Management

What’s a 9/80 Work Schedule and What’s in It for Me?

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What’s a 9/80 Work Schedule and What’s in It for Me?
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What’s a 9/80 Work Schedule and What’s in It for Me?

Sometimes little things can make all the difference. A small cup of espresso can ease you into the workday, or a tiny increase in pay can allow you to eat out once a week.

A brief happy hour with friends on a Friday afternoon, too, can jumpstart a relaxing weekend. For so many of us, however, the weekend isn’t a time to relax at all. Instead, it’s a window of opportunity to catch up on laundry, complete home improvement projects and shop for groceries. The list of errands can easily last until Sunday evening. Then it’s back to the grind on Monday morning.

But a little tweak to the regular 9 to 5 schedule poses to change all of that. The 9/80 work schedule promises weekends with leisure and relaxation. It efficiently compresses work schedules, allowing for more days away from the office.

You might be surprised at all the positive impacts a small change makes to the workweek. But the 9/80 schedule provides a multitude of benefits to individuals, workplace cultures, and even a community at large. Although it does pose some challenges as well.

Just what is the 9/80 schedule and how did it come about? Why would an employee adopt it, or an employer offer it? This article answers these questions, and sheds light on both the positive and negative impacts of alternative work schedules in general.

Ins and Outs of a 9/80 Schedule

The Ins and Outs of a 9/80 Schedule, With Examples

A 9/80 work schedule is what’s known as a compressed schedule. Essentially, it takes the standard schedule of working forty hours from Monday through Friday and compresses it into fewer days. Let’s see what this looks like in the following examples.

Example 1: A Traditional 9/80 Schedule

Most commonly, the 9/80 is a rotating two week schedule where an employee takes every other Friday off. Here’s a breakdown of the bi-weekly schedule.

Week 1: An employee works 9 hour days Monday through Thursday, then 8 hours on Friday, for a total of 44 hours.

Week 2: The employee again works 9 hour days Monday through Thursday, for a total of 36 hours, then then takes Friday off.

The cycle resumes the following week.

Between the two weeks, then, an employee works 80 hours, or an average of 40 hours each week. The “9” in “9/80” refers to nine days, and the “80” to 80 hours total. To reach a total of 80 hours, 8 of the 9 workdays last 9 hours, while the ninth day is only 8.

Example 2: A Front Loaded 9/80 Schedule

A front-loaded 9/80 schedule places the bulk of hours in the first week.

Week 1: An employee works 10 hour days Monday through Friday, for a total of 50 hours.

Week 2: The employee works 7.5 hour days Monday through Thursday, then takes Friday off.

Again, in this example, the employee works a total of 80 hours over two weeks.

While these are two common adaptations of a 9/80 schedule, there are many more possibilities. An employee can work 9.5 days Monday through Thursday for two weeks, and only four hours on the first Friday. Or an employee can take off on a day other than Friday, such as a Wednesday. The essence, however, remains the same: a traditional ten day, forty hour work week is compressed into nine days.

While the 9/80 schedule does introduce some accounting complications for regular employees, which are discussed more later, for contractors and freelancers this isn’t an issue.

Many corporations and industries have adapted the 9/80 schedule. It’s popular within government contractors and in the defense industry with corporations such as Raytheon and Lockhead. Sometimes employees must complete their probation period before qualifying for the 9/80 schedule.

The 9/80 schedule is only one example of a compressed schedule. Another is the “4/10/40,” which compresses a forty hour week into four ten hour days. One more is the “3 by 12 + 1/2 day,” which compresses the workweek into three twelve hour days and one four hour day. This introduces the broader topic of alternative work schedules, which we’ll delve into next.

Alternative Work Schedules

A Summary & History of Alternative Work Schedules

The standard five day, forty hour work week isn’t so established as one might think. Just one hundred years ago, in fact, it was a fairly new proposition. Until then, it was common for employees to work six days each week, particularly in manufacturing.

Attitudes toward labor shifted during the 1920s, however. In 1926, the Ford Motor Company reduced the work week from six to five days, beginning with manufacturers and then shifting to office workers. In making this change, Ford wanted to build a culture that provided employees time for family, rest and relaxation. It also hoped the increased respite would boost production during the five work days. The five day week became a national trend, and by the end of the decade hundreds of organizations had adopted it. This practice became law with the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which also ensured employees a minimum wage and overtime pay.

But shiny new toys are always begging for reinvention. Before long, problems with the newly established five day work week started to surface. Perhaps ironically, the standardization of labor that Ford spearheaded led to too many cars on the road at the same time, and large cities dealt with chronic traffic congestion. Employees railed against the inflexibility of their work schedules. And employers sought methods to attract and retain talent.

Within a few decades, tweaks on the original model began to emerge, commonly known as alternative work schedules (AWS). It’s taken on all sorts of adaptations for a variety of reasons. There’s flexible work, remote work, and compressed schedules. Let’s break down what some of these key terms mean.

Part-time Work

Just as it sounds, part-time work shortens the regular work week. For example, a forty hour week can be shortened to 32, where an employee would work four shifts of eight hours.

Remote Work

Remote work is when an employee works away from a central office and communicates with a team digitally.

Hybrid Work

A hybrid model combines remote and in-person work. Someone comes into work a few days a week, and works remotely on the other days.

