In this guide, you will learn what the 9/80 schedule is, how to find out whether it is a fit for your business, the pros and cons it offers, and best practices for its implementation.
The 9/80 schedule is a two-week work schedule that compresses the same number of work hours (80hrs) into nine days rather than ten. With the 9/80 work schedule, employees gain an extra day off work every two weeks.
It aims to reorganize when we work to enhance employee productivity and engagement while also improving work-life balance.
There are multiple ways businesses can implement the 9/80 schedule. The most common involves eight 9 hour days, one 8 hour day, and one extra day off every two weeks (often on a Friday). For example:
44 hours worked
36 hours worked
The Covid-19 pandemic transformed how companies operate, with a huge shift towards homeworking and hybrid models.
Although much of the world is getting back to normal, for many businesses, the way they manage employees is unlikely to revert to pre-pandemic approaches.
Research shows post-pandemic employees are looking for much more flexibility in their work schedules and a better way of balancing their work and personal lives. The EY 2021 Work Reimagined Employee Survey found over half of employees (54%) would consider quitting their jobs if employers did not afford some flexibility in where and when they work.
For many employees, the pandemic exposed the downsides of the standard 5-day/40-hour workweek, the unhealthy work-life balance, and the potential for burnout it can produce. As a result, alternative approaches to work schedules are gaining popularity, with the 9/80 schedule at the forefront.
Businesses are showing it has the potential to improve employee motivation, boost productivity, and ensure engagement, offering more value to businesses and greater flexibility for employees.
Transitioning to a 9/80 schedule affects the whole company and often requires significant organizational change.
Therefore, it’s important to understand if it will be a good fit for your business and employees before implementation.
While there is not a simple answer, there are several areas to consider. The most important being:
The industry you operate in and the business model you utilize are huge factors determining whether the 9/80 schedule is a good or bad routine for your employees.
Before considering any move, you should ask the following questions regarding your business:
The 9/80 schedule offers additional benefits and is simpler to implement when staff can work the same hours with the same day off every two weeks.
However, this is not available to many industries and is often only applicable to businesses with knowledge-based workforces (as opposed to manual labor or service industries) where the company’s output depends on independent contributions from each employee.
Assuming they schedule tasks and deadlines accordingly, there is little downside for these businesses to operate for nine days every two weeks instead of ten. In addition, a fixed day off for the entire workforce means the business can close entirely for a day, resulting in cost savings.
Examples of workforces best suited to the 9/80 schedule include:
Examples of industries where the 9/80 schedule can be more challenging include:
Companies operating in these sectors require:
Implementing new flexible work schedules is more problematic but not impossible in these instances.
It requires significant effort and organization with the implementation of different days off for each employee to maintain staffing levels throughout the week that match output.
Before undertaking the transition, you need a detailed consultation with your entire workforce, including higher management, to gather the thoughts and opinions of everyone involved.
Understanding your workforce is vital to the success of the 9/80 schedule. You need to know how your employees work best, when they are most productive, and their preferences for their work schedule.
You also must provide and communicate information about the new schedule such that they are informed about all the changes.
Perhaps the new schedule works better for some staff members than others. Maybe there are specific departments that are a better fit.
Transitioning to the 9/80 schedule doesn’t have to be a company-wide simultaneous process.
It can often help to run trial schemes for specific cohorts of employees or departments. Often hesitant employees can change their minds when seeing colleagues leave for a three-day weekend.
The bottom line for businesses looking at the 9/80 schedule is, “will this get more out of my workforce?” Knowing if it is beneficial for your business means gathering information and opinions from the employees it will affect.
Implementing the 9/80 requires significant resources. You will need:
One of the most complicated aspects of the 9/80 schedule is ensuring you don’t have to pay overtime due to workweeks that total more than 40 hours.
This requires payroll structures to adapt to the new schedule, ensuring no staffing cost increases.
Additional payroll complications can arise from sick pay and holiday/vacation time. Therefore, businesses must have capable HR departments to maintain clear and defined procedures for dealing with non-uniform work hours.
Arranging work hours according to the 9/80 schedule can significantly benefit employee productivity, morale, engagement, and motivation.
With an extra day off every two weeks, employees get more time away from the office to focus on themselves, making them more refreshed and ready to work when they are back on the clock.
Employees are now placing a greater emphasis on flexibility.
This includes hybrid models and more working from home, but it also means alternative schedules.
The 9/80 schedule offers a good balance between maintaining a fixed, manageable schedule for employers while allowing employees greater flexibility with extended periods away from the office.
Businesses strictly adhering to traditional work structures and schedules are finding it harder to recruit and retain staff.
EY surveyed 16,000 employees from various industries and roles across 16 countries. They found 9 out of 10 employees want flexibility in where and when they work, and 33% of respondents want a shorter working week.
