work done in less time? Worse, does it result in reduced productivity, profits and client satisfaction?
In our new “Does it Work” series, we’ll analyze popular HR trends like summer hours to determine if they’re trends to adopt or drop.
What are Summer Hours?
Though summer hours can take many forms, the general idea is that employees will have additional paid time off between Memorial Day and Labor Day that falls outside of their regularly allotted PTO and vacation days.
Some companies opt to release all employees at 1:00 p.m. on Friday while others give employees the entire day off once a month. For some, this comes with no strings attached, while other companies request that employees make up the hours Monday through Thursday.
Though you’d think additional time would result in decreased productivity, frustrated clients and high costs to employers, there are a number or studies that show the opposite. Here’s why summer hours, in their many forms, might actually work for your company.
Improved Focus and Productivity
With sunny days, warmer weather and a slew of fun activities, summer tends to be a time when employees are less focused. In fact, a study from Captivate Network found that 45% of workers felt more distracted during the summer. Yikes! Studies have also shown that productivity drops sharply when employees work 50 hours a week. Rather than paying your employees to sit at their desks and daydream of the beach, give them a day off or half day on a Friday. By allowing them time to indulge in summer fun, they’re more likely to work hard when in the office. And with family vacations, kids out of school and wedding season, employee absenteeism is already up during the summer months—so giving employees planned time off may help with sporadic absences.
Increased Workplace Satisfaction and Reduced Turnover
According to a survey by the Society for Human Resources Management, 55 percent of employees stated that flexibility and work-life balance were very important to job satisfaction. Allowing your employees to leave early on Fridays in the summer is a low-cost way to show appreciation and improve work-life balance. This builds trust with your employees, boosts morale and makes them all around happier at work. Improved employee satisfaction not only reduces employee turnover, but it might actually make your employees more focused and productive. One study found that happy employees were 12% more productive. When employees have a positive relationship with their employer, they’ll be more motivated to get their work done, and get it done well.
Minimized Workplace Stress
In today’s day and age, mental health is becoming a focus for many businesses. According to an article in the Harvard Gazzette, 36% of U.S. workers suffer from workplace stress—and it costs U.S. businesses $30 billion a year in lost workdays. To reduce stress, prevent employee burnout and keep your employees engaged, it’s essential to give employees time to step away from work and let go of the stress. Because summer tends to be a busy time for people personally, giving them a little extra time off in the summer can go a long way in reducing workplace stress.
How to Nail Summer Hours
With all this data proving summer hours are an effective employee engagement tool, we feel confident endorsing it as a company benefit. But if you’re planning to implement summer hours at your office, there are a few things to keep in mind. The first is to make sure the rules apply to everyone. Though it may be tempting to only offer summer hours to certain departments, it will likely cause frustration for both the people who don’t enjoy the benefits as well as those who are trying to enjoy an afternoon off but are bombarded with questions and request from those still working.
Furthermore, make sure the rules and expectations are made very clear to employees. If you allow people to leave only when their work is complete, make sure you have a common definition of what “complete” is. And if you do need coverage in certain departments, set a schedule that’s fair to all employees. Finally, though it’s rarely an issue, make sure managers are monitoring productivity throughout the week to make sure no one’s falling too far behind or taking advantage of the shortened week.
So when all is said and done, we’d have to give summer hours the thumbs up. It’s a cost-efficient benefit that shows your appreciation and attracts great talent. For additional information on how to attract stellar employees, read our posts about what leadership-level employees are looking for in a new gig and interview tactics to make your company shine.