Today is officially/unofficially Leave the Office Early Day. Yes, really. While it's not a day observed by any governments around the world (yet), there are many reasons why organizations across the globe should take part.
Hear me out. This isn't some clever trick for employees to skip out on work - it's a way to recognize your team for their achievements and encourage employee wellness. Showing your organization's commitment to helping improve work-life balance for your employees in an always-on, digitally connected workplace is fast becoming the norm.
Here are four reasons you should participate in Leave the Office Early Day:
1. Your employees are burning the midnight oil
You know that 40-hour work week we're all familiar with? Well, according to Gallup, it's actually closer to a 49-hour week, with salaried workers often working longer hours than employees who are paid hourly. And a 2016 study by the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, an economic think tank, found that almost 30 percent of managers regularly clock more than 45 hours per week.
While it's great to see people so dedicated to their work, it's important not to burn the candle at both ends.
Encouraging a culture where employees are forced to stretch themselves thin can have negative effects on mental health, productivity and quality of work.
So, managers, if you have employees who've made a solid contribution to the success of the business - and worked overtime to do it - give them the afternoon off. (Heck, join them, if you can!) They've earned it and they'll appreciate the opportunity to decompress as a thank-you for their solid performance.
2. It helps build a culture of recognition
It feels good to receive recognition for a job well done. Fostering a culture of recognition can have a positive impact on employee productivity and engagement. While many forms of recognition are monetary (think annual bonuses and salary increases), there's a lot of literature out there that shows non-monetary recognition works just as well, if not better.
It's important to know what employee engagement looks like in real life, and giving employees verbal, written and recorded feedback and recognition for their efforts reinforces what you value as a team and as an organization. Rewarding employees for their performance successes with points that they can redeem for tangible items like gift cards or company swag can also be a valuable form of encouragement.
Another way to reward employees for a job well done is to give them more paid time off. If you want to recognize your employees in a meaningful way, Leave the Office Early Day is a great opportunity to test this perk and reward them for their great work with the go-ahead to leave work early. But before you do, don't forget to truly make this recognition meaningful by clearly stating why they deserve a little extra time off.
Be specific! Outline the positive impact their performance had on the business and why it matters.
3. It's a great opportunity for team building
Just because you're leaving the office early, doesn't mean you're necessarily leaving your colleagues. One way to celebrate Leave the Office Early Day is to arrange a group activity for the afternoon. Team-building events help lead your team to greatness because they're low-stress, interesting and engaging ways to establish trust between colleagues. They also improve communication, group cohesion and - most importantly - they can be a ton of fun. Go to an escape room and work together to solve the riddles that will open the door before the time runs out. Or organize an afternoon of bowling and encourage employees to bring their family members. If the weather's nice, you could even go on a nature walk in a local park or cycling your city's bike pathways. (Whatever you do, remember to take lots of photos to share on your company's digital workspace!)
Team-building activities are also useful in helping employees get to know their colleagues on a deeper level, whether they work together on a daily basis or if they've never met before.
To make it work, be sure to select a team-building activity that is team-based and collaborative, like team sports or collaborative exercises.
4. Challenge yourself to make up the time another way
Here's a different way of looking at Leave the Office Early Day: Make it about encouraging productivity. It's simple - incentivize employees to work smarter versus harder. This approach can take many forms.
For example, a few summers ago, we ran a campaign to speed up processes across our organization. Once we hit 100 reported speed improvements, executives rewarded employees by hosting a team barbecue! But you could even do something as simple as, "If you get all your work done, you can leave early today."
This approach helps to build a culture of ownership, rewards outcomes over effort, and is a great way to encourage productivity across your team.
Give your employees the afternoon off!
These are just a few examples of why Leave the Office Early Day is actually a great way to encourage employee wellness, reduce workplace stress and, at the same time, reinforce a high-performance culture.