It's a Friday in July. Take a look around the office. How do your people look? Are they actually working? Are they working very hard?

Let me guess the answer: if you're honest, you probably have to admit that the end of the week in the summer is pretty much a productivity wasteland. Coffee breaks are frequent, absences notable, and faces grim (or distracted). And if you're often just killing time daydreaming about an upcoming BBQ or beach trip, your employees are probably doing the same.

Don't fret. Your office is far from alone. According to a new article in Fast Company that claims to offer the definitive case for giving your people Friday afternoons off this summer, new research shows a whopping 42 percent of organizations are letting their people start their weekends a bit early this year. (Some bold companies actually do this year round.)

Trade a tiny bit of work for a whole lot of good will.

The calculation behind this move is straightforward: people aren't getting much done anyway, so by letting them actually physically leave (rather than just mentally check out), you trade a miniscule amount of productivity for a lot of good will and soul refreshment.

If you're tempted to jump on the bandwagon but need a little more convincing -- or if you're looking for ammunition to persuade your skeptical boss -- the complete Fast Company piece offers a full rundown of the evidence for the popular perk.

But perhaps the most useful bit of the article is a quick rundown of the steps to take if you've decided to pull the trigger on the new benefit. After all, you can't just hang up a closed sign one Friday afternoon and not let anyone know. So what does a proper roll out of Summer Fridays look like? Here are the five steps recommended by Fast Company:

  1. Pick a start and end date. Set clear expectations for when exactly employees can expect to bow out to avoid misunderstandings.
  2. Enforce deadlines. Leaving early doesn't mean slacking off, so take a minute to communicate to your employees that you still expect all work to be completed on time and up to your usual high expectations. If that means working a bit harder the hours they are in the office, so be it.
  3. Ensure availability. Stuff happens on Fridays sometimes. Employees need to be available to deal with it, so also remind employees that this isn't a sacred day of rest, and client issues and emergencies must be attended to no matter when they arise.
  4. Consider informing clients. If appropriate for your business, consider giving your clients the heads up, and not just so they call on Thursday instead. "People want to do business with companies that respect their employees," Brian Kropp of HR consulting firm CEB tells Fast Company.
  5. Make management participate. Your people aren't going to feel free to enjoy this seasonal perk if the higher ups are in the office until the sun goes down on Friday, so ensure leaders knock off at the same time you're letting frontline employees leave for the weekend, even if that means working from home to tie up loose ends.
Published on: Jul 7, 2017