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Updated Nov 20, 2023

What Is a Compressed Work Schedule and Should You Offer It?

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Stella Morrison, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Writer

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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.

Editor’s note: Looking for a time and attendance system for your business? Fill out the below questionnaire to have our vendor partners contact you about your needs.

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. 

What is a compressed work schedule?

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. 

Did You Know?Did you know

Summer Fridays are a flexible work option for businesses trying to make the best of quieter summer hours. Some businesses even extend successful Summer Friday policies throughout the year.

What is a 4/10 compressed work schedule?

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. 

Four-day workweeks have grown in popularity because many workers and business owners find they improve productivity, recruitment, employee retention and overall well-being. 

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.

What is a 9/80 compressed work schedule?

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:

Week 1:

  • Monday to Thursday: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) with a one-hour lunch break
  • Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. with a one-hour lunch break

Week 2:

  • Monday to Thursday: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) with a one-hour lunch break
  • Friday: Off

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. 

TipTip

To learn more about top time and attendance systems for your business, read our in-depth review of Bamboo HR and our detailed QuickBooks Time review.

Why do some employees like compressed work schedules and others don’t?

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.

TipTip

Consider offering a healthcare flexible spending account (FSA) to help attract and retain top talent. Employees can use FSA funds to pay for healthcare expenses.

What are the pros and cons of compressed work schedules?

A compressed workweek significantly impacts work-life balance and office operations. Here are some pros and cons to keep in mind.

Pros of compressed work schedules

  • More free time: Whether through a 4/10 or 9/80 schedule, a compressed workweek allows employees to enjoy more time off to recharge.
  • Fewer absences: Because they have more free time, employees are less likely to take time off from work to run errands or attend to personal matters.
  • Improved service hours: If your business has a customer service department, offering extended support hours through a compressed work schedule can benefit customers who want to contact you after 5 p.m.
  • Reduced commutes: Depending on how far your workers live from the office, some employees can save time and money by coming to work less frequently. It’s well-known that commuting takes a toll on workers. Without commuting stress weighing them down, employees may perform better.

Cons of compressed work schedules

  • Worker fatigue: Depending on the industry and job, doing the same amount of work in fewer days may tire employees out.
  • Incompatible schedules: Other business partners, clients or contractors who work a traditional 9-to-5, Monday-through-Friday schedule may not be in sync with someone on a compressed schedule. Unusual schedules may also cause issues with a business’s payroll schedule.
  • Unauthorized overtime: Unless carefully monitored, your employees may be eligible for a different compensation schedule, even if they work the same number of hours. Check the overtime pay rules in your state to ensure you don’t violate any laws.
  • Inconvenience to employees: While a compressed work schedule may be great for you and some of your employees, it may not be practical for everyone. For example, some child care centers have a traditional 9-to-5 schedule, which could make it inconvenient or more expensive for your employees to find care for their children.

Challenges for service-oriented businesses and companies with limited staff

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. 

Did You Know?Did you know

If you have hourly employees, you may be required to implement a predictive scheduling policy, meaning you must provide employees with their work schedules in advance.

How do you implement a compressed workweek?

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:

  1. Coordinate with all departments: Employees and management must coordinate closely when switching to the new schedule. Managers must maintain proper coverage and a smooth workflow and ensure everyone meets their deadlines. Managers should coordinate with other departments before approving compressed work schedules.
  2. Create a policy: Before implementing a compressed work schedule, write a policy (perhaps as part of your time-off policy) that outlines who is eligible for a compressed workweek, when it can be utilized, who is in charge of setting schedules and how this schedule can be formally requested.
  3. Stay flexible: Each department may implement a compressed workweek differently, and your policy should keep that flexibility in mind. For example, customer service departments may benefit from longer hours on fewer days. In contrast, the accounting department may not have as pressing a need to be in the office Monday through Friday during certain months.
  4. Track your progress: After experimenting with a compressed work schedule, you might realize the structure isn’t meant for you, your business or your employees. Check in on your business metrics regularly to measure productivity and performance and ask your workers how they feel about the new schedule. You can always make tweaks or revert to a traditional workweek.
Did You Know?Did you know

Workplace flexibility can help combat employee burnout, reduce stress and turnover and increase morale.

Tips for implementing a compressed workweek

The following tips can help your compressed workweek implementation go more smoothly: 

  • Consider the law: Your city or state may have labor laws restricting how many hours an employee can work in a specific period. Always check with your state labor office to ensure you’re in compliance before switching to a new schedule.
  • Set core office hours: Some businesses face staffing challenges implementing a compressed workweek. Schedule employees carefully to ensure adequate coverage at the office.
  • Ask employees what they prefer: A new arrangement can profoundly impact your employees. What works for one employee may not work for another. Ask employees what works best for them.
  • Modify as needed: Your compressed work schedule policy shouldn’t be set in stone. As your employees and managers settle into a routine, you’ll likely find gaps that must be addressed. Encourage employee feedback and implement their suggested changes when possible.

Is a compressed work schedule right for your business?

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.

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Stella Morrison, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Writer
Stella Morrison is an award-winning small business owner who has founded multiple businesses. She leads operations for two companies, overseeing staffing, financing and day-to-day responsibilities. Her wide range of expertise also includes brand management, marketing and web development. As a thought leader, Morrison provides consultative services to other companies on a diverse group of business topics. Prior to becoming an entrepreneur, Morrison produced community affairs programming and trained aspiring broadcast journalists in radio communication. She was also a columnist for the Chicago Tribune's TribLocal product and reported for Greater Media Newspapers. Today she also lends her skills to the American Marketing Association.
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