Studies show that productivity of workers can take a dip of up to 20% during the summer months with projects taking longer to complete and an increase in employees feeling distracted. While it’s not practical to shut down organisations for these less productive months, many organisations are exploring somewhat of a compromise, in the form of summer working hours.
Businesses across a multitude of industries, including ASOS, PwC and Kellogg’s, are all reporting a positive impact on key factors such as productivity and employee retention, following the introduction of this employee benefit. With this in mind, this week we’re considering if more workplaces should consider implementing summer working hours into their annual calendar, and the risks of doing so.
What are summer working hours?
Summer working hours, or summer Fridays, as the initiative is known within some organisations, is a benefit offered to employees to reduce the amount of time working during the summer months.
The concept can be entirely flexible, allowing organisations to create a summer working pattern that works best for their business operations. While some companies require their employees to work an additional hour between Monday and Thursday to allow for an early finish, other businesses choose to simply implement a Friday half-day, or a full office closure on a Friday, extending operating hours for the rest of the week.
What are the results?
A 2022 report from PwC found that 90% of staff felt that introduction of summer working hours had a positive impact, with 73% saying that it specifically positively impacted their personal wellbeing. This follows the successful pilot period in 2021, which saw summer Fridays become a permanent part of the employee benefits offering.
Kellogg's, meanwhile, are firmly ahead of the curve, having introduced this working pattern 20 years ago for all office-based employees, running from May to September. When interviewed by HR Magazine, Kellogg’s UKI HR Director, Melanie Bowes, praised the effect of the initiative, ‘By giving our people half a day for themselves each week it allows them to recharge and unwind. Not only is this great for people’s mental and physical wellbeing but it also leads to increased productivity and motivation. When implementing summer hours, we ask our people managers to work with their teams to ensure they’re making the most of the benefit’’.
She went on to suggest the scheme has also reduced presenteeism within the organisation, ‘If we’ve learnt anything over the last few years, it’s that being productive doesn’t necessarily mean sitting at a desk in an office. We like to encourage our teams to work flexibly where they can and to work in a way that suits them. Not only does this lead to a happier workforce, but it also leads to an increase in productivity’.
While Kellogg’s have been extolling the virtues of this way of working for two decades, the premise of reduced hours has hit the headlines in recent years following the UK’s four day, or 32 hour, week trial. The experiment, which ended in May, saw 65% of the 61 companies taking part record fewer sick days, with 57% of staff commenting they would be less likely to resign due to the initiative.
How can summer working hours benefit my business?
While companies like PwC and Kellogg’s have certainly seen a positive impact on their business since implementing summer working hours, how would this impact the unique challenges of your organisation?
We’ve rounded up some of the key benefits companies can expect to see following the introduction of this scheme:
Flexibility: Introduction of shorter working hours during the summer months allow your team to enjoy the summer weather and make plans with their family and friends, as well as take care of children during summer holidays
Boost Morale: Encouraging your team to get out of the office and enjoy the summer months is a great way to boost motivation within the workforce and reduce the slump seen during the period
Increased Productivity: The stats show that productivity increases by up to 12% when employees are happy - what makes employees happier than a shorter working day?
Work-Life Balance: Studies show up to 53% of employees consider a good work-life balance to be a non-negotiable when it comes to staying in an organisation - all the more reason to introduce a flexible working pattern which allows them to juggle their personal demands, as well as professional
Reduced Stress: In addition to the pressures of work, concerns around childcare and missed holiday time with loved ones (not to mention the heat!) can all cause additional stress during the summer months.Implementing reduced hours during this period can alleviate some of this stress and allow your team time to unwind
Increased Trust: Allowing your team to take advantage of summer hours and manage their workload to allow for this demonstrates a degree of trust
How can I make this work for my company?
If you’re looking to introduce summer working hours into your organisation there are a number of key factors you should consider.
Business Demands: Do the demands of your business realistically allow for your proposed new working hours? If client and customer commitments require a presence during traditional working hours, can a rota or shift patterns be introduced to allow for everyone to enjoy this benefit?
Clear Expectations: Build an understanding with staff that, should business needs require, they may be required to occasionally forgo their summer working hours
Timings: Define clearly when the scheme will commence and end each year, and consider building a trial period to evaluate any positive or negative effect on the business
Get Buy-In From Management:It’s important your senior staff understand the value of implementing these new working hours and are encouraging their direct reports to take advantage of this benefit
Andrew Jackson, co-founder of Rethinkly, confirmed to HR Magazine that introducing new measures work best when adopted by a company as a whole, so, whether you’re thinking of reducing work days, or implementing summer hours, talk to your employees about their concerns and hopes for the new way of working.
Why stop there?
While Kellogg’s have been extolling the virtues of a more flexible way of working for two decades, the premise of reduced hours has hit the headlines in recent years following the UK’s four day, or 32 hour, week trial. The experiment, which ended in May, saw 65% of the 61 companies taking part record fewer sick days, with 57% of staff commenting they would be less likely to resign due to the initiative.
These positive results have led some to question if year-round flexibility is the way forward rather than limiting this to the summer months to encourage a positive working culture and reduce stress.
What are your thoughts? Can you see this working in your organisation or does it sound like an operational nightmare? Let us know!