Significantly more North American employers are offering “Summer Fridays” to their employees this year, the latest data from Gartner’s Global Talent Monitor shows. A poll conducted in the second quarter of 2018 of more than 144 HR leaders in North America found that 46 percent of organizations were giving employees the option of leaving early, working remotely, or taking the day off on Fridays this summer—a jump of more than 30 percentage points from 2012.
Though some companies worry that summer schedules can have a negative impact on productivity, but as Gartner’s own Brian Kropp notes, “most companies have told us that with this benefit in place, they’ve found employees work harder earlier in the week because they know they have to complete their work before Friday,”
Summer Fridays won’t work for every organization, of course, or for every workforce, but Kropp outlines an alternative option too:
Shari Buck, co-founder of the physicians’ social networking platform Doximity, made the case in a Quartz post last week for “work-from-home Wednesdays,” a policy her company adopted a few years ago that, in her opinion, strikes the right balance between the flexibility and work-life balance benefits of a work-from-home policy and the need for consistency and accountability among employees:
There are two reasons that scheduling our WFH day in the middle of the week has turned out so well. The first is that it breaks up the week nicely: two days in the office, one day working remote, and then two more days back in the office. This leads to a consistent workflow that balances a number of planning meetings early in the week, a productive Wednesday working from home, and two equally productive and collaborative days on the tail end of the week.
Additionally, scheduling WFH days on Wednesdays rather than on Mondays or Fridays prevents employees from thinking of them as faux three-day weekends. WFH Wednesday is still a work day after all, and the fact that employees are required to be back in the office on Thursday reinforces accountability. WFH Wednesdays have boosted work-life balance for all of our employees. At the same time, they have kept our business productive and on a path of positive growth for nearly a decade.
For companies that have already determined that remote work policies can work at their organization, this is an interesting idea. Designating Wednesdays as the day for remote work companywide—and shutting down the office to boot—could have some downsides, however.
Like some other East Asian economies, South Korea has long been known for a highly demanding work culture that rewards long hours and measures employees’ commitment by how much overtime they are willing to work. The country is one of the hardest-working in the OECD, with South Koreans working an average of 2,069 hours in 2016, compared to 1,783 hours in the US and just 1,363 hours in Germany. That may start to change in the coming years thanks to a bill approved by the National Assembly’s Environment and Labor Committee last Tuesday, which cuts the maximum statutory working hours from 68 hours a week to 52, the Korea Times reported:
Slashing working hours was among the main election pledges of President Moon Jae-in, which he said will improve quality of life as well as help create jobs. However, fewer working hours means higher labor costs for businesses. According to an estimate by the Korea Economic Research Institute, businesses will pay an additional 12.1 trillion won annually to maintain current production while cutting the working hours. This includes wages paid to additional workers hired to cover the hours lost, as well as their training costs.
After a series of strikes last week, the influential German union IG Metall sealed a deal with employers in which its members gained both an increase in pay and the right to a substantially shorter workweek, the Local reported on Tuesday:
Both the union and employers said in overnight statements they had reached a “tolerable compromise” with some “painful elements” covering 900,000 workers in key industrial state Baden-Wuerttemberg, which could be extended to the 3.9 million workers in the sector across the country. The key concession is the right for more senior employees to cut their working week to 28 hours for a limited period of six to 24 months.
The union had pushed for staff to have a right to more flexible working conditions around key life moments such as the birth of a child, looking after a relative or ill health — with the right to return to full-time hours afterwards. But bosses rejected unions’ demand that they continue paying full-time salaries to some of those who choose a limited period of reduced working hours. Meanwhile, employers also gained more flexibility, to increase willing workers’ weeks to 40 hours from the standard 35.
The agreement will also see the metalworkers’ pay increase by 4.3 percent, in addition to some one-off payments, in a compromise from their original demand of a 6 percent raise. Stefan Wolf, head of regional employers’ federation Südwestmetall, said that the compromise was “reasonably balanced” but said the deal would be “difficult to bear” for some firms.
At Bloomberg, Ben Steverman previews an upcoming study of American and European work habits and offers his analysis:
The average person in Europe works 19 percent less than the average person in the U.S. That’s about 258 fewer hours per year, or about an hour less each weekday. Another way to look at it: U.S. workers put in almost 25 percent more hours than Europeans. Hours worked vary a lot by country, according to the unpublished working paper by economists Alexander Bick of Arizona State University, Bettina Bruggemann of McMaster University in Ontario, and Nicola Fuchs-Schundeln of Goethe University Frankfurt. Swiss work habits are most similar to Americans’, while Italians are the least likely to be at work, putting in 29 percent fewer hours per year than Americans do. …
Why do Americans work more? Perhaps because the rewards are greater:
One theory is that Americans work longer hours because their additional effort is more likely to pay off. People earn a wider range of incomes in the U.S., so “workers have an incentive to try harder to move up the job ladder because a promotion is worth more,” said Dora Gicheva, an economist at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, citing a study that compared the U.S. with Germany.