Today is Leave the Office Early Day, a "holiday" started in 2004 by productivity consultant Laura Stack. Stack claims that businesses can improve productivity by working fewer hours more efficiently. Businesses that celebrate the June 3rd holiday encourage their employees to work quickly and efficiently, then leave the office earlier than their normal quitting time.
The existence of this holiday left us wondering: what are the potential benefits (and drawbacks) of participating in this and similar work events? Read on to find out whether leaving the office early (and celebrating other such events) can help boost productivity at your firm. (For more tips about making holidays work for your business, check out the article "How to Market Your Tech or IT Firm around a Holiday.")
Shorter Hours for Increased Productivity at IT Firms?
When the summer sun is blazing and people are in a vacation state of mind, it can be tempting to hop on the bandwagon for any and every opportunity to work fewer hours during the warm months - and there are no shortage of such events. Summer hours, long weekends, after-work get-togethers, and long outdoor lunches sing a tempting siren song when most of us are stuck at a desk or hunched over a variety of technological gadgets.
But taking time away from your desk duties might not be all bad. According to productivity and worker engagement research…
- The average U.S. worker admits to wasting more than two hours of every work day. Translation: your team could get their jobs done, on average, in two fewer hours per day. Letting them leave the office early (even if only on occasion) could translate to faster, more efficient workers. Letting your workers out earlier than usual, too, can work wonders for morale and help everyone maintain tighter focus and motivation while they're at work.
- Flexible summer schedules were the top-rated benefits ranked by office employees surveyed about the perks they'd most like to have. Translation: give your employees what they want, and they'll be happier and more engaged. One of the great things about offering "flexible" hours is that you can have your team make up the hours throughout the rest of the year, making everyone feel as if they're getting something for nothing when summer rolls around.
- Around the U.S., nearly $8 billion is lost each year to low productivity among workers. One way to boost productivity is to ensure your workers are well-rested and engaged - and granting them time to do the activities they value can help them become both.
The Down Side of Shorter Hours at Small IT Companies
Of course, shorter or more flexible summer hours aren't a guaranteed way to increase productivity or revenue. (Other threats of summer? Damage to your gadgets! Keep them save with these summer-proofing tips.) The potential downsides of letting staff out earlier include…
- Not having anyone on hand if an emergency arises. In the world of information technology, emergencies like data breaches demand that someone be ready to respond immediately. To minimize the potential negative fallout of early dismissal, consider staggering the days on which your team can leave early.
- Adjusting to "the new normal." Sure, it's easy to assume that if people waste two hours in an eight-hour day, they'd waste zero hours in a six-hour day. In reality, though, old habits die hard and there's a good chance cutting worker hours would also lead to a dip in productivity.
- Failing to set clear expectations. Then, of course, there's the "slippery slope" argument: loosen the reins in one area of your business, and you might set up employee expectations for leniency in other areas. To avoid letting summer hours grind your productivity to a halt, consider establishing benchmarks that you and the team have to reach in order to "earn" summer benefits.
Bottom line: Summer hours and other "alternative" work arrangements are great ways that small firms can keep their employees engaged and happy. To make the most out of these alternative arrangements, owners of IT firms should be clear to set expectations about productivity and behavior from the beginning.
Writtten by Brenna Lemieux - check her out at Google+ or Twitter