Recently I spoke with a colleague about something that sounded eerily familiar: Her company had just instituted summer hours, but the information required by HR for managers to share with employees informing them of the new benefit sounded strangely punitive.
This had happened to me at another workplace, several years ago, in a different industry altogether.
Summer Hours Offer Flexibility & Autonomy
Summer hours are lovely: Put in a little extra time four days a week (usually a half hour added to the beginning or end of the day), and leave at lunchtime on Friday. Or, use the same small addition of extra time, and get every other Friday off. Summer hours are a form of flexibility that recognizes that many people, no matter what phase of life you may be in, like to spend summer weekends traveling or relaxing - so much so that they may be distracted and less productive at work even when they’re at the office! This policy is a nice way to keep productivity levels up, recognize the seasonality of life, and offer employees some down time.
Summer hours are a benefit that works well for, and is appreciated by, many employees. It’s not right for everyone - I never took advantage of it because I knew the longer workday would not work with my child care at the time - but it allows lots of people some extra time to enjoy the summer.
Offering a New Benefit
When you offer a new benefit, you want employees to use it and to be excited and appreciative that it’s being offered.
There is no better way to squash those positive feelings - and usage rates - than to spend 90% of the announcement of the new benefit focused on how, why, and when it will be taken away.
Sure, if someone is not coming in half an hour early on other days, they need to know they can’t leave early on Friday. Maybe there is legalese you need to include, as a CYA just in case it gets abused. Maybe you need people to realize it’s a pilot program only for this year. Maybe you’re worried about underperformers being the primary users of this new benefit, because you know they’re mentally checked out anyway, and so you want to emphasize that all work requirements still exist, people can’t slack off (more than they already do).
If you read that last paragraph nodding along, thinking, “yes, exactly!” then I need to ask you something: Are you happy at work? Do you feel motivated by the desire for success or by the need to avoid failure? Just how scared are you that your employees will abuse the system?
Choose your focus.
When we focus on the negative, we amplify and share the negative. When we feel afraid, we share our fears and our brains find more negative things to focus on.
When we focus on the positive, we find more positives! When we behave with kindness, others are inspired to share their naturally kinder tendencies as well.
If you’ve drafted a policy about summer hours, please go reread it right now. The ending of this post will wait for you, just leave the tab open.
How much of what you read were cautionary statements? Warnings? Punishments, hinted at or explicit? And how much celebrated the idea of enjoying the summer and letting employee embrace autonomy?
The point of this post is not summer hours at all.
The truth is, one of the simplest ways to create a happier workforce is just to share information in friendlier ways. If you’re not sure where to start, we can help - just ask.