Compressed schedules shorten workweeks by using longer days. This guide covers types, pros, cons, legal implications, and implementation tips.

Table of contents
  1. What Is a Compressed Work Schedule?
  2. Types of Compressed Schedules + Examples
  3. Advantages of Compressed Schedules
  4. Challenges of Compressed Schedules
  5. Overtime and Legal Considerations for Compressed Schedule
  6. 6 Steps for Implementing Compressed Schedules Effectively
  7. Tips for Successfully Managing a Compressed Schedule
  8. Which Industries Benefit from Compressed Schedules?
  9. Maximizing the Efficiency of Compressed Schedules

Many modern-day workers dislike traditional 5-day work schedules.

Compressed schedules allow employees to work the same number of hours per week but in fewer days. This provides longer periods off while maintaining productivity.

However, implementing a compressed schedule requires careful consideration. In this guide, we discuss types, pros and cons, and implementation strategies for compressed schedules.

Key Takeaways

  • A compressed schedule allows employees to work standard full-time hours over fewer days. Variations include 4/10, 9/80, and 12-hour shifts.
  • Compressed schedules enhance work-life balance and reduce commuting costs, but they may increase fatigue and complicate scheduling and payroll.
  • Successful adoption requires clear communication, a trial period to gather feedback, and advanced scheduling tools to adjust schedules as needed based on operational and employee feedback.

What Is a Compressed Work Schedule?

A compressed work schedule allows employees to complete a full-time work week (typically 35-40 hours) in fewer days than the standard 5-day workweek. This is achieved by working longer hours each day for fewer days.

Compressed schedules are most commonly used in traditional office settings where work can be completed independently and doesn’t require constant customer service or production flow. This way, employees can dedicate longer stretches of uninterrupted time to their tasks.

However, they’re also used in shift-based settings where longer shifts help manage staffing shortages and minimize the total number of shift changes.

Compressed schedules can range from fixed to flexible depending on company needs and employee preferences. 

A fixed compressed schedule is common for roles where teamwork and collaboration are crucial during specific hours. For example, one company might require all workers to work Monday-Thursday from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm.

In contrast, many companies offer flexible compressed schedules. Employees might be able to choose which days they work longer—as long as the total hours meet a basic work requirement, which is often a specific number of hours (e.g., 40 hours).

They might also be able to decide when they start and stop working. Flexibility can be helpful for employees who need to schedule appointments or errands around their work hours.

🧠 Did You Know?

The Office of Human Resource Management considers compressed and flexible work schedules to be 2 distinct types of alternative work schedules. Under its definition, a compressed work schedule is always a fixed schedule. Meanwhile, a flexible schedule allows employees to choose the times they start and stop working—but they must work during certain core hours.  

This distinction is relevant mostly to government agencies, which must use the distinctions to ensure compliance with regulations and manage employee benefits. While these classifications can guide private employers’ policies, many private companies blend elements of compressed and flexible schedules.

Types of Compressed Schedules + Examples

Here are common types of compressed schedules and their examples:

4/10 schedule

The Connecteam job scheduler showing a 4/10 schedule.
The Connecteam job scheduler showing a 4/10 schedule.

A 4/10 schedule is a type of compressed workweek arrangement where employees work four 10-hour days. They get 3 consecutive days off each week, typically Friday-Sunday.

Structure:

  • Employees work for 10 hours from Monday to Thursday or any other 4 consecutive days (10 hours × 4 days = 40 hours).

Here’s a detailed table of a typical 4/10 compressed schedule over 4 weeks. 

WeekMonTueWedThuFriSatSun
Week 17  am – 5 pm (10 hours)7  am – 5 pm7  am – 5 pm7  am – 5 pmOffOffOff
Week 27  am – 5 pm7  am – 5 pm7  am – 5 pm7  am – 5 pmOffOffOff
Week 37  am – 5 pm7  am – 5 pm7  am – 5 pm7  am – 5 pmOffOffOff
Week 47  am – 5 pm7  am – 5 pm7  am – 5 pm7  am – 5 pmOffOff
Off

9/80 (5/4-9) schedule 

The Connecteam job scheduler showing a 9/80 schedule.
The Connecteam job scheduler showing a 9/80 schedule.

The 9/80 or 5/4-9 schedule is another type of compressed workweek that allows employees to work 9 days over 2 weeks instead of the traditional 10 days.

The 9/80 schedule spans 2 weeks, where employees work 9 days in 80 hours. They work eight 9-hour days and one 8-hour day, and get a total of 5 days off over the 2-week period.

Structure:

  • Week 1: Four 9-hour days (36 hours) + one 8-hour day (8 hours) = 44 hours.
  • Week 2: Four 9-hour days (36 hours) = 36 hours.
  • Total hours for 2 weeks: 44 + 36 = 80 hours. 
  • Extra day off every other week (for example, every other Friday off)

Here’s a detailed table illustrating a typical 4-week cycle of a 9/80 compressed schedule. 

