compressed work schedule

Compressed Workweek: What Is It and Should Your Company Use It?

Many managers are trading the strict 9-to-5 workweek for a more flexible, compressed workweek. Of course, that type of schedule doesn’t suit all businesses. But when it does, it has many benefits for owners and employees alike.

In this article, we discuss those benefits and the different types of compressed work schedules you can try in your business.

Table of contents

What is a compressed workweek?

A normal, full-time workweek is Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. This yields the industry-standard 40 hours of work per week.

A compressed workweek (a.k.a. compressed work schedule), on the other hand, has employees working the same amount of hours in fewer days. Sometimes, a compressed workweek even spans two different weeks.

There are many ways to set up a compressed work schedule. Let’s look at examples of the most common types.

The different types of compressed work schedules

1) Four 10-hour days

Restaurant that uses a compressed workweek schedule

This is arguably the most common type of compressed workweek and is the leading alternative to the regular 9-to-5 schedule. In this type of schedule, employees work Monday through Thursday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (or 6 p.m. with an unpaid lunch) for a total of 40 hours in four days.

This compressed workweek is best implemented in office settings, but it can also be useful — with the right planning — in restaurants, retail, and other businesses that are open more than eight hours per day.

2) 9/80

The 9/80 compressed work schedule is a bit complicated from a payroll perspective, but it is a viable alternative schedule for most businesses. In a 9/80 work schedule, employees work four 9-hour days from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (36 hours total) followed by one 8-hour day from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The first four hours of the 8-hour day are applied to the current workweek for a total of 40 hours. The second four hours of the 8-hour day are applied to the next workweek that starts the following Monday.

After Saturday and Sunday off, employees return and work another four 9-hour days from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (36 hours total).

When added together with the four hours from the previous Friday, employees will have worked 40 hours in nine days. They then get the tenth day (Friday) off.

3) Three 12-hour days

Manager creating a compressed workweek

Some professions define full-time as 36 hours instead of 40. Many of these same professions — like nursing and firefighting — require round-the-clock coverage.

To minimize the number of shifts per day, these businesses utilize a type of compressed work schedule that has employees working three 12-hour days. After those three workdays, employees receive four days off to rest and recuperate.

4) 5/4/9

The 5/4/9 work schedule makes it possible for employees to amass 80 hours over two weeks in fewer than the normal 10 business days.

In the 5/4/9 schedule, employees clock four 9-hour days and one 8-hour day during one workweek and then four 9-hour days during the following workweek.

In essence, employees will work a 44-hour week Monday through Friday followed by a 36-hour week (Monday through Thursday) and a full day off.

Here’s what it might look like on your schedule:

Monday: 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. – 1 hour lunch break – 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (9 hours total)
Tuesday: 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. – 1 hour lunch break – 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (9 hours total)
Wednesday: 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. – 1 hour lunch break – 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (9 hours total)
Thursday: 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. – 1 hour lunch break – 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (9 hours total)
Friday: 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. – 1 hour lunch break – 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. (8 hours total)

Total for the first week: 44 hours

Monday: 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. – 1 hour lunch break – 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (9 hours total)
Tuesday: 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. – 1 hour lunch break – 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (9 hours total)
Wednesday: 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. – 1 hour lunch break – 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (9 hours total)
Thursday: 7 a.m. to 12 p.m. – 1 hour lunch break – 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. (9 hours total)
Friday: OFF

Total for the second week: 36 hours

This schedule also allows for a bit of flexibility in the start, stop, and lunch periods. For example, you could start later in the morning and work to 6 p.m. or 7 p.m. at night. Or, you could shorten the one-hour lunch break and adjust the start and stop times accordingly.

The 5/4/9 compressed work schedule can be customized to fit the needs of your team and your business.

5) Variations

The nice thing about compressed workweeks is that you can tailor them to fit your employees (and your business’s) needs.

For example, you could implement a variation on the 9/80 compressed workweek schedule and simply do away with the two-week split. Your employees would then work 9-hour days Monday through Thursday and one 4-hour day on Friday.

Or you could change it up even more and have employees work three 10-hour days Monday through Wednesday and two 5-hour days Thursday through Friday. You’re still getting 40 hours of work each week, but the schedule is compressed (be it the number of days worked or the number of hours on several days) when compared to the standard 9-to-5 workweek.

What are the benefits of a compressed workweek?

Employee enjoying his time off during a compressed workweek

A compressed workweek holds several potential benefits for your business and your employees. Here are a few ways this unique schedule can improve the way you work.

More rest

Employees will have more time to recuperate from their workweek and will be recharged and ready to go come Monday. That’s better for their engagement for the overall productivity of your business.

Work/life balance

The extra time (or days) they’re not at work gives your employees more time to take care of personal business so that it doesn’t encroach on work hours. This can mean fewer sick days, fewer no-call/no-shows, and fewer time-off requests for your business.

