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

Mona Bushnell
Mona Bushnell

Attracting and retaining top talent is a major concern for small business owners across every industry. While things like competitive wages, top-notch benefits and adequate vacation time are important, for high-demand employees, such features are widely considered to be the bare minimum. If you want to attract the best workforce possible but you can't necessarily afford to increase salaries or benefits, offering flexibility is an excellent strategy.

Work-from-home options are highly desirable to most employees, but cutting-edge employers are going a step further by offering their workers an alternative to the Monday through Friday, 9-to-5 schedule. Offering compressed work schedules makes it easier for SMBs to compete with larger corporations for elite talent.

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What is a compressed work schedule?

A compressed work schedule is one where employees maintain a full-time schedule (which adds up to 80 hours over two weeks) but do so in fewer than five days or in an otherwise nontraditional arrangement.

Why do employees like compressed work schedules?

Compressed work schedules offer employees more opportunities for three-day weekends. Employees with long commutes may especially appreciate having an extra day off.

Do some employees dislike compressed work schedules?

Yes. If you want to offer your employees a compressed work schedule, you should make it optional. Working parents, especially, may not be able to accommodate longer work days. Additionally, some people prefer to work in shorter bursts rather than for long stretches. A compressed schedule should be treated like a benefit on offer and not a mandate.

What is a 4/10 compressed work schedule?

The most common type of compressed work arrangement is called a 4/10 schedule, during which an employee may elect to work four 10-hour days (Monday through Thursday) and have Friday, Saturday and Sunday off work.

What is a 9/80 compressed work schedule?

If four days on and three days off doesn't work for your business, you may want to investigate alternate versions of the compressed work week, the most common of which is the 9/80 schedule.  

In a 9/80 work schedule, there is a two-week cycle wherein the employee works 9 hours a day (usually Monday through Thursday) and 8 hours a day on the last day of the first week (Friday). Then, during the second week, employees work 9 hours a day again (Monday through Thursday) and get an additional day off work entirely (Friday). This schedule works out to 80 hours of paid work over two weeks, but it gives the employee two three-day weekends a month.

What are the challenges of offering employees a compressed work schedule?

For service-oriented businesses, offering compressed schedules may be a challenge. If your business is tied to strict hours or you're short on staff, offering alternate scheduling plans may make staffing and scheduling more complicated.

One option to offset this challenge is to offer day-specific compressed work schedules. In other words, you could offer some employees a Monday through Thursday schedule and others a Tuesday through Friday schedule to balance out your workforce. Whatever you decide to do, though, have a plan in place long before you present the option to your staff.

Mona Bushnell
Mona Bushnell,
Business News Daily Writer
Mona Bushnell is a Philadelphia-based staff writer for business.com and Business News Daily. She has a B.A. in writing, literature, and publishing from Emerson College and has previously worked as an IT technician, a copywriter, a software administrator, a scheduling manager, and an editorial writer. Mona began freelance writing full time in 2014 and joined the Business News Daily/business.com team in 2017. She covers business and technology.