WeekMonTueWedThuFriSatSun
Week 18  am – 5 pm  (9 hrs)8  am – 5 pm  8  am – 5 pm  8  am – 5 pm  8  am – 4 pm  (8 hrs)OffOff
Week 28  am – 5 pm  8  am – 5 pm  8  am – 5 pm  8  am – 5 pm  OffOffOff
Week 38  am – 5 pm 8  am – 5 pm 8  am – 5 pm 8  am – 5 pm 8  am – 4 pm  OffOff
Week 48  am – 5 pm 8  am – 5 pm 8  am – 5 pm 8  am – 5 pm OffOff
Off

12-hour compressed schedule

The 12-hour compressed work schedule (CWS) alternates between 3 and 4-day workweeks, with employees working 12-hour days during their scheduled work days.

This schedule allows for substantial periods off—typically 3 or 4 consecutive days each week.

Structure:

  • Week 1: Monday-Wednesday (3 days × 12 hours) + Thursday (8 hours) = 36 hours + 8 hours = 44 hours.
  • Week 2: Monday-Wednesday (3 days × 12 hours) = 36 hours.
  • Total hours for 2 weeks: 44 + 36 = 80 hours.

Here’s a detailed table illustrating a typical 2-week cycle of a 12-hour compressed schedule. 

WeekMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
Week 17  am – 7 pm  (12 hrs)7  am – 7 pm  7  am – 7 pm  7  am – 3 pm  (8 hrs)OffOffOff
Week 27  am – 7 pm  7  am – 7 pm  7  am – 7 pm  OffOffOffOff

🧠 Did You Know?

Certain federal workers receive night pay for any regularly scheduled work they perform between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am. While private employers aren’t required to offer night pay, doing so can incentivize employees to work longer shifts and might be useful for implementing 12-hour compressed workweeks.

Advantages of Compressed Schedules

Here are some key benefits of adopting a compressed work schedule:

  • Long weekends, every weekend: Compressed work schedules typically involve more hours per day, allowing employees to complete their weekly work hours in fewer days and enjoy extended weekends or midweek breaks. Plus, employees don’t need to request excused absences for personal matters, as they can schedule appointments and family time on their days off.

One compressed workweek employee wrote, “I love it. The in-lieu of holidays frequently leave me getting 3-4 day weekends out of it, and vacations are better when I can plan it around a holiday & and RDO, so I end up using less of my accrued time. The WLB balance worked out great, too — having a weekday off ensures I can schedule appointments without interfering with work.” 

  • Space for personal growth: Extra time off provides employees with opportunities to pursue personal projects or further education often sidelined by a hectic workweek.
  • Slashed commute costs and time: Fewer work days result in less commuting, saving on transportation costs and time spent traveling. Fewer commutes also means lower carbon footprints for the organization and employee.
  • Increased job satisfaction: An employee on a compressed schedule often experiences greater job satisfaction due to the flexibility and extended time off.
  • Lower operational costs: Businesses with fixed compressed schedules—for example, corporate offices—can save on energy, facilities management, and other operational expenses on days when the office is closed.
  • Mental refresh: Extended breaks from the workplace can help reduce burnout and improve overall mental health and job satisfaction, leading to lower turnover.
  • Focused efforts: Longer work days can encourage more concentrated work periods, with fewer starts and stops, leading to higher productivity.

Challenges of Compressed Schedules

While the benefits are substantial, there are also challenges and considerations to keep in mind. Here are some:

  • Drains stamina: The need for prolonged concentration and physical stamina in a 9,10, or 12-hour day can lead to decreased productivity as fatigue sets in. This is particularly challenging in jobs requiring continuous mental or physical engagement.

One compressed workweek employee said, “it all depends on whether you can stand that extra hour on the days you have them and whether a 3-day weekend is worth that to you. I tried it and found that last hour was freakin ENDLESS. I couldn’t keep it up but a couple of months and went back to the normal schedule.”

  • Wrangles with workload: Implementing compressed schedules complicates scheduling and payroll. For businesses with shift-based operations, aligning team schedules to cover all roles effectively—without overlaps or gaps—can be difficult due to the reduced number of workdays. Also, adjusting payroll systems for non-standard work hours to comply with overtime regulations can be challenging.
  • Alters team chemistry: For businesses that allow for varying work days—for example, businesses with flexible compressed schedules—different off days among team members can disrupt project timelines and communication, potentially affecting team chemistry and workflow.
  • Strains service standards: For roles with direct customer interaction, longer workdays may negatively impact customer service quality as employees become fatigued.
  • Impacts work-life quality: While aimed at improving work-life balance with longer weekends, the intensive workweek may leave employees too exhausted to enjoy their time off.

I did CWS for three years,” one compressed workweek employee wrote. “I ended up dropping it as I hated it. Maybe if my agency was a bit more flexible about the start time/end time, I would try it again. But being in the office from 7ish to almost 6 and then commute back home leaves me with hardly any time at home to have my hobbies. 

  • Amplifies health risks: Increased work hours heighten health and safety risks. This leads to a higher chance of errors and accidents, especially in critical sectors like healthcare and construction.

