How to communicate a summer Friday policy

Clarity, consistency and buy-in are all key.

How to tell your team about summer fridays

After a long winter and a short spring, everyone wants to be outside enjoying the warm weather. And after a long two years, your employees could benefit from a little extra break for their mental health.

Enter the hallowed tradition of the summer Friday.

This idea can look a little different at every company, but the most classic concept is that from Memorial Day to Labor Day, workers knock off a few hours early on Friday. Some lucky souls might even get the whole day off on Fridays during the summer.

According to a survey from Gartner, 55% of companies offered some form of summer Friday in 2019, the most recent year for which data was available. Though this was pre-pandemic, many of the insights remain relevant: “Ultimately, Summer Fridays are about organizations providing the increased flexibility that employees are seeking,” Brian Kropp, group vice president of the HR practice at Gartner said of the results. “It’s a way for employers to show their staff that they are valued by giving them the gift of time.”

And to anticipate the natural employer question of whether any “lost” hours will hurt productivity, Kropp said: “We find that offering your employees work-life balance can increase productivity, loyalty and employee retention.”

Employees looking for flexibility and better work-life balance and employers seeking to retain high-value employees are nothing new — but they are growing trends amid the Great Resignation that most of us can relate to.

Whether you’re experimenting with summer Fridays for the first time or giving your policy a tune-up for 2022, here are some things to keep in mind when communicating to your employees about seasonal time off.

Give clear guidance

You might think of a Summer Friday policy as something you can just trust workers to be adults about and self-manage with respect to the needs of the business. While this sounds fine in theory, it can create imbalance if some workers take off at precisely 12 p.m. every Friday and others never manage to log off early.

Instead, communicate with clarity and tell workers what your office hours are using exact times. For instance: “On Fridays from Memorial Day to Labor Day, our office hours are 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. in the time zone in which you work. Employees are encouraged to unplug and not work or respond to emails and calls during this time.”

This creates a clear understanding of when you expect workers to be available, and when they are free – and encouraged – to sign off. If there is an expectation that workers keep an eye on email or be available for calls, say that. Make sure that no portion of your message is up to interpretation or risk the chance that everyone will interpret it differently.

Enforce the policy

It might sound contradictory to enforce a policy of going and having fun. But the truth is, if there isn’t widespread buy-in on this topic, especially from company leaders, it won’t work. If employees are still  getting emails or other internal communications during their supposed off hours, it sends a message that they aren’t really off hours at all.

Encourage employees at all levels of the organization to observe the summer hours. If some leaders protest that they can’t possibly take that time off, teach them how to schedule emails or other messages that send  later, like on Monday morning.

Adjust expectations

Both internal and external stakeholders should understand how summer hours will affect workflows. Internal supervisors need to understand that asking for something by end of day Friday means the end of summer hours, not 5 p.m. External stakeholders should also be made aware of the sign-off time – and provided with a contact who can  help if there is an emergency.

Of course, there will be a time when something comes up that necessitates breaking the summer Friday tradition. It just shouldn’t be a weekly occurrence

Reinforce regularly

A summer Friday policy is not one you should mention once and then never again. To make it clear that the policy is still valued and enforced, remind workers whenever possible that summer hours are in effect and are real. Give reminders in emails and all-hands meetings so people know it hasn’t been forgotten. Post a Thursday reminder on your intranet.

Also consider asking for employee generated content showing what workers are doing with their summer Fridays and displaying them in emails, on the intranet or via digital signage. Bonus points if some of these photos are from executives.

It takes a true shift in the cultural mindset to properly observe summer Fridays. But with clear guidelines and communication, everyone can reap positive benefits that pay off in the long run.




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