The traditional 40-hour work week has been the schedule model since the 1940’s. Around that time, Ford scaled back from a 48 to a 40-hour workweek because, “too many hours were bad for workers’ productivity.” Traditional workplaces are changing in all sorts of ways, from unique fringe benefits to working from home options. Similarly, the 40-hour work week is evolving, largely in favor of a 9/80 schedule.
What kind of work schedules are there; and what would having a 9/80 schedule mean for your business? Here’s the lowdown on everything you need to know about the essentials of the 9/80 work week.
The best place to start is defining what the 9/80 work week is not. It’s not a 5/40 work week, which is the traditional 9 to 5, Monday through Friday. The 5/40 work schedule, popularized by Ford, has been cemented into American tradition for decades. If you’ve had any number of traditional full-time jobs, you’ve probably adhered to a 5/40 work schedule.
The Work and Family researchers network at the University of Pennsylvania shares a quote from the EPA which explains that the 9/80 work week “occurs over a 2-week period as follows: employees work eight 9-hour days in a 2-week period, one 8-hour day and then receive one “free” day off every other week.” This means that every other weekend will be a three-day weekend.
Also known as a compressed work week, the EPA’s explanation dates back to 1998. While the schedule format isn’t new, its rising popularity is. It’s important to note: the first work week of a pay period has to end at midday on Friday and the second week has to begin immediately after that in order to maintain only 40 hours in each work week.
The 5-4-9 work schedule is another version of a compressed work week. In fact, it’s the same as the 9/80 work week, but with a bit more structure. The 9/80 sometimes allows that one 8-hour day to be broken up into two 4-hour days. The 5-4-9 provides a structure with 8 and 9-hour days, but it essentially functions the same way as the 9/80 schedule does.
While specific companies may benefit from a compressed schedule, there are a few things to consider before making the switch. One of the main complications is making sure that employees are only working 40 hours. As UpCounsel explains, “if an employee’s usual split-day, the day that is split between the two work weeks, is Friday and their employer permits them to switch that day with their off day, the employer will be responsible for overtime because the result is that more than 40-hours will be worked during the week where there is usually an off day.” Essentially, if you are going to make the switch, set strict guidelines in relation to those fixed “off days.” Additionally, allowing an employee to come in or leave early on their split-day (or the Friday when the work week switches over) can also trigger overtime pay.
The switch can be complicated, but if you lay a clear foundation your employees will be more than happy about an extra day outside the office.