What Is a Compressed Work Week?

See if a compressed work week is right for you.

What Is a Compressed Work Week and Is It Right For You
Getty Images/John Wildgoose

Did you hear a friend talking about working a compressed work week? It sounds pretty good, doesn't it? Compressing work sounds like you'd be working less, but that's not the case. A compressed work week or compressed work schedule is a working 40-hours in a non-traditional way instead of a traditional 9-5 five day work week.

There are many different schedules you could negotiate for and many benefits you could experience.

If you're thinking about approaching your employer about working a compressed work schedule get in the know about this unique work solution.

Consider If This Schedule Is Right For You

Perhaps you won't want to trade those fleeting morning and evening hours with young children for a full day off when the kids are in school. Or perhaps you have a physically or mentally intense job that would drain you if you set up a longer work day. You'd be working longer hours that you're used to and will need to stay focused for longer periods of time. Also, you'll need to have child care that can cover your unusual work hours.  

On the plus side, you'll continue to earn full-time income while gaining more flexibility. You'll also limit the number of days you have to commute. You'll have less disruptions at work because you'll have more free time to take care of doctor or dentist appointments for both you and your kids.

Your work schedule will be more predictable because you won't need to take time off to take care of things as often. Can you picture your family Friday outings once per month?  It'd be great to visit places and not have to stand in line and wait.

Decide What Type of Compress Work Schedule You'd Like

How could you compress your 35-40 hour workload into a shorter number of days?

If you're coming up blank here are a few suggestions. You could work (9) 9-hour days then takes the tenth day off. So you'll work long days Monday through Thursday, a regular day on Friday, and then take the next Friday off. Another compressed work schedule is working a (4)10-hour days and take the fifth weekday off. For example, you could work Monday through Thursday 8 AM to 6 PM then get every Friday off. A common schedule seen in nursing, fire fighters or other occupations that require 24-hour shift coverage is working (3) 12-hour days and having four week days off.

Determine How This Schedule Would Improve Your Work/Life Balance

Having one or more days off from work could certainly improve your work/life balance. Working parents could volunteer at the school more. They could catch up on household errands when the grocery store isn't crowded and there's no small children underfoot. It can provide a long weekend to catch up on work or household chores due to work travel.  Many individuals swear by a compressed work week in helping them balance work and family responsibilities like finding time to exercise, meditate, or just do the things that they really want to do.

Have you thought about going back to school?

 You could use this day off to earn another degree, such as an executive MBA, which is often offered on a series of long weekends. Your company would benefit from your education as it'd help your job performance.

Or perhaps you live in an area with exceedingly long commute times, and you prefer to arrive before the worst of the morning traffic and leave after the evening rush hour fades. Your manager may be more content knowing that you won't run late or try to duck out early. A compressed work schedule would help set expectations that regardless of the state of traffic you'll be in the office promptly.

How to Request A Compressed Work Week

Some companies offer a compressed work week as part of their regular menu of flexible work options, alongside telecommuting, a reduced hour schedule, job sharing and flex time.

Implementing it for yourself can be as simple as a visit to the human resources manager and filling out some paperwork.

But even if your employer doesn't proactively offer a compressed work week, you can make the business case for this arrangement. Document how your job duties and monthly and yearly goals could be squeezed into a shorter two-week work cycle. Explain how a longer work day might actually increase your productivity because you'll have longer stretches of focused time to work.

 

Now that you understand what a compressed work week looks like and the pros and cons of it you can decide if this is right for you.  Find those friends and co-workers who were talking about their schedule and get their take on it.  And who knows, maybe this schedule is just what you need to be able to sway between work and life.

Updated by Elizabeth McGrory