Those Summer Friday Blues
Ever since the invention of the five-day work week, employers and employees have tried to whittle it down to four, or maybe four and a half, in whatever way they can. Some workers take that one step further, though, taking Fridays off during the summer and reaping the stress-melting rewards of three-day weekends.
Some offices even encourage the practice as a morale-booster, but for anyone chained to their desks on Friday, it can have the opposite effect.
Chris Perkett, president of the Boston-based marketing and public relations firm Perkett PR, has offered summer Fridays for most of the 13 years she has run her business, but she recognizes the need to manage the process so it doesn’t create more stress for anyone.
“We don’t give every Friday as a summer Friday, we give a number that each employee can opt to take,” she explains. “That keeps everyone from being out at the same time, and helps to ensure that summer Fridays remain a positive attribute, but that they don’t cause friction.”
For those whose employers fail to understand the stresses of overworked employees, all is not lost.
Here, MainStreet offers some tips and tricks from all over the working world to show you how to deal with summer Fridays when your friends and co-workers duck out early for margaritas and leave you behind to toil at your desk.
Photo Credit: John McStravick
Personalize Your Business Relationships
Some might recommend against mixing business with pleasure, but Luke Latham, CEO of e-commerce website SellRex.com http://www.sellrex.com , uses those Fridays for something that doesn’t feel so much like work, but still helps the company. He sends personalized emails to clients on Fridays simply wishing them well.
“I don’t try to sell them anything, I just genuinely convey my well wishes to our customers,” he says. Sometimes the practice generates hard leads.
“I did get a response to one Friday message from a client of ours who asked about having a lunch meeting to talk business,” he recalls. “We had a great time talking about business and enjoying the beachside restaurant, and if it weren’t for my Friday shout-out that wouldn’t have happened.”
Photo Credit: Photodisc
Bring Happy Hour to You
One of the oldest forms of office-related stress relief is happy hour at the local pub, but that doesn’t mean the practice only works once people have left the office.
Lot18, a New York-based startup that acts as a platform to connect wineries and consumers, has been holding “Wine Fridays” – basically wine parties held in the office on Friday afternoons – since its inception and has maintained the practice as the company grew from six to 75 employees.
“It’s a nice way at the end of the week for people to get to know each other,” says president Philip James. “And it’s nice to do it in the same space so that work seems like a place for fun as well as business.”
Whether you are in a position to plan such events or not, a carefully-researched proposal for regular office parties like this in the summer could go a long way in helping a boss or human resources director make it happen.
James is aware that it’s easy for his company to host wine parties when they are in the business of selling wine, but he advises anyone interested in starting such an event (which can be held monthly to keep costs down) to budget for about a half bottle of wine per person, plus snacks. In his experience, compared to the cost of renting a venue to throw an office Christmas party, wine Fridays can be organized for a fraction of the cost.
Photo Credit: Brand X Pictures
Do Something New That Isn’t “Work”
James of Lot18 points to another practice the startup employs, monthly presentations by guest speakers, as another proposal employees can take to their bosses to have a work-related excuse to do something besides work on summer Fridays.
“We get everyone together every month and have guest speakers come in to talk about what’s going on in the industry, or have investors come and share their thoughts,” James says. He values the way it gets his employees thinking in new ways and breaks the monotony of the normal workday.
If you’re tired of spending your summer Fridays in the same old rat race, do a little legwork, make a few phone calls and propose a guest speaker to the higher-ups who will break the monotony and help educate the staff.
Photo Credit: David De Lossy
Knock Out Your Tasks
In most life scenarios, doing the bare minimum is rarely a way to get ahead. But on summer Fridays, such rules fly out the sun-drenched window just a few feet from your cubicle.
Debra Yergen, author of Creating Job Security, a resource guide for employees currently in its second edition, says that people in a project-driven job (i.e. one based on tasks that need to be accomplished, rather than time-driven jobs based on phones that need to be answered) can sometimes “duck out early, providing your core tasks are completed,” adding that “being a great employee means you're someone the boss can count on to get the work done. That doesn't mean every last project must be done today.”
Yergen recommends breaking down a list of tasks into three categories: what must be done today, things that can wait and other non-critical tasks.
“Review the middle list to make sure nothing should be moved to the critical list,” she says, “then finish the critical list and make sure to slather yourself in sunscreen as you run out the door and lower the convertible top.“
Photo Credit: Comstock
Do More With Less
Employees taking summer Fridays off often use their vacation days to do so, but those without that luxury have the option to earn a day or half a day off by paying it forward at the beginning of the week. In fact, some employers actually encourage it.
“At my company, I instituted a summer policy last year that seemed to have worked well,” says Kenneth Wisnefski, founder of WebiMax, a New Jersey-based online marketing company. “My plan is when the temperature breaks 90 on a Friday, I allow the office to be closed two hours early, obviously contingent on our level of productivity throughout the week. I typically announce this on Thursdays, and I see an increase in motivation, morale and teamwork.”
Similarly, Kristyn Wilson from marketing and advertising firm Resource Interactive uses the perk of leaving early or taking summer Fridays off altogether as a way to motivate her employees.
“To cure ‘summer Fridays’, everyone is allowed to leave at 3 p.m. on Fridays throughout the summer,” she explains. “It's a nice perk and people will come in early throughout the week to make sure they can leave by three.”
Whether you are the person running the office, it is worth asking your boss early in the week if he or she would be open to letting you take part of Friday off if you can set up a list of tasks that you will finish by Thursday, as Yergen outlined.
Photo Credit: Pixland
Sometimes, work-related ways to cope with a lonely summer Friday in the office amount to little more than lipstick on a pig. On those slow afternoons, you might simply need to play. James of Lot18, for example, has tricked out his startup’s headquarters with a foosball table and gaming consoles.
“I think with a lot of companies you turn up and you’re just a cog in the machine,” James says. “People spend every waking hour in the office, so we keep the Xbox and Nintendo around to entertain people. They’re not always plugged in, but they’re there.”
No matter how rigid the workplace, employees are entitled to a break for lunch at least, so if you fancy yourself a gamer, consider asking your boss to put some time or space aside for play, and mention that such leisure activities have been shown to have positive effects in other ways than just stress relief.
Photo Credit: Polka Dot Images
Play a Prank
A playful prank can be a morale booster for anyone who has the good fortune to be around on a summer Friday to witness it.
Check out MainStreet’s rundown of 12 awesome office pranks for ideas such as the water trick, bubble cube or the old favorite, wrapping a co-worker’s entire desk in gift wrap.
Photo Credit: Sean O-Shaughnessy
Once in a while, workers will find themselves with a humorless boss, restrictive vacation policies or a complete inability to think outside the box and consider adopting creative work activities like guest speakers and wine parties. For them, coping with summer Fridays may simply mean getting your mind off work and finding sneakier ways to pass the time. Everyone else is doing it – or at least a quarter of everyone else, according to some studies.
Check out MainStreet’s rundown of the most common ways people waste time at work and focus on exploring one of these every Friday this summer. Maybe you’ll become the master of Farmville just in time for the fall harvest.
Photo Credit: Michael Reuter
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