Adapt the working week to suit you and your needs

Nothing ever stays the same. We've all witnessed how the job market has been changing over the past few years. There was a slow rumble before COVID, but when the pandemic hit it seems to have fast-tracked any changes at a lightning speed. Working from home (WFH), remote working, flexible hours - these are all changes that have come about more quickly and with greater force than ever before.

There certainly aren't many organisations nowadays where employees trudge in at 9am every day then dutifully clock out at 5pm, five days a week. That adds up to eight hours a day, totalling either a 35 hour week or a 40 hour week, depending on whether the lunch hour is included. These working conditions are disappearing fast. Thanks to online working, improved internet speeds throughout most of the country, and an ability to hold meetings via Zoom or Teams wherever you're based, flexible working is surely here to stay.

With a 4-day working week being trialled in the UK, as well as across the world, maybe it's time to embrace a new way of approaching how we plan our week and establishing a more improved work-life balance.

What is a 9/80 work schedule?

It's seen as another flexible solution to working, where you work longer hours on some days  but can then take off two full days each month - or four half days. Working patterns are established across a fortnightly cycle, truncating the 80 hours you would've normally worked over 10 days into nine days. This means that, typically, every two weeks you would work nine hours for eight days, eight hours for one day, and then have a day off. You'd get a full day off every other week, or half a day every week if you worked a four hour day.

The reasoning behind this is to provide a better work-life balance for staff, while simultaneously increasing the productivity of the business.

How does a 9/80 schedule actually work?

Let's set it out in real terms with a day-by-day account, so that you can see exactly how it pans out over the two week period:

Week one

Mon: 8 am-12 noon, hour lunch break, 1 pm-6 pm = 9 hours

Tues: 8 am-12 noon, hour lunch break, 1 pm-6 pm = 9 hours

Wed: 8 am-12 noon, hour lunch break, 1 pm-6 pm = 9 hours

Thur: 8 am-12 noon, hour lunch break, 1 pm-6 pm = 9 hours 

Fri: 8 am-12 noon, hour lunch break, 1 pm-5 pm = 8 hours

Weekend: Zero hours

Total: 44 hours worked

Week two

Mon: 8 am-12 noon, hour lunch break, 1 pm-6 pm = 9 hours

Tues: 8 am-12 noon, hour lunch break, 1 pm-6 pm = 9 hours

Wed: 8 am-12 noon, hour lunch break, 1 pm-6 pm = 9 hours

Thur: 8 am-12 noon, hour lunch break, 1 pm-6 pm = 9 hours

Fri: Day off!

Total: 36 hours worked, with an overall total of 80 hours worked over the two week period.

Of course, this is one example. There are other variations, such as beginning the day at 7am and working until 5pm every day for four days of the week. As long as this happens, with four days of the week involving nine hours of work, then it's counted as a 9/80 work schedule.

Will I still be paid the same amount?

Not many people go to work for the sheer joy of it - that's what volunteering is for! So it's important to consider whether, if you go down the 9/80 work schedule route, you'll have to take a drop in wages or whether your salary will remain the same.

The broad answer to this is that it depends on the organisation you work for. If your contract requires you to work 40 hours a week, and over the two week period that's what you're doing, then the chances are your salary won't change. However, you don't want to affect your chance of promotion, so it would be better to check this out with the HR department within the company you work for before proceeding.

Advantages to the 9/80 work schedule

Improved work-life balance: extended weekends can boost staff morale, with employees dedicating more time to their interests, friends, and family. They can go away for long weekends, or enjoy activities on a weekday, which might have been out of bounds before.

Increased productivity: having this extra day off often motivates staff to work harder during the rest of the week. Additionally, working those longer days causes decreased disruption to tasks as staff might be able to finish off a task in a day, rather than downing tools at 5pm and then picking up where they left off the following morning.

More time off: having a Friday off every fortnight potentially adds up to receiving 26 three-day weekends a year. If your company is even more flexible, you might be able to choose which day you have off, so if having a Wednesday off to break up the week suits you better, then that could be an added bonus. It's also great for parents, as you can plan your day off around your child's sports day, school concert, or helping out with a school trip - activities you couldn't normally attend when working a normal week.

Less sick days: enjoying a longer weekend is better for your health and wellbeing, as it allows you more time to recuperate. You can also use the day off to attend medical appointments, so you don't have to ask for time off on a work day. 

Less stressful commuting: if you're starting earlier in the morning or working later at night, you can avoid rush hour on the roads. If you choose to commute by train, you might be privy to using off-peak services, which are cheaper.

Disadvantages to the 9/80 work schedule

Longer days: that extra hour a day can be a right pain! It takes time to adapt to a new way of working and it just might not work for some. Parents might struggle to find childcare later in the evening, or dropping children to nursery or at school earlier than normal in the morning could be very disruptive.

A decrease in productivity: while motivation can be a key factor in increasing productivity, the flip side is that it can also lead to a dip in productivity with those longer days. People have different times when they're at their most productive, with some thriving in the morning while others peak in late afternoon (usually after a cup of tea and a few chocolate biscuits!).

Confusing working timetable: if staff are taking their day off on different days during the week, this can play havoc with an organisation's working pattern. Workers might miss important conferences, CPD training sessions, or meetings. Colleagues might also struggle to cope with remembering who's off when, if there isn't a clear system that's easily accessible to all.

Problems with tracking working hours: it can be challenging for employers to keep on top of the hours each employee works. If a holiday of a member of staff falls on a scheduled day off, they'd get eight hours off to use within a year. But if the holiday coincides with a nine hour day, the record might show it as eight hours. Overtime can be hard to monitor as well, especially if employees are swapping days off over the two week period to different days.

Which industries lean towards adopting 9/80 work schedules?

If you're scouting around for another role, and fancy trying out a 9/80 work schedule, then checking out the sectors that offer this would be worthwhile to see if they fit with your required position. Generally, contract work with government departments, defence, IT, systems, and DevOps type roles are open to this type of work schedule.

Alternative options: the 4/10 schedule

The 4/10 schedule means cramming yet more hours into your working day, by working 10 hours a day to create the four-day working week. Not for everyone, but if you find you're doing 10 hours a day or more every week anyway, like a lot of people in industries such as construction, then it's certainly something to consider. The massive bonus here is that you get a day off every week.

The next steps

If this 9/80 work schedule sounds right up your street, and you're confident that you can self-manage, maybe it's time to have a word with your HR department, or pop it in the suggestions box at work. It might be something that your employers want to explore, and it could be to your advantage if they come back with a resounding “yes.” If you don't ask, you don't get, so give it a go and see what happens! Sooner or later, you could be enjoying those extra days off because of the 9/80 work schedule.

If your current place of work isn't so flexible, or so open to new ideas and ways of working, have you considered changing roles? Need a boost for your CV though? TopCV offers a free CV review, where you can rely on expert advice on getting your job seeking documents in perfect order.

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