What is a compressed workweek?

A compressed workweek involves compressing the traditional five days/40 hours workweek into four days(or lesser), where the employees work for longer hours per day. 

A Gallup study shows that employees who work four days a week have higher levels of well-being and are less likely to feel burned out, eventually leading to better productivity. That explains why countries like Spain, Japan, New Zealand, etc., are experimenting with compressed workdays. Some companies don’t extend the work hours either. Employees can continue to work for the existing 8-hour period in a day without compromising on their ‘me’ time for the rest of the day. 

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What are the different compressed workweek schedules?

There are different ways to compress the workweek; the most common schedule is the four days workweek where employees work for 10 hours a day for four days and get a 3-days long weekend instead of working 8 hours on five days. In short, compressed workweeks are about long work hours and long weekends. 

Here are some common compressed workweek schedules companies have experimented with:

1. 4/10 workweek: Work is compressed to four days a week; 10 hours/day - with an extra day off every week. It is a weekly schedule. 

2. 9/80 workweek: It is a biweekly schedule where employees work for 9 hours from Monday through Thursday (four days) for two weeks, along with an eight-hour workday on one of the Fridays. This is accompanied by a day off on the subsequent Friday. 

3. 3/12 workweek: To maintain heavy workloads, employees can work for 12 hours three days a week and enjoy 4 days long weekends. 

You can experiment with these schedules before implementing them for your employees. Further, you could try multiple variations and mix different schedules to ensure staff availability and collaboration. 

How is a compressed workweek schedule different from other flexible work options?

The Great Resignation that followed the pandemic indicates the high burnout rates. People are looking for a schedule that prioritizes their mental well-being so that they are willing to quit jobs for more flexible options. As a result, companies are looking for unconventional ways to attract quality talent and help employees enjoy a better work-life balance. Some of them are

1. Remote work: Remote work lets you hire employees from anywhere. Employees are no longer restricted to a single job location. They have the flexibility to work in a time zone specific to the geography. Companies offering remote work have a wider, ever-growing talent pool and often provide allowances to set up home offices. 

2. Freelancing: In Freelancing, employees master their work schedules and workloads. They are bound by a contract with the employing company, wherein the work details and responsibilities are elaborated. They can also be non-exempt employees who can charge for overtime work. They work as acting full-time employees for the period specified in the contract or share the job with another employee, working for fewer hours than a full-time employee, 

3. Flexible timing: Here, employees do not stick to specific work hours. They are free to log in and log out at any time, as long as they fulfill their responsibilities and meet their deadlines.

Pros of compressed workweeks

Cons of compressed workweeks

Employees have a better work-life balance. A compressed workweek provides more time to relax, spend time with family, or pursue personal goals without compromising. on pay and benefits.

Usually, compressed workweeks lead to longer hours with focused work, which can get exhausting.

Since employees get an extra day off regularly, they may not find the need to take time off to rewind and relax, leading to reduced absence

Employees may have to forgo after-work activities like going to the gym, picking up their kids, childcare and so on

Employees are more focused and productive, enabling them to finish their tasks on a compressed schedule.

Sometimes, employees have to burn the midnight oil to finish their tasks to finish their workload.

It is particularly beneficial in services where increased staff hours improve service.

It may not be compatible with all your employees, particularly those who have personal commitments after work.

With fewer working days, employees spend less time and money commuting, which is productively used elsewhere. 

It is difficult to schedule meetings because of incompatible work schedules in the team, making it difficult to collaborate with the rest of the team.

How to decide if a compressed workweek is the right choice for your company?

It depends on the employees, the industry you belong to, and the service you provide. 

Your employees may have to pick up their kids from daycare after work or have to take them to their soccer classes, and piano lessons, or help them with their homework. It becomes difficult for the employees to attend to the personal errands if compressed work is implemented company-wide without understanding their requirements. 

Run a survey to understand your employees’ preferences and provide solutions wherever possible so that a compressed workweek becomes a convenient alternative and not a hassle.

In some industries, particularly the ones where physical labor is involved, longer work hours become detrimental to the employees' health and safety. Truck delivery, manufacturing, and mining industries do not opt for compressed workweeks. Without proper planning and schedule overlapping, the education sector, retail services, customer service, etc., can successfully implement a compressed workweek. 

Most companies allow compressed workweek mainly to attract quality talent and provide flexibility to existing employees. To understand if it can work for your organization, learn its pros and cons, check if your employees would be happy with it, not harm them, and if it will substantially improve productivity.

Things to consider while implementing a compressed workweek

1. Ensure that you are compliant with governmental regulations.

Your daily working hours should comply with the local laws and regulations around maximum working hours and overtime pay. Have your legal team check the legal obligations before implementing a compressed workweek scheduled.

2. Ensure staff availability and collaboration.

Have means to track the attendance and availability of employees. Set working hours that all your employees abide by so that it is easy to collaborate with team members and provide uninterrupted service delivery. 

 

3. Consider employees’ opinions.

Implementing a compressed workweek provides work flexibility to your employees and ensures that you are doing something that they seek. Your employees would like to feel heard, and they would appreciate it better if you take their opinion into account. 

 

4. Set up a compressed workweek policy.

This is essential, especially when it is a new concept in the organization, and your employees may not be familiar with the dos and don’ts. Having a written policy will provide your employees with something to refer to avoid confusion. 

 

5. Be open to change and experimentation.

There’s no one size fits all schedule. Identify what works with your employees, the problems arising out of it, and the best way to solve them. Take your employees’ suggestions and concerns into account, address them, provide additional help (such as childcare) wherever possible, and don’t hesitate to switch back to the standard working hours. The idea is to enable your employees and not impede them.

FAQs on compressed workweeks

What are the differences between Compressed workweek vs. flextime

In a compressed workweek, employees, work for a fixed schedule for a fixed number of days. However, in flextime, employees can work for however long they want in a week, as long as they get their work done. Their day would usually have core working hours for teamwork and collaboration and can choose to work however they want the later hours.  

How does PTO work in a Compressed workweek?

PTO would cater to the number of hours the employee works daily. If an employee works for 10 hours in a compressed workweek, paid time off will apply to the entire 10 hours. However, since 10 hours of absence can prove difficult for the company, most companies offer 8 hours of PTO, expecting the employee to redistribute the remaining two hours in the rest of the week. 

Should a compressed workweek be made mandatory?

No, it is not advised to make the compressed workweek schedule mandatory since the daily priorities and commitments vary for every employee. The best approach is to ask for your employees’ opinions to understand what would work for them and see if it can be made optional. In case it is made optional, identify what work hours would ensure uninterrupted service and collaboration.

What are the industries where the compressed workweek is possible?

Compressed workweeks become successful when the schedules are created smartly, keeping your employees’ requirements as a priority. It works in industries where the long hours do not hamper the employees’ physical and mental health in the long run, for example, Retail, Education, Health care services, Manufacturing, etc.

What is a 5-4/9 compressed work schedule?

5-4/9 compressed work schedule is a biweekly schedule wherein employees work 9 hours a day for 4 days in the first week, and 8 hours on the 5th day of the same week. In the subsequent week, employees work for 9 hours for 4 days along with a day off. It is also known as a 9/80 workweek.