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Today, more employers are finding ways to switch up the traditional Monday-through-Friday, 9-to-5 working model. With employees demanding more perks and employers struggling to retain top talent, many business owners are considering compressed work schedules.
Compressed work schedules offer flexibility, which is key to attracting and retaining a high-level workforce ― especially for businesses that can’t necessarily afford to boost salaries or benefits.
Here’s a look at how compressed schedules work, the most popular schedules and the pros and cons of implementing this model.
A compressed work schedule is a flexible workplace option that incorporates a condensed workweek. In a compressed work schedule, employees maintain a full-time schedule (80 hours over two weeks) in fewer than five days per week.
Employees still work 40 hours weekly. However, instead of working eight hours daily Monday through Friday, they might work 10 hours daily over four days and have an extra day off during the week.
The most common compressed work arrangement type is a 4/10 schedule. In a 4/10 schedule, an employee works four 10-hour days (Monday through Thursday), with Friday, Saturday and Sunday off. You’ll also hear this arrangement referred to as a four-day workweek.
Although 4/10 compressed work schedules aren’t necessarily standard in any industry or region, they may be most applicable in office settings. They may also be helpful in restaurants, retail storefronts and other customer-facing environments that operate for more than eight hours daily.
Some businesses use a compressed workweek alternative called a 9/80 schedule. A 9/80 work schedule has a two-week cycle where the employee works nine hours daily (usually Monday through Thursday) and eight hours a day on the last day of the first week (Friday).
During the second week, employees work nine hours a day again (Monday through Thursday) and get an additional day off entirely (Friday).
This schedule works out to 80 hours of paid work over two weeks but employees enjoy two three-day weekends a month.
9/80 workweek example
A typical 9/80 work schedule might appear as follows:
Note that you can provide a half-hour lunch break instead of an hour if your team prefers.
Factors to consider in a 9/80 workweek
Executing a 9/80 compressed work schedule properly requires detailed attention. Business owners and managers must know which weeks have Friday workdays ― and which don’t ― to ensure proper coverage. They must also make sure employees meet their nine hours per day. Tracking employees’ hours is much easier with one of the best time and attendance systems, such as BambooHR and QuickBooks Time.
A 9/80 compressed work schedule can benefit your business if many employees travel long distances to reach your office. For example, a 7 a.m. start time can help employees avoid the morning rush hour.
Compressed work schedules offer employees an extra day off ― time that may help provide a better work-life balance for some team members. They may like having three-day weekends with ample time for getaways and family activities.
Employees with lengthy commutes also tend to like compressed workweeks. They get a day off from driving or taking public transportation. Earlier and later start and end times can also help them avoid rush hour.
However, a short workweek may not appeal to everyone. Some employees have family obligations that make longer days challenging. For example, longer work days are impractical if you must pick up children from school or child care.
Additionally, some people prefer to work in shorter bursts rather than long stretches. They may find longer days challenging to get through.
Everyone’s lives and needs are different, so a compressed schedule should be optional for employees, not mandatory.
A compressed workweek significantly impacts work-life balance and office operations. Here are some pros and cons to keep in mind.
If your business is tied to strict hours or you’re short on staff, an alternate work schedule can complicate staffing and scheduling.
One option to offset this challenge is to offer day-specific compressed work schedules. For example, you could offer some employees a Monday-to-Thursday schedule and others a Tuesday-to-Friday schedule.
Whatever you decide, have a plan in place before presenting the option to your staff. Additionally, consider their concerns before implementing a compressed schedule. Some employees might be unable to work this type of schedule due to family or other obligations.
The first step is determining the best schedule for your business and employees. You can implement a 4/10 or 9/80 schedule, or you might build a schedule that pulls elements from both of these iterations.
You might also elect to do something else, such as a three-day, 12-hours-per-day schedule ― a typical arrangement for firefighters, healthcare professionals and other industries that require 24-hour staffing.
Consider asking employees to select the best schedule for them and their families. However, not all departments can follow a compressed workweek; this schedule may vary by division or location.
Take these steps to implement a compressed workweek:
The following tips can help your compressed workweek implementation go more smoothly:
To determine whether a compressed work schedule is right for you and your employees, gauge your team’s interest by posing the idea in a meeting. Some employees’ personal schedules might not be suited for this arrangement ― especially if they have children or other priorities that involve shorter days ― while others might prefer the compressed schedule. Ultimately, everyone must be on the same page if you plan to alter the entire company’s schedule.
Additionally, consider how a compressed schedule will impact your customers and deliverables. For example, if you’re a copywriting firm with deadlines spread throughout the week, you must ensure you meet end-of-week deadlines. You may also need your team to make themselves available for client emergencies.
Sammi Caramela contributed to this article.