Less commuting

If you implement a four 10-hour day compressed workweek, your employees will have an extra four days off each month during which they won’t have to sit in traffic, they won’t have to use gas, and they won’t have to put miles on their cars.

Improved task completion

The extra hour of work during the 9-hour days may improve your team’s ability to complete tasks without having to stop and restart again in the morning.

And, depending on what they’re working on, they may be able to finish bigger, more complicated projects in a single day because they have an extra hour or more during which they can focus on the task at hand.

Incentive for new employees

In addition to providing benefits for your existing team, a compressed work schedule can also serve as a hiring incentive for new employees.

When you include the novel schedule as a benefit that everyone can enjoy, new hires will see the value of achieving a work-life balance that better fits their needs right from the start.

That can make your business more attractive and help you pull in and retain high-performing team members.

What are the disadvantages of a compressed workweek?

Work station with computer

While it may sound too good to be true, a compressed workweek does come with some disadvantages.


Sometimes, employees want to take the compressed workweek even further and adjust when they arrive to and depart from work (commonly known as flextime). So instead of working 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, one employee may ask to work from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m.

This can complicate scheduling, team meetings, and group collaboration.

Longer workdays

Employees are often used to working eight hours per day, so anything more than that can leave them feeling like they only have time to go home, eat dinner, and go to bed. That can wear on morale and teamwork after a while.

Alternate days off

An employee may ask to switch the regular days off to better accommodate their schedule. So instead of working Monday through Thursday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., they may want to work Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

To avoid these complications, which apply directly to your scheduling activities, make it clear in your employee handbook that once the compressed workweek is implemented, there is very little room for change.

Gaps and downtime

For some businesses, a compressed work schedule may lead to gaps in coverage if you don’t manage things carefully.

To make a compressed schedule work, you may have to hire more team members which, in turn, may increase your labor costs beyond what your business can handle.

In some cases, your customers and other businesses may not be active during the extra hour(s) of work that come with a compressed schedule. This can lead to excess downtime that may adversely affect your team’s productivity.

Be sure to investigate all aspects of the new schedule — including how many employees you’ll need to make it work and how it gels with other business and client schedules.

Tips for implementing a compressed work schedule

Leadership discussing a compressed work schedule


Before you introduce a compressed work schedule into the workflow, take time to discuss the change with your team, listen to any concerns they might have, and do your best to address any issues they bring up.

Before the new schedule goes “live,” post the arrangement with plenty of advance notice and allow a bit of time for employees to make changes if necessary.

Consider using scheduling software, like Sling, that gives your employees the ability to check the schedule and monitor changes from anywhere and at any time so there’s as little confusion as possible.

Provide guidance

If you’re implementing a compressed schedule for the first time — or new employees are joining a team that is already working such a schedule — it’s a good idea to provide guidance on how best to make the transition.

This is especially important if members of your team have never worked this kind of schedule before.

Consider offering advice about things like:

  • How to eat on long work days
  • When to take breaks
  • When to go to bed (if starting earlier than normal)
  • Lifestyle choices that can impact their work

Post those tips in your employee handbook so everyone can access them without difficulty.

Pick the right start time

As we touched on earlier, most compressed work schedules allow for some variation to better suit the way your team works.

A big part of making these novel schedules fit into your business is picking the right start time.

There’s nothing that says that you have to start at 7 a.m. and work until 6 p.m. It might be better for your team to start at 7:30 a.m. and work until 4:30 a.m. without a formal lunch break.

If that covers their needs and the needs of your business, by all means, go for it.

Utilize scheduling software

Making and revising schedules can take up a large amount of time. Using employee management software with a powerful scheduling component can help you automate a huge part of the process.

Sling, for example, offers an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that lets you create and save schedule templates for future use.

You’ll be able to manage time-off requests and availability changes and have clear visibility of who’s working when — even across multiple locations and multiple types of compressed work schedule.

The compressed work schedule for restaurants

The compressed work schedule for restaurants

While the compressed workweek is more common in office environments, you can also adapt it to work in a restaurant setting.

You might choose to divide your team into four groups and arrange them in such a way that Team A and Team B work a compressed schedule so that they get a day off at the end of two weeks (i.e. Friday).

Team C and Team D would then work a similar (but slightly different) compressed schedule so that they get a day off at the beginning of two weeks (i.e. Monday).

That way, Team C and Team D are working when Team A and Team B are off and vice versa.

And, yes, that may sound complicated, but there is a way to make sense of even the most convoluted staff rota and streamline the work you put in to put it all together.

Read on to learn more.

Sling makes compressed work schedules simple

Sling app

Regardless of the type of compressed workweek you choose, the best way to plan when your employees will work is with scheduling and time-tracking software like Sling.

Sling’s suite of tools — including scheduling, time clock, labor cost analysis and planning, employee messages, newsfeed, and tasks — makes creating even the most complex rotating shift or night shift as simple as point, click, and go.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit today.

This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR, or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.

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