Last week, Influence & Co. began to implement summer Fridays for the first time. The content marketing agency’s new perk means the work week ends at noon on Fridays for employees from May to August — a benefit execs wanted to offer to acknowledge the stress due to the pandemic and to give time as the increasingly vaccinated population in the United States allows some leisure activities to return.
“We felt like people needed more time to recharge,” said Kelsey Raymond, CEO of Influence & Co. “And people likely had a lot of things built up they were wanting to do (travel, doctor appointments, hair appointments) that they haven’t been doing in the last 15 months that we wanted to give them more time.”
The agency is one of a number giving summer Fridays a second look either by adding them for the first time, encouraging employees to take advantage of existing summer Friday policies or beefing them up. Agency executives say that the increased focus on taking advantage of summer Fridays this year is to help employees take the time they need to relax, improve mental health after a difficult year and avoid burnout.
“The pandemic has dramatically impacted our balance between work and personal life,” said Barbara Jobs, chief human resources officer at Publicis Groupe US Marketing Services. “It goes without saying that restrictions on travel and socializing have disrupted our personal boundaries, often resulting in longer work hours and fewer breaks.”
Specifying a summer Friday policy wasn’t the case last year for Publicis in the U.S., but the holding company is encouraging employees to take more time off this year and has suggested some Fridays as well as extra time around the holidays. “Our employees’ well-being is our top priority, and with the vaccine becoming increasingly available and some restrictions beginning to ease, we are encouraging our people to use the summer months to safely reconnect with loved ones and take meaningful time off,” said Jobs. “For some that may mean taking an additional few Fridays off, or extending time off around our already long holiday weekends.”
For some agencies, summer Fridays come in the form of a half-day where all employees log off in the early afternoon. Others are giving a few full Fridays throughout the summer or experimenting with new more flexible arrangements for employees.
Code3, for example, had a half-day approach last year but found it needed to give employees “more leeway and flexibility to craft a schedule that worked for them,” said Amy Forrester, vp of People at Code3, as some employees were able to take full advantage of the time off on Fridays while others had work that would crop up during the time allotted.
“We have created something called DIY Long Weekend,” said Forrester. That plan allows employees to take five days off between Memorial Day and Labor Day on a Friday or a Monday. “We’re not prescriptive about when they use it but we are prescriptive about them planning to use it. Travel is opening up and we want employees to be able to enjoy some time this summer, enjoy their life again,” Forrester said.
Incentivizing employees to take time off and take advantage of summer Fridays is something Jane Crisan, president and COO of Rain the Growth Agency, is also working on. The shop has an early close on Fridays and has for the last year. The shop is also giving employees a $500 bonus for every 40 hours of paid time off they use.
“We looked at the numbers and realized people were not taking their PTO,” said Crisan. “That’s not good for anyone’s mental health so we instituted this policy to really reinforce that we want people to decompress and take that time off.”
Avoiding employee burnout is crucial for agencies, according to execs, who say encouraging time off is key for creativity.
“Burnout is lethal for curiosity and creativity, our lifeblood, so we knew we had to provide some structure around recharging and renewing,” said Erin Riley, President, TBWAChiatDay LA, adding that the shop has made a point to block out afternoons on Fridays for employees to take the time they need for themselves. “The quality of our peoples’ mental health and thus their work has improved. We anticipate we will continue these even when we return to the office.”