Compressed hours

Will compressed hours work for your people?

A compressed working schedule is when employees work full-time hours over fewer days. Two examples of this would be a four-day week or a nine-day fortnight.

Compressed hours are a popular way to boost morale by offering extra days off with no loss of earnings and can benefit employers by extending business hours.

Pros of compressed hours

  • No change to the total hours worked by employees
  • Can be used to deal with high workloads during peak periods by arranging for more employees to work longer hours on high workload days
  • Can be used to extend the working day especially on your busiest days
  • Can be used to extend customer service hours
  • Provides a no-cost employee benefit in the form of guaranteed day or days off
  • Provides more efficient use of facilities and equipment as there is an increase in the number of hours they are used

Cons of compressed hours

  • Longer hours on scheduled work days may impact negatively on employees’  health and safety – for example, using a keyboard for many hours a day may result in repetitive strain injuries
  • There is likely to be big demand from employees to have either Monday or Friday off.  If this isn't possible, then establishing a rota is probably the fairest way of allocating days off

Some things to consider

Core business hours should be established to allow work schedules to be set up that meet operational needs during these hours. Agreed days off will also need to be managed to ensure full coverage across the working week.

Once established, ongoing review of this pattern of working can help identify any areas of concerns or problems as soon as they become apparent.

Ensure all your employees have equal access to compressed hours (within the confines of operational need) and have a transparent process for evaluating requests to work this way.

Mangers need to make sure that employees are fully aware of the effects of working longer hours on certain days and need to devise ways to avoid employees becoming bored or stressed. One way of doing this could be to vary tasks across the day to avoid monotony.

Employers also need to consider the impact that working longer hours will have on their employees' travel arrangements. There may be problems, for example, if employees work late at night when public transport is limited.

If you have a small number of employees who want to work compressed hours rather than a whole team, it’s important to consider if the employees are self-motivated enough to work for parts of the day without having colleagues around them.

You also need to consider who will cover an employee’s work when they are not in the office and arrange for their telephone to be redirected.  

As with all forms of flexible working, communication is key. Employees should include details of when they are and when they're not working in their email signature block together with an alternative contact for when they are not working.