Opinion Letter by Fikret Zendeli

Creating a Positive response; The Social Friday Approach

Compounding global issues have defined the modern era. The pandemic, climate collapse, racial injustice, and inequality have shaped the epoch. Disagreement ravages the social and political discourse. Who is to blame? Is collective action enough to sustain the fabric of society we care about most?

These are all, by any standard, hard questions. There are no easy, all-encompassing solutions. There isn’t an easy fix. Yet, things are not hopeless. Inspired by younger generations who are becoming increasingly aware of social injustices and actively demanding change, a novel, and positive force is altering our shared reality with a force reminiscent of previous cultural shifts.

This enigmatic change is happening, often enough, though not where you might expect it.

While governments and policymakers are reacting inertly to new developments, businesses are recognizing the change in the environment and customer behavior and are quickly adapting.

Economic shift

As Millennials and Gen Z become the driving force of the economy, appreciation for socially responsible business practices continue to increase. If you take one look at this Nielsen poll from 2018, the trends are obvious. 85% of Millennials and 80% of Gen Z rank the environment at the top of their list when deciding which companies deserve their time and engagement. 

We believe this has forced businesses to rethink, more than ever, the values their brands represent and how they affect society. Is that enough though? Maybe now is the perfect time for some outside-the-box thinking.

Transformation of the economy and society

We believe this is the time to reinvent the economy and society. In poignant times when countries like Great Britain and Japan have opened ministries for loneliness, we see an obvious opportunity to insert solutions for effective change. It’s about time to stimulate and drive togetherness. And is there a better way of making connections and networks between people from all walks of life, than sharing an idea for a better future and actively working together to achieve it?

We should all act in a more productive way for a better society and healthier economy. We believe that each change starts with us, and each of us can set an example for a better future. All of us have a certain level of energy within us, yet it’s up to us how we want to use that energy – whether by complaining, pointing the finger, blaming others, or leading by example through active and collaborative engagement.

Changing the world on Fridays

Friday is universally the least productive day of the week, more so in developed countries which have embraced the 9 am – 5 pm workday. Moreover, the afternoon is the least productive in terms of main professional activity regardless of age, gender, leadership role, and/or company size. Could it be the case that staff across various sectors and industries spend Friday afternoons in underproductive ways?

Amplified on a global scale, the total net lost potential for society in terms of social, economic, and environmental outcomes would be extensive. As an entrepreneur, I believe we must turn this fact into a benefit for all. I don’t want to sound overly dramatic, but in my opinion, it is a crime for our society not to act and question this status quo immediately.

We owe it to future generations to be both productive but also caring and utilize opportunities of loneliness to engage one another in ways that improve social bonds.

How can we achieve that?

This is an easy lift. Let’s think about all those unproductive hours on Fridays and how we all spend them. What if all decision-makers and entrepreneurs see the huge potential hiding behind the least productive time of the week in their offices, and decide that spending the last few hours, scrolling through social media posts, and making plans for the weekend is not the best way to end the workweek?

What if we used that time in a more meaningful way, to engage with our community, tackle social issues, and positively impact society? What if we dedicate those hours to volunteering for a local social cause, to give help to the non-profit organization in the neighborhood that battles social issues? It may not sound like much, yet it can make a huge difference, particularly in communities devastated by social and environmental problems.

Connecting the dots in a more interconnected world

Presently, loneliness can affect individuals of any age and background, and it is taking its toll on both our well-being and productivity. As our ever-increasing individualistic society evolves and develops new means of communication and human interaction, it actively excludes direct contact and interaction.

People often go for days and weeks without seeing a familiar face in person. In a survey conducted in 2018, nearly 50% of Americans said they felt alone and one in four rarely or never felt that others understood them. In 2020, that percentage jumped to 61. An 11% increase in just two years!

The cost of loneliness to UK employers alone has been estimated to be £2.5 billion every year. At an individual level, the monetized impact of severe loneliness reaches as high as 9,900 pounds per person, per year, due to the impact on well-being, health, and productivity. So, what should be our response to this bone-chilling data?

We believe that supporting connections through social engagement and volunteering as part of workplace well-being for employers, employees, and community-level stakeholders provides a positive response to compounding global issues.

Working together for a social cause stimulates personal interaction through physical collaboration, creates opportunities for the exchange of knowledge and ideas, increases self-confidence, boosts team spirit, and secures a sense of community and belonging in the workplace. Social Fridays are a novel prescriptive engagement strategy that has the potential to alleviate the ills of society while simultaneously improving quality of life.

How can we stimulate social engagement on a personal level?

The application of game elements, such as competitiveness, points, badges, and leaderboards, has been a proven tool the retail industry utilizes to increase sales and brand loyalty. So, how about implementing gamification to increase social engagement?

We are keenly aware that some critics will now say, “yes but these are exactly some of the ingredients responsible for so much poison on this planet.” We agree, to a certain extent, because we must admit that these attributes are also responsible for our progress as humans. And as in everything in life, the greatest challenge in this matter is to find the right balance.

Adding gamification to the volunteer experience can be a new innovative method of increasing productivity and making a positive impact through social engagement. By tapping into the competitive spirit of doing good, gamification can revolutionize the experience by making it more fun and engaging.

Additionally, this approach requires repetitive actions to generate better results, something that comes naturally to us humans. And doing something, again and again, is how we develop habits. In this case, the habit of doing good for the benefit of all.

Closing thoughts

Through this type of organized social engagement, any individual can broaden their respective horizons, generate questions (a prerequisite for answers), exchange ideas, break barriers, and implement localized solutions.

We have done it in the past, and we plan to continue to do it in the future. Our vision is a future based on mutual respect and trust. We believe Social Friday is a critical ingredient to achieve this recipe for productivity and doing good both with and for, one another. The laws of reciprocity apply. Countless studies prove the positive effects of social engagement (including daytime activities).

The data is abundantly clear. Doing good feels good.

There is little doubt that we should use the least productive time more wisely and for the benefit of all. Through this type of active engagement, companies will improve the team spirit (now, in times of remote work, more important than ever), non-profit organizations will increase the awareness and visibility of their cause, and students will gain valuable, formative life experience and boost the resume.

We have observed a scenario where everyone wins. One can only imagine all the questions, solutions, possibilities, long-term partnerships, and inclusion that will arise. Social Friday is the building block for a better society.

Only if we all join forces for good, each of us can WIN.

So, let’s reinvent Fridays together!

Fikret Zendeli, SOCIAL FRIDAY Founder

Leave a Comment