When the weather is warm and school is out for employees’ kids, implementing a flexible or reduced summer schedule can be just what your employees need. But doing so requires some thought and planning to be effective.


A flexible summer schedule “boosts morale and retention in an era when flexible work schedules have become an increasingly sought-after benefit,” writes Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz for the Chicago Tribune.


It also can come at a time when productivity is a challenge.


“A Captivate Network survey showed workers were up to 45 percent more distracted during the summer,” Lisa Evans writes for Entrepreneur. “Offering flexible hours may help counteract that. A study by Opinion Research Corporation showed 66 percent of employees who have summer hours perks felt more productive as a result of this flexibility.”


CareerBuilder encourages all its employees to leave at noon on summer Fridays, Elejalde-Ruiz writes. When the schedule started, the company encouraged managers to leave the building then, even if they had more work to do. This helped employees ease employee concerns about whether they could really go.


“There were initially concerns about whether shorter hours would allow the company to properly service clients, but it has received no negative feedback from clients, and teams ensure that there is coverage if necessary so customers aren’t left in a lurch,” Elejalde-Ruiz writes.


Summer policies should fit your company, Evans writes, and that includes figuring out whether employees need to come in early to cover missed time or whether the different summer schedule is mandatory. “Ask your employees what they would think about flexible summer hours,” she writes. “Your team may think coming in early or staying late Monday through Thursday in exchange for an early Friday is just the ticket, or they might desire telecommuting on Fridays to avoid the commute to the office.”


And as employers try it, they should be aware of possible pitfalls, especially related to the legalities and equal opportunity of summer hours, write Michael T. Chin and Christina A. Jacobson for Employment Law Landscape. Employers should be aware of what reduced hours means for exempt employees, whether employees will be paid for hours not worked at certain times and best communication of the availability of summer hours.


In particular, a clear policy will be helpful. “Summer hours policies should define who is eligible, establish start and end dates and state whether the policy is mandatory,” they write.  “Employers should make sure that, when communicating their summer hours policy, the message reaches all affected employees. Failing to establish a clearly articulated policy could result in accusations of favoritism, or worse, unlawful discrimination.”