Is This Type of Flex Workweek Right For You?

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April 14, 2024 at 5:23PM UTC
Did you know you could work four days a week, instead of the traditional five? Depending on your line of work, it's possible to request compressed work weeks, meaning working full-time for fewer days out of the week and adding an extra day or more to your weekend

To help you decide if this is something worth exploring, we've provided a breakdown of this flex work choice, the upsides and downsides of requesting one and how to know if compressed workweeks may be right for you.

What are compressed shifts?

A compressed shift schedule is similar to that of a rotating shift schedule because it allows employees to variate the days and times they work to meet their 35-40 hour requirement. This is especially convenient for folks who have other priorities to tend to — be they professional or personal — outside of the office.
Compressed workweeks come in a number of forms, and are often customized based on an individual's needs, their job responsibilities and their company's goals. For example, someone in a production role, such as an editorial associate or a product engineer, may be able to work on a compressed shift schedule, so long as their work is completed by their set deadlines. Those in people-facing roles, such as account executives or teachers, may not have the option to work compressed workweeks because their responsibilities require them to be present and available on all weekdays.

Types of compressed workweeks.

Compressed shift schedules may be in place for a short period of time or permanently. Some of the more common combinations include the 4/10 hour day schedule, where employees work 10 hours for four days out of the week and the 9/80 work schedule, which allows employees to work eight nine-hour days and one eight-hour day over the span of two weeks. An individual can also opt to work three 12-hour days, with two weekdays off or even nine nine-hour days, an eight-hour Friday and the following Friday off. 

Compressed workweek advantages.

There are many pros to working on a compressed shift schedule, some more obvious than others, which can include the following:
  • You won't have to commute to work for a day or two.
  • You'll get to keep your full-time income while working fewer days.
  • Your commute might fall outside rush hour.
  • You'll have more time to focus on work before people come and go.
  • You'll use less gasoline and won't have to worry about parking as often.
  • You'll have more time to prioritize other (time-sensitive) responsibilities.

Compressed workweek disadvantages.

Though a flex schedule might sound tempting, there are many cons to working compressed shifts, too. 
Here are some to look out for:
  • You may become physically or mentally drained.
  • It may be harder to find childcare within your work hours.
  • You'll have fewer hours after work for leisure.
  • Depending on the demands of your schedule, you may be at risk of burning out.
  • You'll need to perform even more productively at work, since you'll have fewer days to complete tasks.

Finding the right flex fit.

1. First, consider if this is the right schedule for you.

Decide on your motives for requesting a condensed work week. Is it because you want to dedicate more time to personal admin? Or, because it'll improve your work-life balance in some other way? And, weigh out the cons. Would fewer workdays make you feel less connected to the company? Do you think you'll complete tasks as efficiently in longer workdays?
Whatever your reasons, get clear with yourself about why a compressed workweek is a necessity for you (and whether it is at all). That'll only strengthen your case when you bring it to your manager.

2. Then, decide what type of compressed work schedule you'd like.

There are many combinations for you to choose from, but which will bring you maximum satisfaction both in the office and on your own time? Could a 4/10 or 9/80 schedule help you meet your needs? Or, do you need something more specific like every other Thursday off? 
If you have trouble with this step, try creating a mock agenda. Block out the day(s) you'd like to keep for yourself, and try assigning your responsibilities across different days. Consider how much time you need for each task, how often you need to complete them and even what days and times you need to be present in the office. And think, how will you set yourself up for success on your last weekday to prepare for the next week?
Then, do the same for your day(s) off: What will you use that extra day for? How will you break up your time so you can work most efficiently? And how will you most productively use this time?

Ready to request?

Depending on the company you work for, requesting a compressed workweek can mean a quick visit to your HR manager and filling out paperwork, or as elaborate as writing a proposal to your manager. If it's the latter, take note of how your responsibilities, weekly and quarterly goals can be met (even exceeded!) in a compressed shift schedule. You may also choose to disclose how a compressed workweek will help keep you productive outside of the office. Then, request a trial run.  
For one or more weeks, test out your compressed work schedule to see if you actually are more productive (or at least just as) when you work more hours in fewer days. And be honest with yourself during this time. After all, you want your workweek to work with you — not against you. 

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Stephanie Nieves is the SEO & Editorial Associate on the Fairygodboss team. Her words can also be found on MediumPayScale and The Muse.

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