How many times have you heard yourself say: “If only I had more time, I would [fill in the blank].”
We all allude to the idea that, if actually granted more time in our lives, we would accomplish certain things. Take dancing lessons. Learn how to fly a plane. Bake.
We use time – and the lack of it – as a scapegoat to evade experiences. I’m certainly guilty of it. For more years than I can count, I’ve been saying I would volunteer…if I only had more time. I actually felt satisfied with that excuse, putting the blame on time and continuing about my day.
That’s why I panicked a little in 2011 when our CEO, Kelly Hendricks, first suggested his new idea – granting all employees more free time. He wanted to institute half-day Fridays all summer long, from Memorial Day to Labor Day…but there was a catch. Kelly is the type of leader does a lot more listening than talking, and he had been hearing one too many “if only’s” and not enough doing.
Part perk and part challenge, Kelly dared all of us to do something – anything - with our newly-given time that didn’t involve sitting on the couch. He confronted our intentions and trusted all of us to use our extra time to do something important. It did not have to be used for something great or noble – only something that was important to us individually.
Fifteen Friday afternoons. 75 extra hours to turn intentions into action. While this idea seemed great in theory, I imagined some of our employees leaving at 12:30 on Friday all summer long, hitting up the pool or spending it at happy hour – taking advantage of the privilege. Kelly knew this was a risk, so we added in a component of accountability, requiring everyone to present in front of the whole group at the end of the summer about how they spent their free time.
What resulted was better than we could have expected. At the end of the summer, we had pictures of newly-created backyard gardens, stories of road trips to see relatives, heartwarming anecdotes of volunteering at an animal shelter, and for me, pictures of the nursing home ladies I visited every Friday to help with their weekly crafting class (pictured above).
There were a few instances where employees didn’t take the half-day challenge seriously (thanks to Twitter and Facebook evidence!), but on the whole, it’s been a fantastic summer movement for our company and has been highly effective in providing a sense of fulfillment for our employees.
“Our half-day Fridays allow me the opportunity to have a true work/life balance - a difficult feat in the fast-paced world of PR and social media. Executive teams often preach the “family-first” notion, but our leadership actually instills this value by granting us the extra hours to spend quality time with those we love.”
“BLASTmedia recognizes that personal growth, relationships and spontaneous living is the key to fulfillment – making sure we have extra hours to set aside for those types of experiences is a huge encouragement to do the things that are important to us individually.”
While many companies offer summer hours or 4-day work weeks, the idea that our corporate leader granted us free time to make experiences is pretty inspiring. His motivation was simply to create a work environment that inspires employees to be productive, passionate and positive. It has forced us to be accountable for turning our intentions into actions and stop using time as an excuse.
Our Summer Fridays have given our employees something to which to look forward and the program has evolved each year. Based on team feedback, for example, we now grant a full Friday off to anyone traveling to see aging grandparents out of town. It will no doubt continue to take shape over the next few years, hopefully inspiring others to follow suit internally at their own organizations.
How do you turn intentions into actions and inspire others to do the same?