Flexible Schedule

A flexible schedule, generally, is where all employees work during core hours. These hours generally are midday, such as between 10 and 2. But on either side of this window, it’s any employee’s preference when to start or end the day. Some may work from 7 to 3, while others from 10 to 6. So long as the workday lasts 8 hours, they begin and end the day as they choose.

Some variations of flexible schedules allow employees to vary the number of hours they work each day, so long as the weekly total is 40 hours. For example, someone may come in for 10 hours Monday through Wednesday, then five on Thursday and Friday.

Compressed Schedule

As mentioned earlier, a compressed schedule shortens a forty hour work week into fewer days. This takes on a variety of forms, and can shorten ten workdays into nine, or five workdays into four.

Annualized Hours

This work schedule assigns employees a certain number of hours to work each year. It is popular for project-based or seasonal work, where an employee is in high demand for short bursts, then not needed for a duration of time.

As you can see, alternative work schedules have taken on many forms. As the forty hour work week is the legal standard, an AWS introduces many complications. Each of these schedules must take into account things like overtime, holiday pay, and paid time off.

Benefits to a 9/80 Schedule

6 Benefits to a 9/80 Schedule

The 9/80 schedule has really caught on, as it offers many benefits to employers, employees, and the community at large.

1. A Day Off

With the 9/80 schedule, Labor Day doesn’t just come once a year. It comes every other weekend! The opportunity for mini vacations abounds. And on holiday weekends, this vacation extends to four whole days off work.

2. A Cure for Burnout

The daily grind can be a sure recipe for burnout. Between raising kids, managing a household, and keeping down a job, a person has little time left for relaxation, leisure and even sleep. The 9/80 creates a breather day. It’s an ideal window for completing all sorts of tasks and chores and clearing the way for a relaxing Saturday and Sunday.

3. A Quiet Day for the ‘Leftovers’

In an organization that offers a 9/80 schedule, generally some people opt in and others opt out. This means that every second Friday, only a small portion of the workforce shows up at the office. This creates a workspace with less jibber jabber and fewer interruptions, and allows for focused deep work.

4. Fewer Commuters on the Road

The 9/80 schedule reduces an employee’s commute time by 10%. This is a huge boon for anyone with a long, heinous commute. Additionally, when broadly applied across a community or large organization, the 9/80 schedule significantly reduces the number of cars on the road during rush hour. Fridays become a much welcome respite from congestion on major highways.

5. A Regular Workplace Rhythm

One problem with taking a single vacation day is that no one else in the office is taking the same day off. It’s not unlikely that you’ll be bombarded with work emails on your mini-vacation.

However, with the 9/80 schedule, the entire organization anticipates this day off. It becomes built into the culture and rhythm of the work cycle. This allows employees to have some momentary detachment from work obligations.

6. An Enticing Perk

A workplace culture that values employee well-being is attractive for job seekers. The 9/80 schedule is one way that a company offers flexibility and attracts and retains talent.

With so many perks, it’s no wonder that many employers, employees and city officials advocate for the 9/80 schedule. However, it does pose significant challenges as well.

Challenges to a 9/80 Schedule

8 Challenges to a 9/80 Schedule

While the 9/80 schedule offers a range of benefits, it also has many other effects that are not entirely positive. Let’s consider some of the downsides and challenges to implementing this schedule into the workplace.

1. Ripple Effects

In an organization with thousands of employees, when a plurality routinely doesn’t show up for work, it impacts the organization as a whole. For example, the demand for cafeteria workers and janitors drops significantly on the breather day. And so in an organization that adopts the 9/80 schedule, many employees are forced to take a day off, regardless.

2. Long Workdays

The 9/80 schedule creates a stretch of very long work days. Particularly in a front-loaded schedule, employees work 25% more than they would in a regular 40 hour week. In high pressure jobs, or positions that require physical labor, this increase in hours can lead to overwork and burnout.

2. Complications with Payroll and Accounting

As stated, the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 requires overtime pay whenever weekly hours exceed 40. The 9/80 schedule, then, creates a conundrum for accounting. Every organization wants to avoid paying overtime, yet employees on the schedule regulatory work 44 to 50 hours every other week. Some accounting offices solve this by starting the work week in the middle of the day on Monday, or the middle of the day on Friday. Other offices don’t want to touch it at all, and so the 9/80 schedule can’t get up and running.

4. A Decrease in Camaraderie

In-person interaction is critical to building relationships, and a work routine with fewer people in the office can lead to a breakdown in synergy and team building.

5. Frequent “Violations”

Oftentimes, an employee on the 9/80 schedule is forced to come into work on his Friday off. Perhaps there is a critical meeting, or a deadline to meet.

6. A Burden to Coworkers

When employers offer flexible work packages, it can create a burden to coworkers. It can mean that other people have to pick up the slack in order to meet deadlines, or else it slows projects down altogether.

7. Inequalities

Not everyone can qualify for a 9/80 schedule. An administrative assistant or receptionist, for example, needs to be in the office every day. This inequality can create resentment and schisms within the workforce.

8. A Longer Day in Daycare

For employees with children, a nine or even ten hour day means that children are in a daycare for an extra long stretch.

And so the 9/80 schedule isn’t entirely perfect. But it’s good enough to get a pass for many organizations.

Conclusion

When organizations struggle to retain or attract talent, offering the 9/80 work schedule is a good solution. Employers are attracted to flexible work schedules, and the 9/80 schedule can mitigate against burnout as well.

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