What is a Compressed Work Week?

The compressed workweek offers more flexibility to employees by cramming your working schedule (e.g. 40 hours) into fewer days.

What is a Compressed Work Week?

Imagine having a long weekend every week, and yet completing your tasks and meeting your objectives without fail. Sounds like a dream, doesn't it? Welcome to the realm of the compressed hours work week, where productivity and leisure walk hand in hand.

Buckle up as we explore this evolving work paradigm.

How is a Compressed Work Week Different from a Traditional Work Week?

A compressed workweek is an alternative to the traditional 40-hour workweek. It's a job schedule which squeezes a traditional 5 day working week into 4 days. For example, working 4 x 10 hour days. It means employees get to have more days off in a given week.

Examples of Compressed Work Schedules

Recently, compressed workweeks are becoming increasingly popular. Some popular work schedules include:

4/10 Work Schedule

With a 4/10 work schedule, the employees work for ten hours per day, four days a week. They work for 40 hours every week compressed into four days instead of five. This arrangement is suitable for employees who prefer to have an extended weekend and enjoy more days off from the workplace.

Week 110 hours10 hours10 hours10 hoursOff
Week 210 hours10 hours10 hours10 hoursOff

9/80 Work Schedule

A 9/80 work schedule means that employees work for nine days instead of 10 days over two weeks - maintaining an average of 40 hours per week.

An example of this pattern would be:

Week 19 hours9 hours9 hours9 hours8 hours
Week 29 hours9 hours9 hours9 hoursOff

3/12 Schedule:

Employees work three 12-hour days, totalling 36 hours per week. This type of schedule is often seen in healthcare settings, especially among nurses. It may be paired with an additional 4-hour shift to make up the standard 40-hour work week.

An example of this pattern would be:

Week 112 hours12 hours12 hoursOffOffOffOff
Week 2OffOffOff12 hours12 hours12 hoursOff

5/4/9 Schedule:

Similar to the 9/80, in a 5/4/9 schedule, employees work eight 9-hour days and one 8-hour day over a two-week period, getting every other Friday off. For example:

Week 19 hours9 hours9 hours9 hours9 hours
Week 29 hours9 hours9 hours9 hoursOff

3/13 Schedule:

In some industries, particularly where continuous operation is crucial, employees might work three 13-hour shifts a week, giving them 39 hours in total. As with the 3/12 schedule, an additional short shift or different compensation arrangements might be used to reach the conventional 40-hour week.

An example of this pattern would be:

Week 113 hours13 hours13 hoursOffOffOffOff
Week 213 hours13 hours13 hoursOffOffOffOff

2/2/3 or the "Pitman Schedule":

Often used in industries that require 24/7 operations, such as emergency services or power plants. Employees will work two days, have two days off, work three days, have two days off, work two days, then have three days off. Each shift is typically 12 hours. Over a two-week cycle, they work a total of 7 days out of 14.

An example of this pattern would be:

Week 1Team ATeam AOffOffTeam ATeam ATeam A
Week 2OffOffTeam ATeam AOffOffOff
Week 3Team BTeam BOffOffTeam BTeam BTeam B
Week 4OffOffTeam BTeam BOffOffOff

2 Weeks On, 2 Weeks Off

One of the more unique work schedules that has emerged, especially in sectors that demand extended periods of intense work, or offshore travel (e.g. Oil and Gas), is the "2 weeks on, 2 weeks off" arrangement. This schedule is precisely what it sounds like: employees work intensively for two consecutive weeks and then enjoy two full weeks off.

Compressed Work Week Advantages

Working on a compressed workweek has many advantages. These include:

  • Employees get the same amount of work done in less days worked
  • Employees work fewer days for the same amount of pay
  • It can help an employee achieve a better work-life balance
  • Less days worked = less commute time
  • Less commuting time = better for the environment
  • More flexibility when booking appointments and running errands
  • The ability to have longer vacations (e.g. 4 day weekend break)
  • Increased staff retention by giving employees more flexibility

A compressed workweek can be immensely rewarding if appropriately managed. With the schedule, you will have more time to spend with your family and friends. The company also benefits as it can significantly boost productivity and employee motivation as work-life balance becomes a reality.

The compressed schedule is flexible enough to accommodate vacations, sick leaves, or personal days off from work without negatively affecting other employees present at work. For example, if an employee takes a four-day weekend, the compressed workweek can accommodate that without affecting other employees.

Disadvantages of a Compressed Work Week

Just like any other working schedule, a compressed workweek has its cons. These include:

  • Working longer hours in a given day can increase the risk of burnout
  • Productivity decreases towards the end of the day
  • There is less flexibility in booking meetings e.g. only 4 days of availability
  • The risk of injury or error may increase during a longer work day
  • Time schedule differences means there is less overlap between colleagues i.e. less supervision
  • Working a longer day may make childcare drop-offs & pickups problematic

How to Handle Vacations in a Compressed Work Week?

The primary reason many employees request a compressed workweek is to have more days away from work. The time out can be used for vacations and family trips. If an employee requests a compressed workweek, the manager should consider giving it to them as long as they can handle their responsibilities without affecting overall productivity.

If you want to take a four-day vacation, consider working from Monday to Thursday on a 4/10 schedule, then Tuesday to Friday on the following week. Often 3 days isn't long enough for a weekend break; a compressed work week makes it easier to take vacations.

How to Ask for a Compressed 4/10 Work Week?

If you think that a compressed schedule is something you can manage in your professional life, it's best to discuss this arrangement with your line manager. If they agree with your proposal for a compressed schedule arrangement, you may then have to ensure that it's communicated to the human resources department i.e. to include it on your contract and inform other employees of it.

When requesting this arrangement, let the manager or administration understand:

  • Why you want to switch to a compressed working schedule
  • Which days you'd want to work
  • The advantages the schedule will bring (for both you and the company)
  • How you'll ensure your schedule doesn't conflict with other employees' work

In many cases, the compressed work schedule may be initiated on a trial basis. The schedule's termination can occur at the employee's request or when the management is not content with the results.

4/10 Schedule Request Email Template

Here is an example email you could send to your boss to ask for compressed hours:

Hi [Name of your manager],

I was wondering if you would be open to me changing my contract to compressed hours? e.g. working 40 hours over 4 days instead of 5

The extra flexibility would really improve my work-life balance and general happiness working at [Company Name]. I can assure you this change wouldn't effect my output or productivity; in fact I see it having a positive effect as I'll be better rested after a longer weekend.

If you are open to this, I can be flexible - as and when the company needs me e.g. switching my days from week to week if there are meetings I need to attend on a particular day

I'd really appreciate it if you would be open to discussing this, so please let me know what you think - or if it's easier we could have on a call?

Many thanks, [Your Name]

In any follow up with your manager, you should propose what you would do to make the plan successful e.g.

  • Stick to the same off days as much as possible. Re-state that you are happy to rotate your working days week to week however, if there are meetings you must attend
  • Choose days that don't inconvenience other employees.
  • Block out your calendar on your off days to make other employees realize you're not available.
  • Set boundaries, and don't be tempted to work on your off day.

Shorter Work Week Schedules

In contract to a compressed workweek, which maintains a full time number of hours, there is a growing movement of companies offering a shorter workweek.

These companies offer different types of reduced hours working schedules, such as:

If you are especially unhappy in your job, you could also ask your manager whether you would be open to dropping your hours (e.g. to 32 hours over 4 days.

Or if you are on the job market, check out our job board for jobs with a 4 day work week.