It's a Friday in August, which means that at enlightened companies across the land employees are taking the day off as part of some sort of "Summer Fridays" program. As the labor market tightens and the message that a little more time off can actually lead to greater overall productivity breaks through, more and more companies are offering reduced or modified hours over the summer.
All of which is good news for both employees and their output-obsessed bosses, but according to Quartz's Annaliese Griffin, many organizations could actually be wringing even more benefit from their tweaked summer schedules. Instead of letting people take Friday off, give them Wednesday off instead, she suggests.
Mid-week breaks beat long weekends
But wait, tons of you are no doubt objecting, isn't the whole point of Summer Fridays to give employees three-day weekends so they can get away and relax? Why yes it is. But according to Griffin, three-day weekends (love them as we do) are not actually the most refreshing way to spend extra time away from the office.
She has science to back her up. "Our human experience of time is ordered by 'pacers,' both internal (like being a 'morning person' or a 'night owl') and external, like the work week or a deadline," University of Texas time and communication researcher Dawna Ballard explains to Griffin. One of the reasons Mondays are difficult for so many of us, for instance, is that our internally determined "weekend rhythm" comes crashing into the externally defined rhythm of work.
Because of the power of pacers, a Wednesday off will chill you out more than a slightly longer weekend. "A Wednesday holiday interrupts the externally imposed pacer of work, and gives you a chance to rediscover your internal rhythms for a day. While a long weekend gives you a little more time on your own schedule, it doesn't actually disrupt the week's pacing power. A free Wednesday builds space on either side, and shifts the balance between your pace and work's--in your favor," writes Griffin.
As a happy bonus, most parks, museums and other recreational activities will also be way less crowded mid-week, she adds.
Maybe leave it up to your team?
It's an intriguing argument, and most of us can probably imagine how two two-day work stints might feel more psychologically refreshing than a four days on, three day off rhythm. But perhaps the best takeaway of all for bosses is just a heads up that there are differences of opinion on this subject -- not everyone craves Friday off above all else.
The most effective policy might simply be to give your employees reduced hours and (within the limits of the particular constraints of your business) allow them to structure their weeks however they like best. You could even share Griffin's article with your team to inspire them to be thoughtful about their new killer summer perk.
Which would you prefer, Summer Fridays or Summer Wednesdays?