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 alternative work schedule is based on a simple premise.

For the first week, employees work longer workdays with four nine-hour days, Monday through Thursday. On Friday they work an eight-hour day.

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 in the compressed workweek 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.

Win-win-win.

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 workweeks, resulting in 44 hours of work 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 second week 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 a nine-hour workday, or more than 40 hours before noon on Friday, should result in overtime for non-exempt employees. 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.

• Attract more talented employees when staffing up. Flexible work schedules and better work-life balance to avoid burnout 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 additional day off to boost employee morale, your team may use sick leave 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 and work environment may require you to be open Monday through Friday.

If that’s the case, the solution is simple for employee scheduling: Divide your team members 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 flex 8-hour 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 compared to 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.

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 longer hours 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 interconnected 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 relies on the collective output of individual contributors, then allowing some employees to adopt a flexible schedule while others don’t 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.

The effects of an extra day off has also been studied across many companies, not only with Microsoft Japan, as mentioned above. In December 2022, the results of a four-day workweek pilot program that ran for six months were published. The initiative included more than 900 workers across 33 businesses in the US and Ireland (with 27 companies ultimately providing feedback), and was organized by the nonprofit 4 Day Week Global, in partnership with researchers at Cambridge University, Boston College and University College Dublin. While this research was focused on the 100-80-100 model, in which workers receive all of their pay for 80 percent of time while maintaining 100 percent productivity, and not the 9/80 workweek—so a condensed rather than a compressed schedule—it did provide insights on the outcomes of working four days a week compared to five days:

• 97 percent of workers said they wanted to continue it.
• 18 companies said they would continue it, while seven said they plan to though they hadn’t committed to it at the time the results were published.
• 42 percent of workers said that they would go back to working Monday through Friday if they had a pay increase of 26 to 50 percent, while 13 percent said no amount of money would make them go back to that schedule.

The organization 4 Day Week Global has run many four-day workweek pilot programs across industries around the world, which have yielded these results:

• 91 percent of organizations decided to continue the four-day workweek once the pilot program ends.
• Revenue rose an average of 35 percent during the pilot when compared to a similar period from previous years.
• Workers were 57 percent less likely to quit, and 55 percent felt more able to do their jobs.
• 71 percent of workers feel less burnt out, 39 percent felt less stress, and 54 percent felt they had less negative emotions.

As you consider the research behind a four-day workweek and the advantages and disadvantages of 9/80 schedule, think about how all that information factors into what you should 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.

Jeff Haden Jeff Haden is a writer, speaker, small business management expert, and Inc.’s most popular columnist. He's the author of The Motivation Myth: How High Achievers Really Set Themselves Up to Win.