Recently the New York Times ran an article on the idea of summer Fridays. Summer Fridays, when employers formally or informally allow employees leave early on Friday afternoons during the summer, are a tradition in many parts of the western world, particularly in certain corporate environments. They have existed for as long as most of the current workforce can remember and are often engrained in company culture.
The Times noted, however, that as the recession and layoffs have made companies leaner, businesses would prefer not to continue this tradition while employees have been particularly reticent to give it up. This was notable to me for two reasons.
First, it is interesting that, after all that employees have had to give up over the past few years, including salary cuts, loss of job security, increased workload, and major restructuring, that summer Fridays are one thing that people will not give up. It implies that there is something about the summer Fridays that employees truly value. It might be the recognition by employers that the employees have worked hard during the rest of the year and deserve a little break; it might be that, having to spend the summer in an office, getting out early on Fridays is one way to differentiate the summer from the rest of the year; it might even be the domino effect of other businesses closing early on Friday.
Second, I was surprised that given today’s working environment, that this sort of clock punching behavior is even taking place by employers or employees. This, of course, does not apply to people who fill out time sheets or are paid on an hourly basis. People who have salaries, however, in my experience, rarely work a regular 9-to-5 day. Sometimes people have to stay late to finish a project, sometimes they have to leave early to go to a doctor’s appointment, and sometimes people have to take work home in the evenings or on weekends. The understanding between salaried worker and employer, again in my experience, has always been that the work produced is far more important than punching a clock. If that is the case, I’m unsure why summer Fridays should be an issue. If an organization is very busy on Friday, it would make sense that the employees would stick around until the end of the day while, if work is slow, it seems unfair to require employees to sit at their desks and take in the lovely summer weather through their windows.
The opposite of clock punching is ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) that introduces flexibility, but as pointed out by Wally Bock, this solution falls short of a panacea for giving employees control over their worklife. (read Wally’s Article here)
So what do you think? Does your workplace have summer Fridays either officially or unofficially? Do you think it is a good policy?