Compressed Work Week: What Is It? (With Examples)

By Caitlin Mazur - Nov. 17, 2020
Articles In Life At Work Guide

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Working a four-day or short week might sound like a pretty good deal. Working a shorter week provides you with a longer weekend and more of a chance to recharge for your next week at work. However, those who hear four-day week may not know that most people working this work schedule are working a compressed workweek.

A compressed workweek doesn’t mean that individuals are working less. It means that they are squeezing in the standard 35 to 40-hour workweek into a shorter timeframe. This model is something that many people find to be a more sustainable and realistic schedule for their needs, especially if they have many personal responsibilities or dependents they need to care for and manage.

Of course, a compressed workweek comes with its own pros and cons, and it’s essential to understand them before you have a conversation with your employer to discuss if this is truly an option for you. Below we discuss what a compressed work schedule is and what you need to know.

What Is a Compressed Work Schedule?

A compressed work schedule is a schedule that allows employees to work the traditional 35-40 hours in a shorter number of days. The conventional workweek is five days long, Monday through Friday, with employees usually working core hours from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with lunch in the middle.

A compressed work schedule can vary, depending on what you negotiate with your employer. For example, someone who is working full time can work four 10-hour days instead of the usual 8-hour days. An employee could choose to spread those work hours out how they see fit, some days being longer than others. For part-time employees, it could be a little tricker, but not unrealistic.

Additionally, employees could choose to work 9 hours per day and then take off one full day every other week. Certain professions, such as nursing or firefighting, may require 24-hour shift coverage and ask their employees to regularly work three 12-hour days, with four weekdays off.

It all depends on what you are willing to do with your schedule and if your employer is willing to work with you on your hours. Chances are that if you can figure out how to make it work for you, your employer will be on board for a system that ultimately makes you more productive in your work.

The Benefits of a Compressed Work Schedule

There are a few different benefits to operating on a compressed work schedule. Having more time off work opens up a variety of possibilities for your personal life that may not be realistic on a typical five-day schedule.

  • More time for personal responsibilities. Having an extra day off from work will likely improve your work-life balance. Being a working parent or a caretaker with more free weekdays can open your schedule up to attend school events or doctor appointments.

    Having an extra weekday off is ideal for running errands. Stores are typically less crowded on weekdays and can offer a much more pleasant experience. It allows more time for household chores or other priorities or interests you might want to explore on your off time. If you’re a student, you could use this time to catch up on schoolwork or even take an extra class.

  • Opportunities for long-weekend vacations. Work-life balance also means more time to get away, perhaps for a long weekend or even a staycation by yourself or your family at home. Taking vacation time can sometimes be stressful, but having an extra day built into your schedule means that you can take that three-day weekend getaway without feeling guilty.

  • Minimal or no traffic. A compressed work schedule means your hours will be different, but this also means you’ll be allowed to arrive at the office early or leave the office late. This means you’ll skip the typical work traffic you see in your morning or afternoon commute.

  • Keep full pay and benefits. As an employee working on a compressed schedule, you’ll have more time to yourself without sacrificing your salary or benefits you may receive from your company. This is important to reduce stress across the board and ensure that you have the best schedule to be successful without worrying about losing the important benefits that come with your employment.

  • More efficiency. By coming in early or staying late, employees will have fewer interruptions during the off-time of non-regular office hours. Employees may be more productive during these periods. Additionally, having more time to work on one thing can allow you to put your head down and power through any given project.

Considerations for Negotiating This Type of Work Schedule

Although there are plenty of benefits, the following list highlights other things to consider when you’re thinking about implementing a compressed work schedule:

  • Not all jobs are created equal. You should consider that not all jobs can function with this type of schedule because of the increased risks of injuries or errors. It’s natural to need a break after the typical 8-9 hour period of working. Some professions do not recommend working longer than those hours per day because your brain simply needs a restart the next day for your best work.

  • Workload. It’s essential to be self-aware and realistic about what you can handle based on your company, manager, and workload. Some individuals may not be able to be productive if they work too many hours. For many people, rest after 8-9 hours of work is important. Additionally, if your manager or teammates aren’t there during off-hours, and you need them to complete a task, it might be challenging to implement a compressed workweek. Consider all of these things before you commit to a compressed workweek.

  • Transportation. Depending on the hours you set, transportation might be another consideration to think about. Access to public transit could be a barrier to getting to and from work on time.

  • Dependent care. Care for any dependents you may have during off-hours might make it trickier to implement this type of schedule in your life. Most childcare businesses are typically only open for work-day hours. If you are a caretaker for an older individual or disabled individual, you may run into similar problems with their care facilities.

  • Team management. By taking an extra day off from work, you’ll need to be mindful of your other teammates who will still be working on those days. For one, working only four days may make it more difficult to schedule meetings, especially if your calendar is packed.

    Additionally, you’ll need to coordinate closely with your teammates so that they can pick up on things you may not be there for on your day off.

How to Implement a Compressed Work Arrangement Successfully

Depending on your company, you may need to submit a formal request for a compressed workweek. If you’re part of a company that offers a compressed workweek as part of their regular benefits, implementing this might be more simple, especially if there is already a process in place.

However, the chances are that your employer doesn’t offer this a typical perk for employees. You can make the business case for this type of arrangement by documenting how you perform your job and proving how you can complete your goals in a shorter work cycle. If you explain that your productivity increases based on a compressed workweek, you can sell your company on this.

To successfully implement this type of arrangement, the employee and department they are part of should work on a few things. First, pre-approve the hours to be worked, if the employee is an hourly wage employee. To avoid overtime concerns, the employee and department should figure out what kind of time off is necessary in these cases.

How Are Leave Times and Holiday Pay Managed?

For an individual taking advantage of a compressed workweek, vacation, health, and personal leave will vary based on how your schedule is set up. When you are granted these benefits, the employer typically counts the number of scheduled hours you work to accrue your paid time off. This means that your leave times and holiday pay will not vary since you work the same amount of hours. However, similar to adjusting to having a shorter workweek, taking leave or holiday will also require some planning.

Compressed schedules are beneficial for both the employee and the employer. It provides employees with crucial time off and extends the operational hours of the business simultaneously.

For employers who are considering this type of schedule for their employees, it’s easy to track their productivity from the start of the arrangement and keep your eye on it as time goes on to ensure efficiency does not decrease. You may be surprised at how efficient your employees can be on a compressed workweek schedule.

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Caitlin Mazur

Caitlin Mazur is a freelance writer at Zippia. Caitlin is passionate about helping Zippia’s readers land the jobs of their dreams by offering content that discusses job-seeking advice based on experience and extensive research. Caitlin holds a degree in English from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, PA.

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