With the summer kicked off, some Oklahoma employers are giving workers a jump on their weekends by giving them Friday afternoons off.
Except for its admissions office and a few others, Oklahoma City University will close at noon on Fridays through its summer session. Meanwhile, Tulsa-based Big Brothers Big Sisters of Oklahoma will permit its 60 employees statewide to take off at 3 p.m. every Friday through July, and Saxum public relations firm will invite its 27 Oklahoma City and Tulsa employees each to choose two Friday afternoons in June, July and August to take as unofficial paid leave.
Though other state employers — including many colleges and nonprofits — offer “Summer Fridays,” studies show few companies nationwide offer the much-loved perk, which began with New York advertising agencies in the 1960s.
Only 12 percent of 1,201 employed adults said their companies close for half or full days on summer Fridays, according to a recent online survey by Harris Interactive for Ultimat vodka, as part of its new “Find Balance. Find Ultimat.” brand campaign.
Of those with the benefit, 87 percent agreed it contributes to a healthy work/life balance, and 79 percent said it helps them catch up on chores on Friday so they have more time to enjoy their weekends. Of those without the benefit, 73 percent said it would help them find work/life balance, and 75 percent said it would boost morale.
“Our survey clearly indicates that if you offer people the ability to take a Summer Friday, they'll be happier and actually more productive during working hours,” said Jennifer Long, brand director at Patron Spirits, the brand owner and marketer of Ultimat vodka.
Robert Smariga, chief operating officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters, said the perk helps his staff revitalize from a hectic end to a school year.
“Taking a little extra break during June and July, even if it's only two hours added onto each weekend, helps them recharge and prepare for the start of the new school year,” he said.
At Saxum, it's also a way to help employees with work/life balance, said Sara Walker, senior vice president of human resources.
“A lot of times, employees have something going on in the summer, and it's the right time to offer it,” Walker said.
OCU, which employs about 550 people, started Summer Fridays in 2010 as an energy savings move, spokeswoman Leslie Berger said. Air conditioning is switched off at noon in unoccupied buildings, she said.
TAP Architecture started closing early on Fridays four years ago as a summer experiment, and the change stuck. The firm now operates year-round 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and 8 a.m. to noon Fridays.
President John Ward said the schedule offers employees several benefits, including time for doctor appointments, banking and other personal business.
“Fridays have become a lower stress day,” Ward said. “Employees can use the afternoons to get a lot of work done, which in the past would be taken to the house for the weekend.”
Moreover, Friday lunches have become social bonding times where employees can enjoy each other's company, he said.
“This has the effect of improving camaraderie in the office. And on Monday, people return invigorated and ready to go.”