Companies in the United States seeking to resolve increasing reports of worker burnout are turning to once smaller (but very beloved) seasonal limit: summer Fridays.
From Memorial Day in May to Labor Day in September, many companies let their employees take half a day on Friday or jump into the office. According to a survey conducted by the global research firm Gartner, 55% of US cross-industry companies have introduced a summer Friday policy in 2019, up from 44% in 2018.
Business Insider spoke to several directors and HR managers who say That tip is no coincidence.
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"We have found that while the summer Fridays lower working hours for a week, moral increases more than the lack of time in the office," Zaiger said. "Employees are eager to get to work early and are efficient all morning and try to make sure that all their work is completed in the week. They come back to work on Monday a little more refreshed and ready to hit the ground."
Combating a Burnout Epidemic
The United States already has one of the world's hardest working populations, according to statistics collected by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), an international economic research organization. The research, which traced employees of all ages, genders and industries, showed that the Americans worked on average 1,780 hours a year from 2014 to 2018, slightly more than the global average of 1,746 hours.
Compared to European countries such as Germany (1,356 hours), Denmark (1,408 hours) and the United Kingdom (1,538 hours), US workers spend between 200 and 400 extra hours per year in the office. Meanwhile, a 2018 Gallup survey of nearly 7,500 full-time employees found that 23% said they felt burned at work very often or always, and 44% said they felt burned out sometimes.
Read more: An HR executive, who is led teams at WeWork and Citi, explains the best way to tell your boss you are overtime.
"Burnout is coming," says business psychologist Sarah Tottle for the conversation. "It is a growing problem for the modern workplace that affects organizational costs as well as employee health and well-being. These include possible long-term health risks, and because of its contagious nature, a toxic work environment is low morale, scapegoat, and increased office policies."
The World Health Organization recently classified burnout as a "syndrome" that legitimized the condition for the first time with medical credentials. Symptoms include feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion; increased mental distance from one's work or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's work; and reduced professional efficiency.
Offering summer Fridays has several benefits
The concept of "summer Fridays" as a manager-sanctioned office break began in the 1960s when New York advertising agencies let restless Mad Men types skip work early in the warmer months . The yield for new hires eventually became a way for businesses to remain competitive: From 2012 to this year, there has been a 43% increase in the number of organizations that globally take advantage of the summer Friday as a special service, according to Gartner's study.
Dave Gartenberg, CHRO of Avanade, a Seattle consulting firm employing more than 30,000 employees in Seattle, told Business Insider that the summer Friday staff was a no-brainer. "Flexible schedules help employees to do their best by allowing the freedom to find the sweet spot of their productivity and managing their outside commitments," he said. As long as the employees manage their duties before they are bolted early, "only great things happen."
And while reduced office hours sound like they can hurt workflows, the research company ADP shows that 66% of the workers utilizing the summer Friday say it increases productivity.
"In the summer months, we accepted the approach of letting most of the sales staff take off Friday," Christopher Westfall, chief executive of Medicare Insurance Sales Agency, told Senior Savings Network in Charleston, South Carolina, Business Insider. "This has not only made the other four days of the working week more productive, but they have actually been able to spend more time with their loved ones."
Make summer Fridays a year long affair
Sarah Stoddard, a social specialist for career spot Glassdoor, acknowledged that "offering summer Fridays can be a way for employers to promote a stronger work-life balance in the warmer months. " But she told Business Insider that managers should avoid dealing with the time-limited perk as the end of all burnout.
"Employers should consider diversifying their benefits and perks over the year, such as flexible hours or external work opportunities, to appeal to a wide range of applicants with the required skills and retain top talent," she said via email.
In fact, US companies may want to take a page from Japan, where the government introduced "Premium Fridays" in 2017. The bonus advantage gives home infamously overtime and workforce home early Friday afternoon. Even Prime Minister Shinzō Abe reportedly takes time on Premium Friday to meditate.
"I can't see [summer Friday] going away, and if anything, employers are becoming increasingly flexible with how and when their people work," Traci Wilk, former head of HR at Starbucks Business Insider, told.
Wilk is now senior vice president of The Learning Experience, an early childhood education company based in West Palm Beach, Florida. The staff leading home at 8pm 2 Get to the end of this summer's work week for what they call (in a very Sunshine State twist) "Flip-Flop Fridays."
"It is to show a" work hard, play hard "corporate culture and atmosphere," Wilk said. "I can see this evolving over time, with employers offering the exterior all year round, as a means to further increase productivity and engagement."
Winter Fridays, Anyone?