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Home > Regional Planning > Commutes > Commute Options


Compressed Work Schedule

Giving Employees More Flexibility

Economic and demographic changes in our society, such as the increase of two-worker families and the large number of single parents, have made alternative work schedules very desirable to many employees. By allowing employees to adjust their work schedules, companies are not only able to recruit and retain valuable employees, but they also make it possible for them to completely eliminate commute trips on certain days by compressing their work weeks.

With a compressed work week, the total number of hours an employee works does not change - only they way his or her hours are scheduled is modified. Compressed work weeks reduce the number of days an employee works in a given period. The most typical compressed work schedules are:

  • 4/10 work week- Forty hours are worked in four 10-hour days, thus reducing the employee's commute trips by 20 percent.
  • 9/80 work week- Eighty hours are worked in nine days with the tenth day off, thus reducing the employee's commute trips by 10 percent.
  • 3/12 work week- Thirty-six hours are worked in three days, which means the employee commutes two fewer days than the typical 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. worker.

By adopting compressed work week schedules that extend the length of the work day, companies are often able to extend customer service and sales force hours.  Some manufacturing companies have been able to cut costs by adopting longer days and having less time spent each day on start up and shut down.  Companies also report that increasing the number of hours in a work day expands access to expensive equipment and reduces competition for equipment at peak hours.  This is especially useful in functions like data entry or production where access to, or use of, equipment in an issue.

Finally, employers generally report a reduction in tardiness and absenteeism for employees on compressed work weeks and flextime.  This is attributed to the employees' ability to commute outside of the rush hour and their increased flexibility in scheduling appointments and errands.

How the ETC Can Support Compressed Work Schedules

Implementing a compressed work schedule program requires careful planning.  The following steps represent the process involved in conceptualizing, designing and implementing a program:

  • Evaluate your organization.  Select schedules that can work best within your organization.
  • Identify your objectives.  What do you want to get out of a compressed work schedule program?  It is to reduce congestion around your worksite, reduce pollution, provide an employee benefit, extend customer service hours, reduce SOV/VMT to meet CTR requirements or to achieve other goals?
  • Get management support.  Solicit management support for the schedules of choice.
  • Introduce the program.  Introduce the proposed schedules to the key decision makers.  Some managers may be concerned about the ability to supervise their employees.  Be prepared to overcome this and other concerns.
  • Organize a steering committee.  Develop a steering committee with representatives from each department to enhance development and encourage ownership of the program.
  • Promotion.  Promote the program through flyers, electronic mail, or your company newsletters.  Initiate orientation sessions.
  • Form a committee to address concerns and hardships.  An appointed panel (which may include a union representative) can hear hardship cases and appeals when an agreement between a supervisor and an employee cannot be reached.  Examples of hardships include child or family member care, medical problems, school committees and other circumstances which may require special scheduling arrangements. 
  • Ridesharing privileges.  Employees with established or potential ridesharing arrangements should be given preference in selecting a starting and ending time and selecting a day off. 
  • Post schedules.  Post a schedule of available days off for employees working compressed work weeks.  Depending upon the size of your organization and need for coverage, employees may be able to choose their days off.  For larger companies and situations of unresolved conflict, a lottery system may be used to determine when each employee will take which day off.  Experience has shown that the order of preference for days off is Fridays, Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Tuesdays. 
  • Monitor the program.  Monitor the program(s) and make the necessary adjustments.  Measure the results. 
  • Conduct surveys.  This is especially important for large organizations conducting pilot studies.  Surveys generally gauge employee attitudes about the program and identify areas of potential conflict so that adjustments can be made.  Another form of program monitoring is the use of memos written by the supervisor (or an appointed person), which contain statistics on productivity, absenteeism, overtime and include supervisor perceptions on employee satisfaction with the program.
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