Summer Fridays Deliver Adventure, Connections and Relaxation to Employees

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Last year, we announced a new policy to recognize and reward employees for their hard work and dedication throughout the year. For all five Fridays in July, we closed every FM:Systems office worldwide. Not closed early—closed completely. Our desire was for employs to enjoy mental and physical rejuvenation on Summer Fridays with no work, no meetings and no email.

Employees expressed great enthusiasm for the policy, so this year we announced our second year of Summer Fridays in July. This perk is entirely and simply designed to give everyone a much-needed break – and a way for us to say “thank you” for what our employees do every day. This month, we once again asked employees for feedback. We observed a few main themes from that feedback and our experience as an organization.

Unplugging Requires a Shift in Culture and Mindset

Our objective for Summer Fridays was to empower employees to unplug from work and spend extra time doing things that bring them joy. This requires a shift in culture and managerial expectations.

We did not want employees to feel like they needed to squeeze five days of work into a four-day work week. And we did not want them to do any work at all on Fridays. In response to employee feedback from last year, we explicitly communicated both of these principles to the workforce before Summer Fridays began. While most employees reported they were able to fully take Fridays off, there was still a feeling among some that Summer Fridays necessitated fitting in a few extra hours on other days of the week. One suggestion given was for the company to dial back some of the meetings scheduled during July to give employees more time to accomplish their heads-down work.

Truly unplugging may also require a shift in individual mindset. While some employees expressed having an easy time staying away from work on Fridays, others said it created some anxiety at first. One employee said she “felt out of place, like there was something I should be doing that I was not.” By the last half of the month, she was more comfortable relaxing and putting work out of her mind.

Finally, we think it is important for customers to understand why we have Summer Fridays and to respect our goals for employee self-care. Otherwise, employees may come back to work on Mondays with a full inbox and irritated customers. To counter this challenge, we provided an out-of-office email template for employees to use. The template directed customers in need of immediate support to open a support ticket. Employees said this helped reduce the number of emails waiting for them on Monday mornings.

Employees spent time in active, outdoor pursuits

If you think most employees used Summer Fridays to hit the snooze alarm and spend the day relaxing, think again! For the most part, employees said they were active and outdoors. Various studies have demonstrated the benefits of spending more time outside. An L.L. Bean survey found that although 92% of people feel happier outdoors, 88% of indoor workers spend less than an hour of each workday outside.  Spending time outside has been shown to increase happiness, creativity and energy, resulting in better work performance and reduced stress.

One employee took leisurely drives with the top down and traveled to Cancun and swam with whale sharks. Another stayed closer to home, growing a pollinator garden and visiting food trucks at various local county fairs. She shared, “Best in Show goes to the Fried Food car at the Adams County Fair: deep fried buckeyes covered in powdered sugar and chocolate sauce with a lemonade slush!”

Dan Kayley traveled to Berlin, Germany to compete in the European Open LGBTQ+ Squash Tournament, part of EuroGames 2022. More than 100 players participated from all over the world. Dan competed for the Manchester team from the UK. He won 2nd place in his category—quite an achievement! Congratulations, Dan.

Fridays provided time to connect with family and friends

Social well-being is one of the five essential elements of employee well-being, along with career, financial, physical and community well-being. Most employees do well in at least one of these areas, but only 7% thrive across all five categories, according to Gallup. Social well-being is defined as maintaining positive interactions with other people that fosters a sense of belonging and inclusion.

While social well-being is incredibly important for happiness and health, sometimes it can be difficult to put enough time and energy into relationships when work gets too busy. All of the feedback we received indicated employees used Summer Fridays to spend extra time with families and friends.

One employee noted Thursday evenings suddenly felt freer and they were able to socialize with friends whose work schedules didn’t allow for weekend gatherings. Several employees enjoyed mini holidays with family by traveling over their three-day weekends.

Unplugging from work can free the mind for creativity

One interesting aspect of how employees used extra free time on Fridays was how many of them in engaged in acts of creativity. One employee spent time creating herbal remedies; another completed the story of a video game he was working on. People spent extra time reading and relaxing.

Having these opportunities to lower the stress level and expand the mind also deliver benefits at work. One employee explained, “The biggest benefit I got from the policy was a real opportunity to ‘mentally exhale.’ I would have more random ‘A-ha!’ moments. It’s hard to explain, but by having the extra time to not actively think about all the facets of the workday, it allowed my creative mind to wander and think of new solutions to test on Monday. I feel I did some of my best work in July.”

As an organization, we have returned to our regular five-day work weeks. We’ve all had a chance to relax and recharge, to make wonderful memories with friends and family, and to enjoy a bit of adventure. We expanded our horizons by trying new things, visiting new places, and igniting our creativity. Now, we bring all of those experiences and energy back into the workplace where we can generate new ideas and tackle new challenges.

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