workplace summer hours

For people who live in parts of the country with long winters, summer is a short, glorious relief. But no matter where you live, it’s a hectic time of juggling day camp schedules, out of town visitors and family weddings. Throw in baseball season, outdoor concerts and block parties and it can seem there’s scarcely any time left to work.

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.

An alternative that benefits many companies is setting summer hours. The idea is simple: Employees opt to work an extra hour on Monday through Thursday in order to leave the office early on Friday afternoon. Employees get more time to enjoy their summers, while the same amount of work – or possibly more – gets done. 

And, depending on your situation, it may not cost anything.

At many businesses, employees are free to work regular hours if they prefer. At others, an occasional Friday afternoon off is granted to the entire staff – usually to extend the Independence Day and Labor Day holidays – without any requirement of additional time put in. This is especially true in businesses where employees already have a lot of control over their workloads.

Deciding to offer summer hours

The first thing to consider is your summer workload. Is summer a slower time? Are the people you need to deal with outside the company around on a summer Friday, or does your number one client have a summer hours policy? Will you need to notify clients about this? 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.

Likewise, if some senior employees are skipping out on Fridays anyway, setting a policy may reduce resentment felt by more junior staffers.

A second consideration is whether asking employees to work longer hours on other days of the week will trigger overtime charges. Depending on the state and whether or not a union contract is involved, asking nonexempt workers to put in extra time could raise hourly rates, making this an expensive proposition.

Finally, do you want to make this mandatory or are employees free to maintain regular hours? Many people have commitments based on their normal work schedules. Someone who needs to be out of the office at 5 o’clock because of a class or a rehearsal might not appreciate being asked to work until 6, even if the reward is early dismissal on Friday.

In larger companies, it may be necessary to set a formal policy. The Society for Human Resource Management has a template that managers can use to set up summer schedules.

If you’re thinking about it, start by looking around the office one Friday afternoon. Are employees engaged or are they trying to look busy? You can try a one-week experiment to see how it goes. 

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.

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