Australia: TGIF – How does the professional workforce feel about Fridays?

The Easybeats had a hit with Friday on my mind in 1965: Monday I have Friday on my mind... Do the 5 day drag once more...

Friday feeling:

It's fair to say that a lot has changed in the professional world in the 50+ years since the above tune hit the charts, but according to both recent research and anecdotal evidence, nothing much has changed in employee attitudes towards Fridays: workers hang out for the end of the week, and generally speaking, Friday is far from favourable in terms of getting things done around the office.

So what does the increased prevalence of part-time, casual and contract work mean for Friday?

Anecdotally, I've recently heard the following said about a CBD professional services business:

"Thursday is the new Friday. Everything has to be done then, because there are other plans for Friday. A lot of people aim to be out by 4, so they start chilling at 1, go to lunch at 12. There are 3 or 4 effective hours left, at most. The manager is going to a long lunch, so needs his stuff done Thursday. But if they've done their chargeables, what difference does it make? Any client contacts can be monitored and dealt with via the mobile, if necessary!"

Anecdotes aside, recent research does actually confirm that Friday is a day on which workplace enthusiasm drops. An analysis published by software company Flow looked at how 37,000 users had utilised the company's project management tool, and measured a 35% drop in the tasks completed on Friday, as compared to other weekdays, and a similar reduction in the commencement of projects on a Friday.

When given the choice, it does seem that employees stray away from committing to the starting and finishing of tasks on a Friday! Could this be a case of reality simply matching our already low expectations for the last workday of the week?

Taking into account the Friday on my mind feeling, New Zealand company Perpetual Guardian begun testing a new HR initiative, which uncovered a positive side (professionally speaking) to the Friday vibe: moving to a 4 day week improved productivity.

Having the ability to look forward to having Fridays off can significantly boost staff energy and enthusiasm levels throughout the rest of the week, although it's worth questioning whether this might turn out to be an initial flush of enthusiasm, eventually tailing off over time as the four-day-week becomes the new normal. Regardless of hypotheticals, Perpetual Guardian employees are handling things in their own right: effectively managing their KPIs, then treating Friday as their own even more so.

Fridays in the firing line:

One notable positive for gig economy workers, independent contractors and casual employees is the ability to say 'no' to certain hours, or days of work. Where these types of employees have the confidence to be able to name their times, they do so, with Fridays often being left off the roster. This, of course, does not apply to marginal workers who don't feel they are in a strong enough bargaining position to pick and choose hours.

Some workers may look at the above as a trade-off between the lower rates of pay (and lack of employment-style benefits often applicable to gig workers and contractors), and the flexibility to choose hours - although it's subsequently interesting to question whether Friday has the same feel to an employee who hasn't just worked 4 days in a row.

For a business, greater reliance on a flexible workforce means the possibility of greater demands for flexibility on days of work, rather than being a 'given', set by the workplace. The trade-off of reduced headcount and reduced fixed staff cost, is a 2-way street of flexibility.

Employers who feel the need for control may find contractors (and workers fitting into similar employment types) to be a mixed blessing, whilst those employers who require more regularity in their employees may need to offer higher levels of pay in peak periods (in gig economic terms, a bit like riding Uber on New Year's Eve, but also, ironically, akin to penalty rates and overtime!).

Flexibility works both ways, and it will be fascinating to see how this pans out as the gig economy develops.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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