One of Friedman, LLP’s best recruiting tools is a policy giving employees Fridays off during the summertime, according to Michael Gaines, Human Resources partner for the New York-based accounting, tax, and consulting services firm.
From Memorial Day through Labor Day, all 325 staff members in Friedman’s (www.friedmanllp.com) four offices in New York City, New Jersey, and Long Island may take Fridays off—without using vacation time, says Gaines.
Although their schedules can vary depending on team and client needs, employees typically work a 36-hour workweek during the summer, which generally translates to 9-hour workdays Monday through Thursday, he says. “We can be somewhat flexible with that.” For example, employees can make arrangements with their manager to work late one night or to work from home on Fridays instead of extra hours spread throughout the week.
The Fridays-off policy was implemented during the summer of 2007, spearheaded by the managing partner of one of Friedman’s offices and based on input from employees. He suggested that the firm roll out a pilot program and close one of its offices for the entire day on Fridays during the summer, Gaines explains. However, the partnership ultimately decided to try the new policy firmwide. “It was so successful that we’ve done it every year since 2007,” he notes.
“The office is officially closed, but there are a few conditions, and they are very important,” Gaines says. Friedman professionals who provide services to clients must maintain contact via technology on Fridays by forwarding their voice mail to their cell phones, checking e-mail and voice mail periodically throughout the day, and responding to client needs.
The firm did not formally announce its Fridays-off policy to clients. “We didn’t want clients to be concerned that they would not get service on Friday,” Gaines says, noting that most clients are aware of the policy anyway, but do not take issue with it.
The benefit has been well-received by employees. “I think it’s been one of the best recruiting tools that we have,” Gaines says, noting that when the firm announced the new perk after tax season in 2007, “there was a roar” of approval from employees.
He says the Fridays-off policy has helped increase productivity. “I think people work harder from Monday through Thursday to make sure they do not have to come in on Friday.” He also credits this policy with helping the firm maintain an “extremely low” voluntary turnover rate and save on operational costs.
Other Popular Benefits
The Fridays-off policy was one of the benefits highlighted by NJBIZ when it recently recognized Friedman as one of the 55 Best Places to Work in New Jersey. However, the firm offers many employee perks throughout the year and special benefits during its busy tax-filing seasons from January through mid-April and from mid-August through mid-October.
Those benefits include ongoing professional development, tuition reimbursement, a weekday dinner allowance and free lunches on Saturdays during peak season, and a firmwide party—typically on the first Thursday after April 15—followed by Staff Appreciation Day the next day. “We give them the day off with our thanks,” says Gaines.
From giving a $100 gift card to every employee both at the annual holiday party and on their birthday to free snacks throughout the year, “we do a lot of little things,” he adds.
The firm also sponsors an annual, company-paid golf outing, which is open to Friedman staff members and select clients and referral sources (e.g., bankers, attorneys, and insurance agents). Friedman staff members participating in the golf outing must use a vacation day, and all participants must have “at least some idea of how to play golf. They don’t have to be good,” Gaines says.
In addition to receiving accolades from NJBIZ, Friedman was named earlier this year to Accounting Today’s 2009 Best Accounting Firms to Work For list and recognized as one of the Best Places to Work in New York City by Crain’s New York Business.
What to Do
Employers interested in offering a Fridays-off policy might want to pilot a program using a shorter time frame (e.g., July 4 through Labor Day, the month of August), he says.
No matter what length of time you settle on, however, Gaines says the most important factor to ensure success is familiarizing all key managers with the policy and getting their buy-in for it.
If you do not have their support, they might take steps to ensure that the policy does not work, he says.
Gaines also recommends clearly outlining employees’ responsibilities (e.g., the need to check their e-mail and voice mail on what is otherwise a day off from work).
Michael Gaines can be reached at email@example.com.