This morning, I probably sent seven e-mails related to different things to people with office jobs. I got six auto-replies about them being out this Friday (bear in mind, for most people this week didn’t even start until Tuesday). That’s a small sample size, yes — seven — but six/seven is about 86 percent, which is semi-staggering. I’ve talked about the four-day/10-hour model before, and there is absolutely no place and nowhere where that seems more relevant then the period from Memorial Day to Labor Day, also often known as “summer.” By some estimates, about 12 percent of workers get “Summer Fridays,” which is basically an earlier out-time or the office as a whole closing early; there are clearly pros and cons to this model, especially for those who fully embrace that being busy is the true currency of the modern office environment. (If everyone’s leaving at 2pm, how can you and stick to that narrative? Dun dun dun.)
Summer has a different hold on people: the weather is nicer (mostly), the dresses are shorter (mostly), the beer seems cooler, and lazy days can stretch on forever, sun-kissed (holy sh*t, that was weird to type). When you get to 2pm on a Friday in late June, you’re not thinking about work as much as you could be — and even if you are, there’s a network effect situation, because it’s quite possible the people you need to do business with (either at your organization or elsewhere) are not really thinking about work anymore. It’s all a very elaborate charade in some respects — our dual masters can sometimes feel like ROI and projects/assignments, so we want to stick to our guns, but man the sun is out and goddamn, I keep getting all these out-of-offices from the Dallas branch — whereby we say one thing (“productivity!”) and we mean another (“I’m not really doing anything at this moment, no”).
One of the central reasons floated for both summer Fridays and the 4×10 work schedule is increased employee engagement. In fact, you’ll see polls online — there’s one on that CBS News link above — asking people to choose between Summer Fridays and a five-percent raise ($60,000 goes to $63,000). Oftentimes, those types of polls are split down the middle, give or take — people like the idea of $3,000 or so extra in a given year, but they also know that having time back in the summer (when, let’s be honest, you’re probably not 100 percent focused anyway) is tremendous too.
I really think this is how a standard white-collar job should go, post Memorial Day: come back and it’s a four-day week (Tuesday-Friday). Hold a quick staff meeting Friday morning and explain that everyone can leave at 3pm that day. Also lay out the rules for the next 10 weeks. Here’s the rub: we switch to 4x10s until Labor Day with Fridays off, the caveat being that you check your e-mail twice (once morning, once afternoon) on Friday and each Friday a different cluster of 3-4 people be responsible for upkeep/monitoring of issues (these people rotate each week). In the fall, we return to a standard 8-9×5 schedule, but we’ll add some social context to Fridays. That’s all surface-level stuff, for sure, but it’s also what people are thinking anyway (hell, 86 percent of people I e-mailed this Friday were dumping out on the day already), and it will increase engagement. Also consider: the point of your life is not actually work; you can define success through that channel and earn income through it, but it’s a means to an end in the broadest sense. The point is love and family and memories, etc. There’s no better time to cultivate those than a lazy summer Friday, especially if your kids are out of school. The office will still be there Monday; hell, your e-mail will still vibrate most of Friday. But summer Fridays aren’t even the answer. The answer is 4x10s in the summer and mandatory exits on Friday. We’re all thinking it, right?