Why summer Fridays are on an upswing

The share of companies offering this perk has jumped from 21% in 2015 to 42% in 2017

By Bloomberg News

Jun 15, 2017 @ 8:04 pm EST

Let's be real: It's Thursday, but you're already thinking about the weekend. Specifically, tomorrow — and what time you're going to slink out of the office.

Come summer, nobody is actually working on Friday afternoons. By tomorrow morning, workers are already day-dreaming about slipping away early. That's why Sabina Gault, who runs a public relations firm with offices in New York, Los Angeles and Austin, decided to formally give her employees that already slow afternoon off.

"Everyone just wants to get out," she said. "Winter is miserable, it's just a nightmare. In the summer, we're so happy to get out early and enjoy an ice cream. It's not life changing, but it's so much fun to be able to get out of the office at 2 p.m."

Midway through last summer, Ms. Gault started offering her 52 employees a half day off on Fridays through Labor Day. Employees loved it so much, she decided to do it again this year, starting on Memorial Day weekend.

The summer Friday is on an upswing. In a survey of more than 200 employers, the CEB (formerly the Corporate Executive Board) found that the share of companies offering this perk has jumped from 21% in 2015 to 42% in 2017.

"It's not like people are really killing it at 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon in the middle of the summer," said Brian Kropp, an HR practice leader at CEB. And a lot of employees tend to leave early on Fridays during the summer anyway. (Electricity consumption in New York City dips around that time by as much by 4% in the summer.) Companies that allow summer Fridays are simply taking advantage of a simple reality. "By formalizing it, it sends a clear message that we care about you," said Mr. Kropp.

As the hiring market for white-collar workers tightens, companies have turned to benefits as a way to attract and retain workers. Companies are offering more paid vacation days, beefed up parental and paid family-leave packages and more workplace flexibility. Among employers competing for talent, the summer Friday is a cheap and easy way to win over potential hires.

Eric Fischgrund, who runs FischTank, a small PR and marketing firm in New York, says quality of life and work-life balance often come up during interviews. In an attempt to attract workers, Mr. Fischgrund this year started offering summer Fridays. "We thought it gave us a competitive advantage in interviewing," he said. "A 2.5-day weekend is better than a two-day weekend."

It's a lot cheaper for a company to offer a small token, such as a summer Friday, than, say, a raise. "This is a way that companies can send a message that work-life balance is important in a low-cost way," said Mr. Kropp at CEB.

At FischTank, the summer Friday does come with some contingencies, though. The weekend doesn't always begin at 2 p.m. Earlier this month, for example, Mr. Fischgrund kept a few employees at the office until 5 p.m to meet a deadline on a client project. And, in case of an emergency, the employee has to be reachable. "Head to the shore, or wherever," said Mr. Fischgrund. "But please keep your cell phone with you."

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