The number of companies offering ‘Summer Fridays’ has doubled since 2015

More companies are letting their employees enjoy the long days of summer by letting them leave early on Friday. According to new research by consulting firm CEB, 42% of Fortune 1000 companies are letting their employees start the weekend early in an office tradition known as “summer Fridays.”

CEB’s survey broadly defined summer Fridays as a break that could be as short as one afternoon off before holiday weekends to every Friday off until the leaves change colors in September. What’s significant is that the number of summer Friday participants has doubled from two years ago when only 21% of companies reported offering summer Fridays.

Summer Fridays improve employee engagement

For human resources departments, letting your employees have longer weekends is an easy, inexpensive way to meet the increasing demand for flexible hours. “Giving employees the gift of time via summer Fridays is one low-cost way to improve employee engagement, which in turn can increase employee productivity and drive business results,” Gartner’s Brian Kropp said about the survey.

Taking time off has been linked to higher employee productivity, higher retention rates, and stronger workplace morale. A 2017 study even found that people who take more time off are more likely to get raises.

Flexible-time requests are a good alternative to summer Fridays

But if you’re stuck in an office on Fridays, there are still other ways you can get that summer Friday glow. Polling over 220 HR leaders, CEB found that companies who couldn’t offer summer Fridays could still signal that work-life balance mattered with other flexible time policies. These HR leaders recommended encouraging employees to take paid time off “without guilt” and allowing employees to come in earlier or later.

For workplaces where summer Fridays aren’t offered, Fast Company said that managers should stop clocking hours and allow more flexible-time requests. Maybe you don’t need a Friday afternoon off, but having Tuesday afternoon to catch that concert can make all the difference.

Other companies like Netflix and Virgin are going one step further with flexible time and are doing away with a formal vacation policy altogether. At these companies, employees can take as much time off as long as they want, whenever they want all year-round. Netflix’s company guidelines said they do this because annual leave policies are outdated: “[W]e should focus on what people get done, not on how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a nine-to-five policy, we don’t need a vacation policy.’”

Wherever you fall on the formal or informal vacation policy divide, what both sides can agree on is that having more time off makes a difference in employees’ lives.