Two to four weeks of working from anywhere may become the new summertime perk, but some companies are clinging to set office schedules.
For decades, Summer Fridays were an American tradition. With it, people could leave work a few hours early on Fridays starting Labor Day to get a jump on the weekend—or perhaps even have the entire day off.
Hybrid work may throw that tradition out the window.
“Summer Fridays are becoming less meaningful in the world of hybrid work,” says Rob Sadow, CEO of Scoop Technologies, which builds software for hybrid teams.
Most companies require an average of 2.5 days a week in the office, and Friday is rapidly becoming a non-office day, says Sadow. Just 7% of companies require Fridays, according to Scoop’s Flex Index, which tracks the flexible work policies of 4,500 companies.
Those Summer Fridays may soon be replaced by work-from-anywhere (WFA) policies that allow employees to work remotely for two to four weeks at a time. American Express, Visa, Mastercard, Google, Patagonia and Freddie Mac have all created “work from anywhere” policies. Some dictate which weeks you can take to work from anywhere, but many allow employees the option to use their WFA weeks when they want.
“It’s a relatively nascent trend, but it may be replacing Summer Fridays,” says Sadow.
Summer seems to be the perfect time to work from anywhere. Busy travel and lack of childcare may make it more difficult for people to spend much time in the office. This year, despite some people’s financial concerns, as many as half of Americans plan to take a vacation this summer, up 48% from 2022, according to a survey by Deloitte.
The work-from-anywhere perk isn’t without challenges. Employees must adjust to time zone differences and perhaps country tax codes—and even if they’re on a remote island, they must remember they’re not truly on vacation. As Mastercard’s Chief People Officer Michael Fraccaro told Bloomberg: “We still expect you to perform.”
Summer months haven’t been shown to necessarily be the most productive time of the year. One study found that people are 45% more distracted during the summer months, and as a result productivity declines 20% and completion of projects takes an estimated 13% longer.
Last summer, getting people back to the office was more difficult. Employees had grown used to working from vacation homes over the past work-from-home summers, and leaders struggled to manage summer and hybrid schedules, trying to figure out if they should try to lure people back from summer excursions. Some organizations required that employees maintained their in-office days throughout the summer.
Today, office occupancy is at 49.7%, and employees still say that they’d take a substantial pay cut to maintain that flexibility. But more companies are embracing something called “structured hybrid,” or specific days that people must show up in the office. At least 30% of companies of the 4,000 surveyed by Flex Index, now have structured hybrid, up from 20% in the first quarter of the year. Just this year, Disney increased the minimum days employees were expected to be in the office to four days, according to the Flex Index 2Q Report. Starbucks mandated corporate employees come to the office three days a week. Amazon, Google, and Lyft also announced plans to modify their flexible policies to bring back employees half of the week and in some cases more.
Larger companies tend to be those that adopt structured hybrid, while smaller companies with fewer than 500 people tend to allow people to choose when they come to the office, says Sadow. Part of that is driven by the complexities that come with large companies. At a small company, a single person may make up an entire department, while at a larger company, dozens of people may need to collaborate across departments, and that might require scheduling more in-person meetings. Corporations also often hire younger workers who need in-person mentorship, says Sadow.
There are other ways to handle summer schedules without requiring people to be in the office on certain days, according to experts at Korn Ferry. Managers can carefully sort out who is on backup for each client or project so that no employees are contacted during their holidays, suggested Kamma Braham, Korn Ferry’s head of assessment and succession. Leaders can identify the goals for when employees are in the office—whether that’s a specific collaboration on a project or just connecting in person—and then can better coordinate when in-office gatherings are needed.
“It is crucial that summer breaks are sacred,” Braham said.
This summer, employees may need breaks more than ever: A recent survey by Deloitte and Workplace Intelligence found that three out of four employees believe their health is worse than it was last year because of work. Top C-Suite leaders did not realize this: 75% of leaders believed their workforce’s wellbeing was better. A little summer sunshine might just help.