Want More Workplace Flex? Soft Fridays Have Increased By 56% In The US

Who doesn't love summer? With all that warm weather, long nights, weekend cook-outs and lake trips, there's a lot to like. 

It won't come as a surprise to learn that 25% of American workers feel less productive during June, July and August than they do any other time in the year. Partly, this is because people want to be out doing other things, but it can also be attributed to temperature. Once the mercury tops 73℉, productivity has been proven to decrease.

In addition, U.S. workers are taking more days off for leisure. Last year, Americans vacationed more than they had in over a decade, according to data from the Labor Department. More working adults took vacation days in the first half of 2023 than they had pre-Covid.

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Some of the motivation for this is likely due to the pandemic itself: many workers took no time off during Covid-19 period, and as soon as restrictions eased, they used this as an opportunity to take a break.

A survey from Korn Ferry backs this up, finding that nearly 80% of people say they plan to use more vacation days this year, while 82% say they will check in with the office less—if at all—while away.

Constant change

The pandemic changed much about the way Americans worked, but many of those gains are being rolled back as business leaders issue return to office (RTO) mandates.

In fact, a KPMG CEO Outlook survey found that 64% of leaders globally expect a full return to in-office working by 2026. That's despite a lot of evidence to support the fact that workers want to maintain a more flexible work model.

A recent Owl Labs survey found that Americans want more flexible work, as it makes them feel more productive and balanced. A large segment (62%) would even take a pay cut of 10% or more in order to stay working flexibly––yet 68% of managers believe that their hybrid/remote employees are missing out on impromptu or informal feedback. 

More research by productivity tool Slack found that 80% of employees say that flexible working boosts their productivity.

Soft Fridays on the rise

There is a clear disconnect between what business leaders think, and what their staff want, but one element of flexibility that is actually growing is the rise of Summer Fridays.

Also known as "Soft Fridays", this is a seasonal perk where some employees get a bit more vacation-based bang for their buck, as companies will typically offer either a partial or full day off in the summer months.

IBM, Pfizer, and Viacom already offer this, with the Big Four firms EY and KPMG having a week-long shutdown during the summer too. Plus, KPMG has what it calls "jumpstarts" in place from Memorial Day to Labor Day, where workers can sign off early.

The good news is that Soft Fridays are on the rise, according to recent data. The number of job listings mentioning summer Fridays increased by 56% in 2022. The benefits are obvious: workers get to clock off a little early and spend more time relaxing with family and friends––or just enjoy some downtime.

In addition to reducing work stress and increasing job satisfaction, this is the sort of move that also benefits working parents and carers, who may have more demands on their time during this period with kids attending summer camps and sporting events. 

In a wider environment where American workers are having their flexibility squeezed elsewhere, the rise of summer Fridays can only be a good thing.

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