The phenomenon of half-day Fridays during the summer has always been an astonishing one to me. In a country that doesn’t even use all its vacation time, the warm weather convinces entire companies to take a weekly half-day for three months out of the year.
Really, who can blame the employees who actually feel like they can take a guilt-free break? My previous employer had the joy of half-day Fridays. I got a chance to run errands during normal business hours and before picking my daughter up from daycare. I spent time in the sun without worrying that my little girl was drowning. I finally used the spa gift certificates that had been sitting in my wallet since Christmas. Amen for half-day Fridays, right?
“Wrong,” says a close friend of mine who just happens to manage a staff of about 50 people. “My employees already hate me for it, so you aren’t allowed to use my name and make me more people hate me for it,” she warned me when we discussed half-day Fridays over lunch last week.
Now, lots of companies don’t allow have a special summer policy because it doesn’t work with their schedule. They had set business hours and aren’t able to just take time off. Or maybe the summer is their busiest season, making it a bad time to let everyone work less. There are lots of understandable reasons why business can’t always grant their employees this little perk.
“No,” my friend wasn’t getting off so easy, “it wouldn’t be too difficult for us to implement.” In fact, the company had previously allowed its employees to leave early during the summer. It was a pretty well-liked policy, but my friend isn’t planning on reinstating it.
“So just what is it that you have against half-day Fridays?” I asked her. And I have to admit, she made a pretty compelling argument. Here’s her thought process.
“First of all, I think everyone needs to admit that half-day Fridays is basically like taking the whole day off. The majority of employees are distracted by their weekend plans for the short time that they are in the office. Plus, they’re hesitant to take on a big project because they figure there’s only a short amount of time anyways. So half-day Fridays are basically like giving people a three-day weekend, every weekend for a couple months.
And warm weather is no excuse for long weekends. Holidays? Sure. Special occasions? Why not. Warm weather? If it effects you that much, you should probably move south.
When you give employees half-days, they use them exactly like you said. They catch up on errands. They get one or two things done. They stop at the grocery on their way home instead of doing it Saturday morning. In terms of actual time away from work, a half-day leading in to the weekend really doesn’t do people a lot of good.
Even more, having a special summer policy puts people in a different mindset for the summer. Business is somehow more lax. How can it not be when we’re making special rules for it? It lets everyone know that sunshine is an acceptable excuse for not concentrating. The whole feeling of the office changes during the summer when you implement policies like half-day Fridays.
I’m not against time off. I love time off. And I think that companies need to be more generous with time off when it matters. Forget half-day Fridays and give an extra week of paid vacation. People can use it to actually get away. It helps women take longer maternity leave if they want to. People don’t have to use it all at the same time.
I don’t understand why employees would want mandated time once a week instead of vacation time that they can utilize when it works best for them. And yet, half-day Fridays are a perk that let companies keep from adding actual, usual vacation time. Really, I think both the business and the employees miss out.”
I guess when you put it like that, half-day Fridays don’t seem so wonderful after all.