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Why Summer Fridays Should Be National (Half) Holidays

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Photo: Daniel Restrepo/Prop Stylist: Amy Taylor

Editorial Assistant’s Note: Hey. I wasn’t supposed to write this, but my boss, Emma, decided to blow off work and take a Summer Friday… in Bermuda. “Summer Fridays can be more than just a long lunch -- I’m going to an island,” is what she told me right before she hopped a cab to the Delta Terminal, leaving me here to write a piece about, of all things, Summer Fridays. Is that ironic? I don’t know, I’m just an Editorial Assistant. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this story as much as she’s enjoying herself.

While Summer Fridays certainly happen at some companies, a large chunk of the working population must watch and weep at their desks while their friends post selfies atop giant pizza slice floaties a full half-day before the weekend. Sure, your Summer Friday-ing friends feel bad for you, but no revolution was ever sparked by the Haves; it’s time the rest of America cast off its Friday afternoon work shackles in pursuit of early weekend life, liberty, iced tea, and cornhole. Here is why Summer Friday should be a national, summer-long, half-holiday.

Summer Fridays are good for your health

Prolonged periods of stress, like the five-day work week and sitting next to that co-worker who desk drums, lead to elevated levels of cortisol, the “stress hormone.” That fight-or-flight stress response system is not supposed to stay on you know, and it does bad, bad things, physically and emotionally. The longer your cortisol levels remain at nosebleed heights, the greater the risk of depression and burnout. Summer Fridays break this weekly stress cycle a few precious hours early, without the pressure of using up scant vacation days. Also, having something to look forward to all week is mentally beneficial -- the light at the end of the tunnel is coming up faster than it usually would, and without cutting into that trip to Cancun.

Summer Fridays increase productivity

Let’s get real here, the more time you spend at work, the more time you have for making four coffee runs, sending brilliantly timed gifs of terrible ‘80s movies, and sitting in the bathroom contemplating your existence. We spend so much time at work that, according to a 2014 Gallup Poll, all the extra hours literally almost add up to another work day -- and we’re only trying to get half of that extra day back people!

That we waste an extraordinary amount of time at work is not a recent revelation. The first sentence of the essay on the British bureaucratic process, Parkinson’s Law, published in The Economist in 1955, encapsulates both knocking out a 30-page term paper in 24 hours, and its flipside -- the way-too-long work week: “Work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

And if that doesn’t convince you, take a gander at this 2010 study about cognition conducted at the University of Illinois. Participants were made to perform a repetitive task; the ones who were given a break during the allotted time were able to complete their goal, while the ones who worked straight through were not. So Summer Fridays = Super Efficient, Turbo-Charged Mondays.

Summer Fridays are the gateway drug to actually using up your vacation days

People need breaks, and they aren’t taking them. The U.S. Travel Association estimates that 55% of Americans did not use up all their vacation days in 2015. That’s more than half of us! Some companies have tried to get people to take their vacations by giving them bonuses they’re only allowed to use on their time off. It’s not like retaking the SATs people! This is fun!

So you can’t force your burnt-out employees to take a vacation, and you don’t have the money to bribe them. Why not start small, with the humble Summer Friday?

Summer Fridays are good for the environment

It’s simple -- employees use way more energy in their well-lit, air-conditioned offices, heating up sad ramen cups than if they were sipping cocktails poolside come 1.15pm on Fridays. Take Utah, where energy consumption was cut by 13% when former Governor Jon Huntsman mandated a four-day workweek for state employees. Ok, the practice ended in 2011 when they didn’t meet their monetary goals, but we’re claiming this as a win for Team Summer Friday.

A 2015 New York Times Magazine article, titled Letter of Recommendation: Summer Fridays, pointed out that power consumption on this almost-holiday dips to about 4% below the daily average for NYC. (It also referred to Summer Fridays as the “sexy, freckled, bare arms of capitalism,” which seems like another great reason to get on board.) So we say save the earth and make it sexier by mandating Summer Fridays from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Photo: Daniel Restrepo/Prop Stylist: Amy Taylor

Summer Fridays make companies more attractive to potential investors

Based on the findings of a 2014 study, employee-friendly companies that advocate work-life balance are raking in the dough. Why? It’s all about appearances: They look like solid investment material, “less likely to violate laws and regulations, be involved in litigation, or experience employee theft and fraud.” And that’s not even counting the smiling faces that pour out of the office during peak sunshine hours every Friday. That’s beautiful.

Even better, they found that employee-friendly firms have superior market value, higher return on assets, and better return on equity. In conclusion, If you’re looking for the nice guys, they’ll be at the front of the finish line, decidedly NOT finishing last, and most definitely not working Summer Fridays.