Offering alternative work schedules, such as the 9/80 schedule, is becoming a valuable recruitment tool. Allowing businesses to attract larger candidate pools and the top talent out there.
With staff away from the office on specific days of the week, businesses can reduce their infrastructure costs.
This is maximized with a fixed off-day as the business can completely shut down operations for one day every two weeks. For example, when Microsoft Japan switched to a four-day week, they reduced their electricity costs by 23%.
Staff can spend less time commuting thanks to the additional day off and the longer workday that shifts commute times to when there is less traffic (coming in an hour earlier or staying an hour later).
Great for the environment and employees who spend less time and money commuting. Reducing commute times can also help productivity with employees better rested and ready for work.
Employees can enjoy an improved work-life balance with greater flexibility and time away from the office that helps reduce the chances of burnout.
Scheduling off-days for every other Friday equates to 26 three-day weekends a year for staff to spend on their passions outside of work. This could mean:
Every employee is different. For many, the extended workday can pass by without issue. They can maintain motivation while at work and not miss the time to themselves in the evenings.
However, the extra hour can take its toll on some staff, resulting in lethargy and reduced productivity. This can be especially difficult:
Scheduling issues can arise for businesses that require a continual presence and cannot implement a company-wide off day.
They must organize their workforce to ensure enough staff is on shift every day to match the required outputs.
This could also lead to disputes over who gets off-days during the week and who gets long weekends, meaning businesses need to implement rotating off-days and the associated scheduling complications they produce.
Overtime can become complicated in a standard work schedule. Finding a solution for calculating overtime payments in the 9/80 system takes it a step further.
The most important starting point is consulting experts (attorneys, accountants, HR business partners, etc.) for your specific jurisdiction to understand all the legal frameworks you must operate within.
In many instances, non-exempt employees automatically trigger overtime payments when working over 40 hours a week.
The fluctuating weekly hours of the 9/80 schedule can lead employers to become liable to pay 4 hours of overtime (during the 44-hour workweek) to employees every other week.
The most straightforward remedy will depend on your local legal requirements, but it will likely mean tracking work hours in two-week periods or redefining the workweek to transition from the middle of the day on Fridays (As opposed to the traditional approach of running Monday through Sunday). This way, employees maintain a 40-hour workweek, with the 8-hour Friday split across two separate weeks.
However, this is the best-case scenario.
Depending on your specific implementation, payroll structures can become highly convoluted to ensure you do not expose your company to unnecessary overtime payments. Plus, systems have to be in place if employees can switch their off-day.
With workdays logging different hours, the 9/80 schedule also requires a new approach to dealing with sick leave and vacation time.
An employee taking a sick day or vacation on a nine-hour day has lost more work than one taking a day off on an eight-hour day. The same applies to public holidays (Christmas, July 4th, etc.) that fall in the middle of the week.
Again, there will be different policies regarding public holidays and their compensation depending on the country or jurisdiction you operate in.
Companies can get around this issue by tracking time off (sick leave/vacation time/public holiday) as eight hours of work and one hour of vacation time if they fall on a nine-hour workday.
Even if your staff reacts well to the 9/80 schedule, your customers and business partners may not.
Depending on your operations, the additional work hours may fall when your customers and business partners are inactive.
This can reduce the impact your staff have during these work hours and lessen the overall effectiveness of your business.
The best way of successfully implementing the 9/80 schedule is to ensure it is the right fit for your business and workforce in the first place.
This requires significant analysis, data gathering, and correspondence with your staff and leadership team.
Without organizational buy-in, the 9/80 schedule is doomed to fail.
Companies that force alternative work schedules on their workforce without communicating the benefits and getting key staff members on board will not reap the benefits.
Leadership must listen to staff concerns and offer solutions or alternatives for obstacles that are intransigent.
For industries and businesses where it is possible, the 9/80 schedule is significantly simpler with a fixed day-off that applies to the entire organization.
Shutting down operations for a fixed day reduces infrastructure costs and simplifies both scheduling and payroll.
In addition, employers do not have to manage rotating days off, who works which days, and who gets a three-day weekend.
Transitioning to the 9/80 schedule with trial schemes for specific employees or departments can help it succeed.
Trial schemes allow you to see the new work schedule in action and work out any issues before further integration into your company.
Perhaps trial the new schedule for staff members who:
The new schedule must become part of the official policy for your business and not be implemented in an ad-hoc manner.
We’ve already discussed the potential for unexpected overtime payments and how time off (sick days, vacations, and public holidays) varies depending on the day.
Businesses need robust policies to deal with these complications that are made clear to all employees along with the expectations for staff working on the new schedule.