What Is a Compressed Workweek? (With Pros and Cons)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 17, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Businesses in every industry operate within the traditional five-day workweek. Increasingly, some organizations are adopting a compressed work schedule because of its many advantages over the traditional workweek. Understanding compressed work schedules, including their benefits and drawbacks, can help you decide if it's a work arrangement you may enjoy. In this article, we discuss the compressed workweek, explore its advantages and disadvantages, review tips to help you decide if it's right for you, and provide tips for working a compressed schedule.

What is a compressed workweek?

A compressed workweek refers to a schedule for employees to work full-time hours in fewer than five days. A typical example of a compressed work schedule is an employee working ten hours a day, four days a week. Another example is working four days in one week and five days every other week. Similarly, a company may offer compressed working schedules for nine days and eighty hours over two weeks. There are various compressed work schedules depending on the industry and company. Independent contractors may have more freedom to create their compressed schedules.

Related: What Are Flexible Work Arrangements? (Pros and Cons)

Advantages of a compressed work schedule

Here are some benefits of working compressed schedules:

More free time

One of the most appealing features of a compressed schedule is the free time you have for yourself. For example, working for four days rather than five gives you a whole day to spend as you like. It also allows you to spend time with family and loved ones and have the time for hobbies and recreational activities outside work.

Saved paid time off

A compressed schedule can help you save your paid time off for recreation rather than necessities. For instance, you may use your free time to attend doctor's appointments, run errands, and practise self-care on your own time. It helps you save and accumulate your sick and vacation days for when you want to use them.

Reduced commuting

A compressed work schedule helps you reduce how frequently you commute. For example, you can save valuable time by only commuting four days a week instead of five. Reduced commuting can also reduce your weekly expenses spent on gas or public transport. It can also benefit the environment by reducing your car emissions if you typically drive to work.

Increased productivity

If you work a compressed work schedule, you may enjoy three-day weekends, which can reduce stress, and allow you more time to prepare for the following workweek. It can help increase productivity, as you may be more dedicated to completing your tasks within the compressed schedule. In addition, working a compressed schedule helps you maintain a healthy work-life balance, which is an essential factor in improving your productivity in the workplace.

Disadvantages of a compressed work schedule

Some disadvantages of working a compressed schedule include:

Higher chance of fatigue

Working more than the typical eight-hour workweek may increase the chances of being fatigued and tired. Adjusting to the new arrangement may be challenging in the early stages. Fatigue may lead to lower levels of concentration and productivity, often known as burnout. To overcome this challenge, consider taking short breaks when working. It's essential to remain hydrated and eat healthy meals before and after work. You can also consider bringing snacks if you get hungry during the day.

Incompatible working hours

If you work directly with clients and customers, a compressed schedule may not be compatible with their working hours. For example, if you add two more hours to the regular eight-hour schedule, the clients may be unavailable. In addition, the scheduling differences may make it more challenging to meet the company's goals. You can overcome this scheduling issue by discussing it with your employer and finding an alternative compressed schedule that fits your client's working hours. You can also consider focusing on tasks that don't require you to meet with clients.

Clashing schedules

Working longer hours implies you may start earlier or end later than those who work traditional hours. This may be a challenge if you have children, as most schools, daycare, and childcare facilities base their opening hours on the traditional workweek. Consider discussing with the institution to know if they offer extended hours that fit into your schedule. You can discuss with your employer to adjust your schedule to fit the peculiarities of your situation.

How to decide if a compressed schedule is suitable for you

Here are some tips to help you decide whether a compressed schedule is something you might enjoy:

1. Make a list of your needs

Consider making a list to outline your expectations from your job schedule. For example, your list may include non-negotiable considerations, such as free time with your family, an extra day for personal appointments, or long weekends to run errands. Making a list may help you visualize how a compressed workweek can benefit you.

2. Consider the pros and cons

It's essential to consider the advantages and disadvantages a compressed schedule offers you. For example, consider the drawbacks you're willing to accept, such as longer work hours within the same day, and the resulting benefits like an extra full day of free time. If the cons outweigh the pros, you can look for a more convenient schedule or opt for traditional working hours.

3. Ask for feedback

It may be helpful to consult your team members and family members when considering a compressed work schedule. Talking to team members or relatives can help you gain more insight into the effects of a compressed workweek on them. For example, you may learn that a compressed schedule may disrupt your home schedule and make it more difficult to complete some errands. Asking for feedback is essential to help you make a suitable decision that fits into your home and work schedules.

4. Discuss a schedule with supervisors

More organizations are welcoming the idea of employees working compressed hours. You can consider discussing this with your manager or employer if you're interested in exploring this flexible scheduling opportunity. It may be helpful to highlight the pros of the system and the solutions to the challenges to help convey the most important points.

5. Consider jobs that provide compressed schedules

Some companies may offer compressed schedules as one of the perks of working with them. If you want to work compressed hours, you can consider applying to these institutions. You can consider working as an independent contractor or freelancer. The growth of remote jobs makes it easier to find employment opportunities that suit flexible schedules.

Related: 13 Jobs With Flexible Hours (With Salaries and Definitions)

Tips for working a compressed schedule

Here are some tips that may help you get the most benefits from your compressed schedule:

Identify what schedule suits you

If the company offers you a flexible work schedule, it's essential to choose a schedule that offers you the best work-life balance. It's also important to consider what schedule best fits your working style. For instance, if the popular 4/10 doesn't suit you, you can choose the 9/80 or 3/12 schedule.

The 9/80 schedule is a two-week cycle. For example, you can work for nine hours per day from Monday to Thursday and eight hours on Friday in the first week. Then, for the following week, you can work for nine hours per day from Monday to Thursday and not work on Friday. Similarly, the 3/12 schedule allows you to work three 12-hour shifts each week.

Use time management techniques

If you have difficulties adjusting to the compressed schedule, you can employ time management techniques to help keep your work on track. For example, you can consider setting daily or weekly goals. Setting short-term goals can help you create a new structure that helps you visualize how to spend a typical day. It may also help you remain motivated when working long hours.

You can consider using time management applications and timers to monitor, plan, and organize your tasks. These programs can help you track how much time you spend on particular tasks, which helps you effectively maximize your time. Using timers may also remind you to take vital breaks and help you remain focused throughout the day.

Related: How to Make Work Schedules (With Tips to Make Your Own)

Set core office hours

If each department in the company uses different schedules, it may be beneficial to establish core working hours as a norm. You can also discuss with your employer to ensure your department's core hours align with other departments you interact with constantly. This can help you collaborate effectively, even with conflicting schedules.

Communicate if you require support

It's advisable to discuss with your employer, manager, or colleagues when you need support, irrespective of your work schedule. You can communicate with your team members or manager to reduce your workload or revise your schedule to fit your tasks. Discussing your tasks, progress, and schedule with your colleagues can help reduce your stress and encourages more collaboration.

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