Compressed Work Week

A traditional 35- to 40-hour work week is condensed into fewer than five days of work. This option is more easily applied to non-exempt (weekly paid) staff for whom maximum work hours are identified, but it is not ruled out for monthly paid staff who may work more than 40 hours during the work week. The Fair Labor Standards Act requires weekly paid staff to be paid overtime if they work over 40 hours in a work week.

How Does a Compressed Schedule Work?

Typical Compressed Work schedules are:

  • For a 40-hour per week position: ten hour days (plus one hour each day for lunch) Monday through Thursday with Friday off.
  • Much longer than normal hours three days per week and no work during two traditional work days each week. For a thirty-five (35) hour per week position, eleven 2 (plus one hour for lunch) hours per day Monday and Tuesday, a twelve hour day (plus one hour for lunch) on Wednesday.
  • Somewhat longer than normal hours four days per week and a half day on the fifth day. The balance of the fifth day is not worked. For a thirty-seven and a half (37.5) hour work week, nine 2 hours Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Wednesday is a four 2 hour work day with the morning off.
  • Somewhat longer than normal hours for nine days in a ten day/two week period with the tenth day off. For a forty (40) hour a week assignment, nine days at nine hours (plus an hour for lunch) with the tenth day off.

Benefits

  • Time to go to school, manage dependent care responsibilities, pursue a hobby or professional development.
  • Reduced commuting wear, tear, and costs.
  • Increased cross training.
  • Improved scheduling for peak workloads.

Challenges

Some jobs are not appropriate for a compressed schedule. If the work requires a five-day-a-week presence, then this type of schedule is not feasible. Penn’s monthly-paid work schedule is considered to be 40 hours a week including an hour for lunch each day. Compressing a full-time exempt assignment into fewer days is likely to require more than 10 hours at work a day. Inefficiency or burnout can be a concern due to very long days in the office. Important deadlines or events may occur on weekdays when the staff member is not working. Both the staff member and supervisor need to be flexible to respond to special situations. The impact on other staff members in the office must be considered.

Considerations

  • Can the job be done over three, four, or four and one-half days rather than the traditional five day week and/or outside the range of traditional work week hours?
  • Will the organization's overall mission be met with this adjustment in place?
  • Is it necessary for all staff members in a similar job or in a unit to work the exact same schedule?
  • Will customers' needs be met?
  • Is staff interaction an important component of the work?
  • Can staff members cover for each other on days off?
  • Will there be a common time for staff meetings?
  • How will issues of accountability be addressed?
  • Will the extended schedules create any issues regarding supervision, including time of arrival and departure?
  • Is the arrangement right for the individual?
  • Does the staff member require supervision or access to a supervisor at all times?
  • Will it be necessary to monitor arrivals and departures?

Next Steps

  1. Consider completing a Staff Member Flexible Work Arrangement Self-Assessment  first because it will help you prepare the most powerful proposal.
  2. Prepare a formal proposal to your supervisor to clarify the desired arrangement and the likely benefits to the organization.The proposal should focus on the business case and not the reason you would like this arrangement.
    1. advantage to the unit.
    2. proposed work plan.
    3. proposed schedule.
    4. plan for communication/cooperation.
    5. plan for continuity.
  3. If the proposal is accepted, a formal agreement is recommended to clarify approved plans and the pilot nature of the arrangement.
  4. The arrangement should be piloted. A pilot experience of 3-6 months is recommended.
  5. At the end of the pilot period, the arrangement should be evaluated. Either party may end the arrangement if it does not meet the organizational/or personal needs.

Tips for Success

For the manager/supervisor:

The decision to authorize a compressed work week, either on an individual or a group basis, should be carefully considered in terms of coverage and communication. It is also a good idea to make final approval contingent upon a trial period, after which any adjustments can be made to areas that are not functioning smoothly.

  • Support your staff. As with other flexible work arrangements, the supervisor's support is critical. Work scheduling and communication problems constitute the major reasons for the failure of Compressed Work schedules. Supervisor contribution to the design of the schedule can help resolve these issues in advance.
  • Consider coverage issues. Without careful planning, coverage problems can emerge. Assess coverage needs and schedule overlapping teams or a mix of Compressed Work schedules with standard schedules. This can help ensure that sufficient support is on hand for critical functions.
  • Customer service. With more days off, staff members will be missing from your office every day. This could make it hard for clients to meet with reps or for team leaders to address groups.
  • Communicate. Communication between teams or between supervisors and staff members can be a problem. Formal communication plans can resolve this issue.

For the staff member:

  • Fatigue. While an ongoing schedule of ten-hour or nine-hour days may be the norm for some professionals already, it can be physically and mentally draining. Inefficiency or burnout can be a concern due to very long days in the office. Not only is the workweek squeezed into a shorter time frame, but all the after-work activities must also be wedged into the remaining hours of each work day.
  • Adaptability. Important deadlines or events may occur on weekdays when the staff member is not working. Both the staff member and supervisor need to be flexible to respond to special situations.

Common Questions

"I need five-day-a-week coverage, how can I authorize a four-day work week?"

Compressed work weeks are often used in conjunction with other scheduling arrangements. There may be some staff members who prefer a standard work week; or you may have two overlapping shifts--one Monday through Thursday, the other Tuesday through Friday or Wednesday through Saturday. In some places, staff members have designed a rotating coverage system.

"Some staff members are worried about fatigue or getting home too late. What can be done for them?"

Piloting an arrangement can allow for the quickest assessment of where problems may lie. Adjustments can be made to the arrangements to overcome these concerns. If a compressed work schedule is not working, the individual can return to the former traditional schedule.

"How will compensation be affected by this arrangement?"

Individuals in weekly paid positions (those that are not exempt from the Fair Labor Standards Act) can work more than eight hours in a day without having their pay affected as long as they do not work more than forty hours a week. Individuals in FLSA exempt positions can work as many hours a day or week as necessary to complete the job without impact on their salary.

"Will benefits be affected by the Compressed Work week?"

Benefits are not likely to be affected by this arrangement, since a full-time work schedule is maintained. Any questions regarding benefits should be directed to PENN-Ben at 1-888-736-6236.

"How will my paid time off be affected?"

Tracking and use of paid time off are best checked with the Staff and Labor Relations office at 215-898-6093.