Should you take Fridays off? The pros and cons of setting up summer hours

A couple of years back I made a major professional decision to stop working on Fridays. It followed a lot of soul-searching and some extremely tough years during which I’d worked so much I missed some important moments. Actually, at that point, I was working so many hours each day that I missed on pretty much anything that wasn’t work-related. I was incredibly successful – but also completely drained and emotionally depleted.

Over the years my dedication to freeing my Fridays has ebbed and flowed. Depending on client work and personal issues, my Fridays might include a few hours of professional catch up — or none at all. I no longer work full Fridays, and for me at least that’s a start to reclaiming my work-life balance and the slightest bit of my sanity. It’s also inspired some close friends and colleagues to follow my lead.

An industry thing? Some industries have an unofficial summer Friday policy in which they just aren’t around at all on Fridays from Memorial Day through Labor Day. I remember being surprised when I first started noticing that many of my colleagues in the publishing industry stopped answering emails on Friday – then I adapted.

Before you start your own personal Friday-free policy, consider this first:

Do you keep regular hours the rest of the time?

How flexible is your job to begin with? If you’re known as the person who always opens and closes the proverbial shop, you might not want to shake things up. For some people, it’s the complete opposite — their hours are so flexible or unusual, to begin with, that adding a day off makes sense.

“As a crisis communications manager and media trainer for executives, I always have to be “on” and ready for anything,” said Crisis Manager Renu Bakshi. “Because I don’t keep banker’s hours – working early, late and weekends if required – I generally take Fridays off,” she continued. Since Bakshi is already working extra hours, none of her clients will think she’s slacking off if she’s not around on some Fridays.

Can it wait until Monday?

When strict deadlines are involved, it can be tough to pick up momentum from the previous Thursday. We live in a lightning-fast news cycle and with many industries that can take a major hit from a thoughtless tweet. Before disappearing for an extended weekend consider the pros and cons of leaving things up in the air for an extra day – while your detractors or competitors might be working overtime.

Can you handle the stress?

If you plan on taking Fridays off, you should realize that you’ll have an extra load to finish up on Thursday evening and some heavy lifting on Monday morning. For some people, the pleasure of a shorter week makes up for it, but others can’t handle the stress.

“We used to offer Summer Fridays but stopped offering them for psychological reasons,” said Elizabeth Edwards, Founder & President of Volume PR. They stopped though since the extra day seemed to stress people out and on some level, led to burnout. Edwards explained that needing to work longer hours other days was “cutting down the room for “brain breaks” and therefore increasing overall/net stress.”

How reliable are you to begin with?

If you’re already reliable and always there when needed, taking a day for yourself won’t add stress to your client’s workflow. Bakshi said, “I respond to my clients quickly on a regular basis, so a slower response on Fridays doesn’t bother them.”

Tell them about it … or not:

Only you can know if you want your co-workers, team members or clients to know about your new policy. If everything is running smoothly and well organized, you might be able to take Fridays off without anyone even noticing. Bakshi has an autoresponder set up “that tells clients I will be slow to respond if it isn’t a crisis. I don’t blatantly state that I am taking the day off because, in my business, there’s no such thing.”

Decide what to do with your Fridays

Some people use their bonus day for passion projects. Others take care of personal maintenance or even doctor’s appointments. Bakshi said, “I have found taking Fridays off helps me get ahead for the following week, be it running errands or buying groceries ahead of the weekend rush.”