This will probably hit a nerve.
I want to offer an “outsider’s” view of casual Friday. I’m often stunned upon arrival at a client’s business on a Friday. Casual Friday started out being a way to give employees a little perk. It’s nice to dress down on Fridays. The idea was okay but it’s slipped too far in my opinion.
Casual Friday has turned into “Start the Weekend Early Slob Day”. Worn-out jeans and T-shirts are a bit beyond casual. Shorts and flip-flops at the office are a bit much. Casual means less than formal but many businesses have allowed it to deteriorate to just under the “will work for food” look.
There are two reasons I think casual Friday has gone too far. Reason 1: Unless your business has no contact with the outside world on Friday, your staff is projecting a lasting impression on that day. People will remember, if only subconsciously, the unprofessional look of your people on that one day. The other days are normal and therefore forgettable. They’ll remember slob day.
Reason 2: I’ve discovered a mathematical formula that goes like this. Work is accomplished on Fridays in inverse proportion to level of casual permitted by the company. The more “casual” the business permits, the less is accomplished and the earlier the day unravels.
Casual originally meant it was okay to take your tie off. Now the receptionist shows up in sweats.
I’m not saying casual Friday should be stopped. In fact, I think it’s a very good opportunity to have fun and accomplish a lot. I am saying the standards of casual need to be raised a bit. People tend to act as they are dressed. The more casually attired the more loosely they operate. Sorry but that’s a fact of life.
Businesses should take two steps to achieve positive results from casual Friday. First, set (publish) some standards. Put out a list of what is not appropriate at work on any day.
Second, here’s the fun stuff, plan some casual work. Casual Friday is a great day to do a little cleaning. No, the sales manager doesn’t need to clean the restroom. People can take a little time to clean up their area. Wipe the crud off the phone. Clean the computer screens. Polish the desks. Rearrange work spaces to make them more comfortable. Untangle and tie the mass of computer cords at their feet. Put the printer where it can be reached. Put up some new pictures. Take the post-it notes off the computer screen and put them in a little notebook.
Casual Fridays are great days to have very brief—1/2 hour maximum—brainstorming meetings. Let people assemble and talk about ideas. Once they get used to Friday being “idea day” they’ll start bringing new ideas to the table. Allow an uninterrupted period of 1/2 hour for them to explore new ways of doing things. Give them time to THINK. Tell the front desk to inform all callers that everyone is in the Friday meeting until 2:30 (for example). This gives some mental space to look at Powerpoint or Excel. How did that last presentation really look now that the heat of battle is off?
If you have Slum Friday at your business I recommend you tune it to Creative Friday. It’s okay to roll your sleeves up, just don’t cut them off.
Shameless Promotion: Casual Friday can be the most productive and fun day of the week instead of a “half day”. This can be the day that hatches the best, new and freshest ideas. But it needs to be done right. If you give the order to dress neat and to produce ideas it will blow up in your face. Need a casual Friday coach? That’s what I do. I’m a sort of business Mary Poppins. But a guy.
Chris Reich, Author of TeachU’s Business Talk Blog