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Compressed Workweek: The Good, Bad, & the Tips

A compressed workweek allows employees to complete full-time hours in fewer working days. It brings various benefits to employees’ mental health and businesses’ bottom line.

But similar to any other schedule types out there, the compressed workweek doesn’t work for all businesses. Considering the pros and cons, as well as management best practices, can help you decide whether this is the right scheduling approach for your workforce.

What is a compressed workweek?

A compressed workweek is a type of schedule in which employees work full-time hours in fewer working days.

For example, a full-time employee works 40 hours a week, but works four 10-hour days instead of five 8-hour days.

Industries where a compressed workweek is popular include retail, healthcare, manufacturing, education, utilities, and more.

Examples of a compressed workweek

  • 4/10 schedule: Four 10-hour days, 3 days off weekly
  • 9/80 schedule: Eight 9-hour days, 3 days off every other week
  • Three 12-hour days, 4 days off weekly
Common variations of a compressed workweek
Common variations of a compressed workweek

Pros of a compressed workweek

Extra days off

With fewer working days, employees get more days off that they can use to take a longer vacation, get a long rest, or spend more time with loved ones.

The ability to take more days off while still receiving full pay and benefits can also help improve the morale and work-life balance of employees.

Less commute

Because employees work fewer days per week, they commute less and spend less money on tickets or gas. Also, working a compressed schedule means they start earlier or leave later, so they can avoid traffic during peak hours.

More focus

With extra days for rest and taking care of personal responsibilities, employees can work with more focus. And as they don’t have to spend most of their energy in traffic jams, they can complete their work more effectively.

Extended opening hours

For some businesses, a compressed workweek helps extend opening hours and service hours. If your business opens all week, you may need to plan a rotating schedule to ensure coverage.

Cons of a compressed workweek

Exhausted employees

Although the idea of extra days off sounds appealing, we can’t deny that working longer hours is tiring both physically and mentally. Employees get exhausted at the end of the day, which leads to increased risks of injury, errors, or lower productivity.

Working long hours is also associated with mental issues such as burnout, so you need to plan for improving employee morale, engagement, and well-being.

Difficulties with childcare and relationships

A compressed schedule often doesn’t match school hours, so the pickup and dropoff time can be a problem for parent employees. Employees also get less personal time on workdays, and that can affect their work-life balance.

Inconvenient transportation

If employees work irregular hours such as night shifts, it can be difficult for them to find transportation options.

How to manage a compressed workweek

Set goals and priorities

It’s impossible to expect employees to have the same levels of focus throughout the day, especially in the last hours. Set goals and prioritize tasks so important work gets done first.

Review and adapt

Regularly check in with employees to see how the compressed workweek is working for them. Organize 1-on-1 and all-hands meetings to discuss this flexible work arrangement. Staying close to employees allows you to spot issues and find solutions timely.

Some questions worth discussing with employees include:

  • How can you maintain productivity working longer hours?
  • How will you commute?
  • How will you handle childcare or personal relationships?
  • What will you do on extra days off?

Don’t hesitate to make changes here and there so the schedule can adapt to both your business demands and employee needs. Even if a compressed schedule doesn’t work for your business, don’t be afraid to go back to a standard workweek.

Set core hours

Core hours are hours when all employees must show up under the same roof. These hours are the perfect time for meetings, discussions, check-ins, and collaborations.

Schedule breaks

Breaks are inevitable for employees working long hours. Schedule frequent breaks so they can get enough rest.

Support employees

Besides changing your management practices, you can also support employees by giving them tips on how to succeed with working a compressed workweek:

  • Meal prep on your days off. Pack healthy snacks such as nuts.
  • Stick to a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Make the most of your days off. Invite friends over, go cycling, or have a picnic with your loved ones.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.

Track attendance, total worked hours, overtime

Use a reliable tool to track whether the employees have arrived for their shift or not, total worked hours, and overtime. This helps you pay the right amount to your workers, avoid unauthorized overtime, and stay compliant.

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