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What Is a Compressed Work Week?


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Question: What Is a Compressed Work Week?
You may have heard colleagues or friends talking about working a compressed work week and wondered what it is. Many individuals swear by a compressed work week in helping them balance work and family responsibilities, or even just finding time to exercise and visit the grocery store during less-busy hours.

A compressed work week operates the way it sounds: you compress the usual 40 hours in a work week into a shorter number of days. Typically, in a compressed work week, the employee works nine-hour days for nine days in a row, and then takes the tenth day off. Often, you'll work long days Monday through Thursday, a regular day on Friday, and take the next Friday off.

Another arrangement is to work four 10-hour days and have the fifth weekday off. An extreme example of a compressed work week can be found in nursing or health care professions that require 24-hour shift coverage. You might work three 12-hour days, for instance, and then have the remaining four days for leisure. (And for catching up on your sleep.)

Working parents may use a compressed work week to have one weekday to volunteer at the school or catch up on household errands when the grocery store isn't crowded and small children aren't underfoot. Single people might enjoy this flexible work arrangement because it provides long weekends for travel or simply unwinding.

Some individuals use the additional time to earn another degree, such as an executive MBA, which is often offered on a series of long weekends. Or perhaps you live in an area with exceedingly long commute times, and you prefer to arrive before the worst of the morning traffic and leave after the evening rush hour fades.

Is a Compressed Work Week Right for You?

Some companies offer a compressed work week as part of their regular menu of flexible work options, alongside telecommuting, a reduced hour schedule, job sharing and flex time. Implementing it for yourself can be as simple as a visit to the human resources manager and filling out some paperwork.

But even if your employer doesn't proactively offer a compressed work week, you can make the business case for this arrangement. Document how your job duties and goals could be squeezed into a shorter two-week work cycle. Explain how a longer work day might actually increase your productivity because you'll have longer stretches of focused time to work.

Before you jump into a compressed work week, however, please consider whether it's right for you. Working parents might not want to trade those fleeting morning and evening hours with young children for a full day off when the kids are in school, anyway. Or perhaps you have a physically or mentally intense job that would drain you if you set up a longer work day. Talk to other people who have experience with a compressed work week to see what they consider the pros and cons.

On the plus side, you'll continue to earn full-time income while gaining more flexibility. You'll also limit the number of days you have to commute. The downsides include more difficulty matching child care to your work schedule, and the previously mentioned exhaustion factor. Only you can make the decision for you and your family.

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