Forget unlimited PTO. Summer Fridays may be key to employee retention

WorkplaceCulture.4.0.8.4.19.png

Summer sunshine has employees daydreaming of sandy toes and backyard barbecues. Employers who give their workforce some extra time to enjoy some additional work-life balance may be making use of an inexpensive retention strategy, one expert says.

A full 72% of 2,500 U.S. employees surveyed in MetLife’s 2019 U.S. employee benefits study say they were most interested in receiving unlimited paid time off. But how do employers appeal to workers if they can’t afford an unlimited time off benefit? One recruiter says giving employees an early start to their weekend may just do the trick.

“Even if you’re not Google and can’t afford to do six-month paid sabbaticals or unlimited PTO, you can afford to do summer Fridays and flexible hours,” says Brian Esko, chief recruiter at Parker and Lynch — a staffing firm for financial professionals. “These are little things you can do to show employees you value them outside of work.”

Esko spoke with Employee Benefit News about how employers can provide more time off without hurting the budget or reducing productivity.

Brian Esko Headshot.jpg

Employees want more PTO, what’s a cost efficient way for employers to provide this benefit?

Summer hours; it’s when companies have employees leave at noon or 1 p.m. on Fridays, depending on what the workload is like. It doesn’t cost employers anything to let their workforce leave early one day a week during the summer.

You can also let them work from home. Much of what we do at work doesn’t necessarily have to be done at the office thanks to technology. And employees will appreciate the flexibility.

Why let employees leave early in the summer?

Most companies are slower during summertime; for accounting and finance it’s generally the slowest time of the year. If you know as a business there’s going to be slower times, you can offer some flexibility that won’t drastically impact productivity. But it’s doable even if you’re in a department or business that doesn’t slow down.

Won’t employees be less productive if they are leaving early?

Not if you’ve set it up as an incentive, then the productivity doesn’t suffer. It’s actually interesting how big of a motivator it is for people to leave early on Fridays. We find that people push a lot harder when you set a target goal and tell them they can leave at noon if they meet it.

Since we’ve done summer Fridays for the past couple of years, our numbers haven’t seen a drop off, they actually went up. Of course, I can’t say definitively whether these are directly tied, but our productivity certainly hasn’t been hurt.

Most working professionals are conscientious and get their work done — they are adults after all, and I think they appreciate being treated like they are.

Why should employers look at summer Fridays and flexible hours as retention tools?

Talent is a very competitive marketplace at the moment, and not everyone has the budget of a large tech company. Employers need to think of cost-efficient ways to keep their workforce happy. Employees are happier at companies that treat them like adults and let them work from home when they need to. I also find that the companies who embrace [summer Fridays] do a good job of retaining and attracting talent.

You can offer summer hours to employees with the understanding that the company is allowing and advocating for you to spend more time with your friends and family. I think anybody would be happier working for a company that recognizes its employees are human beings that need to unplug and rejuvenate.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.