Many employees want more time off during the summer. Here are ways that companies can create summer schedules that work for everyone.
Here's what you need to know:
- Summer hours are a benefit offered to employees in the summer to reduce the amount of time workers spend in the office during the summer months
- The way summer hours look and work can be different at every company
- Some companies offer a 4-day workweek, shorter workdays, or another type of schedule
- When implementing summer hours, gather employee feedback and clearly communicate policies
Now that summer has arrived, chances are you’ve heard conversations about Summer Fridays.
The move to let workers end work early on Fridays or give employees Fridays off altogether is a growing business trend these days. In fact, 55% of U.S. employers offered Summer Fridays to their employees in 2019. But what many people don’t know about Summer Fridays is that they’re just 1 form of a broader approach to summer hours.
Never heard of summer hours? Maybe you’ve heard of the term but aren’t quite sure how they work? Here’s a crash course in not only what summer hours are, but how to start the practice at your business, too.
What are summer hours in the workplace?
What exactly are summer hours, anyway? Essentially, they’re a benefit offered to employees in the summer to reduce the amount of time workers spend in the office during the summer months. Most businesses consider summer hours to run between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
The goal of summer hours is to lean into what employees want and need: more time off in the summer. Whether that’s using vacation time to travel while the weather is nice or spending time with kids who are out of school, summers are busy and short.
Summer hours recognize that people are going to want more time off in the summer, so why not give it to them? Plus, thanks to the summer slump, productivity isn’t a given anyway. So oftentimes it’s a win-win for businesses and employees.
How do summer hours work for companies?
The way summer hours look and work can be different at every company.
Let’s start with Summer Fridays. This iteration of summer hours means that employees either get Fridays off or get to leave early on Fridays between Memorial Day and Labor Day.
Some employers simply pivot to a shorter workweek during the summer. Other businesses opt for letting employees who want to partake in the perk work an extra hour each day Monday through Thursday to have Fridays off. It all depends on what’s best for your business.
However, Summer Fridays, while likely the most popular option, are only 1 incarnation of summer hours.
For businesses that are usually in person, a summer hours policy could mean that employees are allowed to work remotely more during the summer. Alternatively, summer hours could simply mean more flexible time off to be used during the summer.
Summer hours could also look like giving employees Mondays off instead and pivoting temporarily to a 4-day workweek.
There’s also nothing stopping a company from deciding that, for them, summer hours mean that everyone can work shorter days — let’s say 7 hours a day instead of 8 — all week. Summer hours could mean that everyone gets 2 extra days off each month to use whenever they’d like. Maybe your employees would rather take Wednesday off and just work 2 days in a row all summer.
There’s no wrong way to do summer hours, only a wrong way to do them at your company. As long as your summer hours policy aligns with your business needs, you’re on the right track.
The potential to pivot to a 4-day workweek
One of the most interesting things about summer hours is that they can be used to pivot to a 4-day work week permanently. If moving away from the traditional 5-day work week is something you’ve been wanting to try for a while, starting with a temporary summer policy is a great way to try it out.
For busy companies that are looking to hire cutting-edge talent, a 4-day workweek could be a major draw to candidates.
This gives you the chance to see if productivity slips and, if so, by how much. If, by the end of summer, things aren’t going well, you can simply move back to your traditional schedule. But, if things are going well, then you have the option to extend them further or make them permanent.
If you’re seeing waning business in the wake of the pandemic, closing 1 extra day a week could be the solution you need. Alternatively, for super busy companies that are looking to hire cutting-edge talent, a 4-day workweek could be a major draw to candidates. This is especially true if you’re trying to woo workers from younger generations who place a high value on work-life balance.
How to implement summer hours at your company
Getting started with summer hours can seem like a daunting task. But if you think your approach through and support it with clear policies and communication, your chances of success with summer hours increases.
A few tips and tricks for implementing summer hours are:
- Get feedback. First, start with gathering as much information as you can from everyone from leadership to managers and employees. What do they think the best approach could be? What are their concerns about implementing summer hours?
- Clearly communicate the intention of summer hours. This isn’t just an excuse for people to slack off. This is a well-thought-out benefit that you’re offering to your employees to give them a healthy work-life balance, not necessarily to reduce the amount of work they get done or their productivity.
- Set a clear policy. Any change is going to come with bumps in the road, so the clearer you can be with your policy, the better. Try to make your policy as simple and uncomplicated as possible in order to eliminate ambiguity and confusion. The policy should certainly be written so your workers can reference it when they need to. It should also outline exactly when summer hours end and begin and what they entail. Your summer hours policy should also clearly state what summer hours mean at your company and how they’ll work. Remember, this could be anything from half days on Fridays to more flexible remote work options.
- Expect some bumps in the road. Any change will have hiccups, so don’t be discouraged if your company experiences some at first. Give the change time to iron itself out as much as you can.
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Changing work hours can be hard, but worth it
Any change can be stressful, especially 1 that’s poised to reduce the number of hours your employees are working. The key to success is uncovering the best way to design and implement summer hours at your unique company. If you take the needs of your workers into consideration, ask for feedback, and go into it with an open mind, you’re setting yourself up for success.
Plus, remember that practically any decision you make can be reversed. If you try summer hours and they end up being a miserable failure, you can just go back to your traditional schedule.
But there’s value in taking small, calculated risks — the change you make might end up being for the better. You could find yourself with a flood of applicants, especially if you’re the only business in the area offering summer hours.
Be transparent about the process. Outline what it will take for summer hours to be successful so your employees know exactly what to do if they want them to continue.
Be transparent about how things are going as the scheduling change progresses, so it won’t surprise anyone when you make a final decision. Your employees are your friends — not your foes — in this process. Embrace it!