The northern hemisphere is officially into summer and the memories of scraping ice off of cars feel rather distant. With these longer days come long weekends, vacations, and taking a few personal days to enjoy the weather while we can.

Employees at law firms are often expected to put in extra hours during the week. During the summer months, long hours can have a negative impact on morale and stress. Summer Fridays are good for business, improving law firm productivity, as well as mental and physical health.

In fact, many offices institute “summer hours,” a term which changes meaning depending on the company. Some companies will close the whole office early every Friday; others allow for early closure just before long weekends; and some will designate shifts so that not everyone leaves early every Friday.

Regardless of how you want to implement summer hours, the question you really have to start with is: does it work for your firm?

How to Make Summer Hours Work for You

For some law firms, summer hours are like ghosts – you’ve heard they’re real, but you’ve never been able to actually see them. This is especially true for law practices that never slow down, no matter what time of year it is.

Other law firms, though, make it a main priority to create a positive work-life balance for their employees. Participating in summer hours is a great way to do that.

If your firm is able to provide shorter Fridays in the summer without sacrificing other parts of the business, you’re all set.

However, many firms and their employees need to make a few adjustments so that the benefit of starting your weekends early can happen.

Billable Hours and Support Staff

For lawyers who need to meet billable hours, ensuring this happens before escaping early on a Friday is their responsibility. Maybe come in a bit early and leave a bit late to make sure your work is done and your hours are billed.

While this sounds easy enough, it’s not always that simple. Support and administrative staff may not be in the office as often to help lawyers with their cases. Summer hours for those staff members may include flex hours or working from home, leaving just lawyers and summer students at the office. If you’re a lawyer who relies heavily on legal assistants, adjusting to not having one as often can complicate your work flow.

In some instances of summer hours, support and administrative staff may not be able to work from home. Instead, they can have their hours scaled back in order to support the concept and save the firm some money. For example, if your firm has a receptionist, you can send him/her home a few hours early on Fridays and have an automated system set up to field calls.

Related article: 8 tips for lawyers on how to achieve a work/life balance.

Alternatives to Summer Hours

Companies that can offer summer hours easily have a great advantage when it comes to employee culture and happiness. But even if you can’t allow for such flexibility, or the sacrifices would be too great, there are other ways to give your employees some extra breaks during the hot summer weather.

Some ideas include:

  • Ice cream for the office
  • Patio outings
  • Encouraging walks throughout the day

Keeping your employees happy is important, but so is maintaining a functioning business. If you can find that balance, you’ll have a highly-functioning firm.

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