Global advertising agency DDB, perhaps the pioneer of "summer hours", says there are benefits to be had for employers offering flexible or shorter hours of work to staff during certain months of the year.
The Auckland-based company offers its approximately 260 staff at its five agencies - DDB, Tribal, Track, Mango and Interbrand - early finishes on Friday afternoons throughout summer.
This year DDB has extended its summer hours by a month, from December until the end of March, about a month longer than other companies offering similar work arrangements.
Karen Sew Hoy, HR and people experience director at DDB New Zealand and Australia, said summer working hours were implemented at the company about eight years ago, back when the concept was foreign.
Though it is not formally recognised in the company's policies or employment contracts, it is an annual working arrangement announced to staff each year.
"As long as you've got everything under control, you've checked with your manager and your team mates and clients, and everything is up to date, then you can go off and enjoy the beautiful sunshine," Sew Hoy told the Herald.
"What we say is 'the agency closes at 1 o'clock'."
Some DDB staff finish at 1pm over summer, others at 2pm or 3pm, Sew Hoy said, adding that the shorter hours worked "wonderfully well" for both staff and the organisation.
"When we do our staff engagement surveys every year, it's a global survey, we top it for all of the offices in the network. People love it."
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Sew Hoy said DDB had never had any complaints about the arrangement and could "see no reason why the company would ever stop" offering it.
"It's a real perk. It's hugely valued, it really is."
She said she believed more New Zealand companies should implement the working arrangement as it had positive flow-on effects for the business, and meant more people were able to soak up the nicer weather.
DDB now had its lowest staff turnover in the last 10 to 12 years, Sew Hoy said, which she put down in part to the arrangement.
"We work really hard in this industry when we need to, there can be some long hours, and people are hugely passionate and dedicated ... it's nice to be able to say 'Hey, we understand that you've got a life outside', and we want people to have lives outside work.
"It means people can get away for a long weekend and beat the traffic or go and do something for themselves."
Yesterday the Herald reported that Vodafone would offer 2000 of its staff the chance to head home early for the weekend over summer. Its "summer hours" programme, which started this week and runs until the end of February, lets people finish work from 2pm on Friday afternoons.
Staff who are rostered for Friday afternoons will get a full day in lieu instead.
Wine and spirits company Pernod Ricard manages offers similar summer working arrangements for staff working at its corporate sites.
It allows staff to work 30 minutes to an hour extra each day to make up their usual hours in return for a half-day on Fridays until March.
Sarah Descher of Pernod Ricard said the company's summer hours permitted staff to finish the working week from 2pm.
A spokesperson for Pernod Ricard said 2020 was the fifth year the company had offered summer hours as part of its flexible working arrangements.
"Providing this flexibility encourages a healthy work-life balance and increased productivity by working smarter.
"This initiative has been very positively received by our employees and is actively supported, and role modelled, by the leadership team."
HR and employment expert Angeline Long said many employees wanted a better work-balance and "summer work" hours was one way to offer that.
"What we're seeing is a real conscious effort towards fitness and outdoors for families.
"The added benefit of offering these opportunities to employees is that they can have more outdoor family time, which can have a knock-on effect for work. If an employee has a happy home life and happy kids and they are healthy then they are obviously going to be more productive in the work environment," Long said.
Studies show a direct link between productivity at work and what is going on at home. Employees with better work-life balance and flexible working arrangements have been found to have greater work satisfaction and higher productivity.
"Summer hours" work programmes demonstrated good company culture and that management within an organisation was taking a proactive approach to "employee wellbeing", Long said.
"In this environment where we've got a heightened levels of depression and anxiety, especially in our young, I think offering these sorts of outfits is a really good idea."
The New Zealand workforce was now at a stage where flexible working arrangements were "almost expected", and employers were now getting better at offering it, she said.
"We're still slow on the uptake compared to other countries in the world, but I think there is a concerted effort to try and get people to spend more time with their families."
Her advice to companies not yet "with the times"? "Be prepared to lose people. Where you won't offer those opportunities, other companies will."