How a 9/80 Schedule Works—and Why Some Businesses Love It
I’ve worked several different schedules. Some were great, others less so.
But the best work schedules all shared one thing in common: They allowed me to take more time off.
Unfortunately for many small business owners, putting a flexible work schedule in place can be challenging.
One potential solution? A 9/80 work schedule. It’s a type of compressed work schedule that results in employees still working 80 hours every two weeks, while also getting one extra day off.
And if that’s not enough, the government approves. A 9/80 work schedule meets the approval of the Department of Labor.
Interested? Let’s see how a 9/80 schedule works.
What is a 9/80 work schedule?
A 9/80 schedule is based on a simple premise.
For the first week, employees work four nine-hour days, Monday through Thursday. On Friday they work for 8 hours.
Four 9-hour days add up to 36 hours, so the first four Friday hours complete a 40-hour week.
That means the last four Friday hours start the clock for the following week. Working four more nine-hour days adds up to 40 hours—which means employees can take the second Friday off. Then the cycle starts again the following Monday.
As a result, you get two 40-hour workweeks from your employees:
Week 1: 9 + 9 + 9 + 9 + 8 = 44 hours worked
Week 2: 9 + 9 + 9 + 9 = 36 hours worked
Total: 80 hours worked
And your employees get a day off every two weeks, which can actually make them more productive. In fact, Microsoft Japan found that a four-day workweek boosted their employees’ productivity by 40 percent.
As long as you take care of a few details, that is.
How to run payroll for a 9/80 workweek
Typically pay weeks run Monday through Sunday, or Sunday through Saturday. A 9/80 schedule bridges across work weeks, resulting in 44 work hours the first week and 36 hours the next.
That means, unless you want to pay four hours of overtime every other week, you’ll need to track work hours in two-week periods.
Say your employees typically work 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. On a 9/80 schedule, your employees would work 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. instead Mondays through Thursdays. At noon on the first Friday, the workweek ends and a new workweek begins. The next workweek ends the following Thursday at 5 p.m.
That also means you’ll need to handle sick days and vacation days differently. A sick day counts as nine hours unless it occurs on a Friday. The same is true for vacation; a Thursday counts as nine hours off, while a Friday counts as eight.
And don’t forget about holidays. Christmas on a Wednesday counts as nine hours, whereas it counts as eight on a Friday.
Overtime is simple to calculate. During the first week, working more than nine hours a day, or more than 40 hours before noon on Friday, should result in overtime. The same is then true for the following week.
The pros and cons of a 9/80 schedule
The benefits of a compressed work schedule for employees are tangible:
- 26 three-day weekends per year
- Scheduled, predictable weekdays off to take care of personal appointments or family matters
- Less time and money spent commuting
When I was an employee, I would have loved working a 9/80 schedule—and it can work for employers, too.
Your business may:
- Attract more talented employees. Flexible work schedules and better work-life balance are perks that can be just as important as pay and benefits.
- Better handle customer communications. Adding an hour to four workdays increases customer touchpoint capacity.
- Be more productive. Working an extra hour a day means fewer tasks will need to be interrupted and picked back up the following day.
- See fewer employee “sick” days. Face it: Some employees call in “sick” when they want to go out of town, go to an appointment, etc. But with an extra weekday off, your team may use sick days for personal reasons less often.
Granted, there are potential downsides to a 9/80 schedule. Some employees may be unwilling or unable to work an extra hour a day. And you’ll need to ensure your payroll system is equipped to handle a flexible work schedule.
Plus, the nature of your business may require you to be open Monday through Friday.
If that’s the case, the solution is simple: Divide your employees into two groups. One group can get every other Friday off, while the other gets every other Monday off. While your workforce will be a little “thinner” on those days, a little planning can help you overcome capacity issues.
Say Tuesday is your “slow” day. You could rearrange the schedule so that Tuesday is the eight-hour flex day. Or you could even make every other Tuesday an off day.
That’s what a friend does. For his business, customer calls, visits, deliveries, and interactions are generally 40 percent lower on Mondays than any other day of the week. He made every other Monday the off day for all but two employees. On those off days, the three of them can easily handle the needs of the business while everyone else takes the day off.
Can a 9/80 schedule work for your business?
The short answer is, “Probably.” With a few modifications and a little creativity, many types of businesses can adopt a 9/80 schedule.
But a 9/80 workweek may not be right for your employees. For personal, family, commute, or other reasons—or simply by inclination—working an extra hour a day may not be something all of your employees wish to do.
In that case, making it work can be problematic—especially if your business involves inter-connected or dependent tasks. For example, if you run a production line, having some employees go home at 4 p.m. and others at 5 p.m. simply may not work.
But if your business is primarily knowledge-based or based on the collective output of individual contributors, then allowing some employees to adopt a flexible schedule while others do not could work.
And once some employees with “regular” schedules see a few of their colleagues leave on Thursday for a three-day weekend, more may decide to adopt a 9/80 schedule.
That’s what happened in my friend’s case. While at first only half of his employees accepted the offer to work a 9/80 schedule, within two months nearly all had shifted to the flexible schedule.
What should you do? First decide whether and to what extent a 9/80 schedule might work for your business.
Then ask your employees what they think. Explain the pros and cons of a 9/80 work schedule. Describe your expectations.
At the end of the day, compressing your work schedule can make your employees more productive, engaged, and loyal.
And it might be a little easier to attract great new employees, too.