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June 1, 2016 / Molly Moseley

Summer hours: Awesome perk or needless stressor?

Summer here in Minnesota means spending time by the water. In the land of 10,000 lakes (the number is actually higher), there’s no shortage of shoreline perfect for sunbathing, fishing or building sand castles. We embrace the long days of summer and can’t wait to enjoy the outdoors when Friday afternoon rolls around.

This summer state of mind extends across the United States where employers are increasingly offering summer hours so employees have extra time to enjoy the season to the fullest. Summer hours can take many forms — half-days on Fridays, early release on some days with time made up on others, flexible start and end times, etc.

The benefits of summer hours are easily apparent. Extra time off increases employee morale and loyalty. Because they have time to unplug and refresh, they return to work with renewed enthusiasm and are ready to bring their “A” game. Additionally, being able to spend more time with friends and family boosts work-life balance. Avoiding the rush-hour commute means less time in gridlock and less money spent at the pump. Plus, summer hours serve as a great recruiting tool for HR departments.

Summer hours, however, are not all sunshine and sundaes. For some employees, they can be a big stressor. For example, clocking in for an extended workday to make up time for an early release can mean a 10-hour day. On the early-release day, some employees may get stuck finishing work and backing up employees who have already left. This can create stress among certain staff members during summer months.

For other employees, it’s hard to stay focused during short workdays. Knowing they’re getting off early will motivate some to work harder to complete all tasks while others will already be in vacation mode. Productivity can vary dramatically between team members, possibly causing engagement to plummet.

A successful summer-hours program varies from organization to organization. To ensure your company enjoys the benefits while minimizing the drawbacks, follow these few simple guidelines.

Hours: Some industries require certain hours to be staffed. This may eliminate the possibility of summer hours completely, but perhaps you can figure out a rotating schedule to ensure teams are properly covered during all required periods.

Dates: Determine start and end dates for the program — many companies select Memorial Day to Labor Day. Remember that those first weeks in September can be difficult for employees transitioning back to a traditional schedule.

Alternatives: Consider alternatives like flextime that allow employees to start and end their day around peak productivity periods. Additionally, telecommuting can be a wonderful way for employees to work a full day while skipping the dreaded commute.

Ask: Not sure if employees will enjoy or feel stressed about summer hours? Ask them directly via a survey. At the conclusion of the program, follow up so you can determine if the program was a success or if it should be updated next year.

Setting clear expectations when implementing summer hours will help ensure that employees use the program successfully. When it becomes part of the culture, businesses will enjoy the momentum that comes from a happier, more relaxed staff.