📚 This Might Interest You:

Read our in-depth guide on common shift types and industries that use them.

When implementing a compressed work schedule, ensure it complies with employment laws and meets all contractual and legal obligations.

We discuss some of these below. 

Overtime rules for non-exempt employees

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), non-exempt employees must receive overtime pay for any hours worked over 40 in a workweek. This can complicate compressed schedules, as longer work days might lead to overtime hours payments if employees exceed 40 hours in a week.

For example, if a non-exempt employee works a 9/80 schedule (nine 9-hour days and one 8-hour day over 2 weeks), they’d work 45 hours in 1 week, requiring overtime pay for the 5 extra hours​ (DOL)​.

💡 Pro Tip:

Redefine your workweek to help with overtime costs. The FLSA defines a workweek as a fixed, recurring period of 168 hours across seven consecutive 24-hour periods. So if your employees work four 9-hour days Monday-Thursday and an additional 8 hours every other Friday, consider setting your workweek from Friday noon to Friday noon. This setup ensures all 40 work hours are neatly contained within the defined workweek, helping you avoid overtime.

State-specific overtime regulations

Some states have stricter overtime regulations. For instance, in California, non-exempt employees must receive overtime pay if they work more than 8 hours in a day—even if they don’t exceed 40 hours in a week. This makes implementing compressed schedules more challenging in such states​.

You might need to comply with other federal and state laws and regulations when implementing a compressed workweek. Here are some examples: 

Speak to a labor lawyer to learn more about the laws and regulations that might impact you. 

Also, don’t forget that union agreements might also impact your ability to implement these schedules. 

6 Steps for Implementing Compressed Schedules Effectively

Implementing compressed schedules effectively requires careful planning and communication. Here are the key steps.

  1. Assess feasibility: Evaluate whether certain roles and tasks are suitable for a compressed schedule, considering impacts on operations and customer service.
  2. Develop a proposal: Outline the benefits, potential challenges, and solutions for the new schedule. Include strategies to minimize any negative impacts. For example, a strategy for helping employees who are struggling with the new schedule might be offering more flexibility.
  3. Obtain approval: Present the proposal to stakeholders like supervisors, HR, and the team, ensuring compliance with company policies and labor laws. 
  4. Communicate with employees: Clearly explain the new schedule, set expectations, and provide a forum for questions and concerns. 
  5. Pilot the schedule: Implement a trial, monitor the outcomes, and collect employee and supervisor feedback. Look at your employees’ productivity, satisfaction, and more.
  6. Monitor and adjust: To ensure the success of a compressed schedule, you should regularly solicit feedback after you’ve implemented it. This helps assess the new schedule’s impact on productivity and employee well-being.

💡 Pro Tip:

The beauty of compressed workweeks is their adaptability. Don’t feel confined to traditional models like the 9/80 or 4/10 schedule. You can customize them to meet your business and employee needs effectively. 

Tips for Successfully Managing a Compressed Schedule

Let’s discuss some strategies to ensure that the implementation of the compressed schedule goes smoothly.

  • Store information on the new schedule in an easy-to-access location, like a company knowledge base.
  • Use scheduling tools and apps to keep track of everyone’s hours and availability and manage compressed schedules effectively.
  • Monitor workloads to ensure they’re evenly distributed, preventing any team member from becoming overwhelmed.
  • Encourage employees to tackle high-priority tasks during their most productive times.
  • Promote regular breaks throughout the workday to help team members recharge and maintain productivity. Use a break management app like Connecteam to maintain full oversight of employees’ meal and break periods.
  • Hold regular feedback sessions to assess how the compressed schedule is working and make necessary adjustments. You can do this through surveys, 1:1 discussions or group sessions using communication tools.
  • Support employee well-being with activities or practices that help manage stress and fatigue. For example, provide access to wellness programs
  • Celebrate team wins to keep morale high and acknowledge the effective management of the new schedule.

💡 Pro Tip:

Use scheduling software to manage the complexities of a compressed workweek. For instance, Connecteam offers features to streamline scheduling, enhance communication, gather employee feedback through surveys, and boost morale through digital rewards and recognition.

An illustration showing Connecteam’s recognition and rewards interface

Which Industries Benefit from Compressed Schedules?

Compressed work schedules boost productivity and employee satisfaction across various sectors:

  • Corporate sectors, particularly office settings
  • Technology and IT
  • Healthcare (non-emergency roles)
  • Manufacturing and production
  • Government and public sector
  • Retail (management and backend operations)

Maximizing the Efficiency of Compressed Schedules

Compressed work schedules offer a flexible and efficient way to balance work and personal life. However, they come with challenges such as burnout, scheduling complexities, and reduced work-life quality.

To successfully adopt compressed schedules, carefully assess feasibility, and develop a clear implementation plan.

Finally, consider using employee scheduling software like Connecteam to create compressed schedules, track time and attendance, monitor scheduling conflicts, and get overtime alerts—all from one app.

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