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Q: I recently had a number of employees approach me about implementing a 4/40 or compressed work week. I was wondering if you could give me an idea of the impact this type of thing has had on other companies who've implemented it and what we should watch out for if we were to try it for ourselves.

A: As you probably know, a compressed work week is an alternative to the more standard five day work week that is typified by five 8-hour shifts. One of the most common compressed work week configurations is the 4/40 that you mention. With this type of schedule, employees work 4 10-hour shifts. The number of hours worked is the same, but this allows the employee to have an additional day off.

Many employees appreciate having a longer, 3-day weekend. A compressed work week can also result in less commuting time, and may push travel to periods where there is less traffic on the road in general. For these reasons, compressed work weeks are ideas that frequently bubble up from employees.

Because it's something that employees appreciate, it can help you with your recruiting and retention goals. It can also help with motivation and productivity although it's equally likely that increased fatigue given longer days will actually reduce productivity. You may also see it lead to a decrease in absenteeism as employees are better able to accommodate some of their outside priorities into their work week.

A few things to look out for include:

  • Employee Fatigue leading to reduced productivity
  • Possible overtime for non-exempt employees -- in some locations, employees are eligible for overtime when they work more than 8 hours in a single shift even if they work less than 40 hours in a work week.
  • The need to rework holiday and vacation schedules that were formerly based on 8 hour days
  • Difficulty in developing schedules to accommodate company service goals while still meeting employee desires

Before attempting a schedule change like this, you should consult with a labor attorney familiar with regulations in your area. There are often requirements such as meetings and company wide votes before a company can move forward with a new schedule. It may even be necessary to provide alternate schedules for people who are not able to go along with the majority imposed schedule.–Staffing Success

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