You may have heard of the 9/80 work schedule. Perhaps a neighbor’s company offers it as an option for their employees. You probably know that it involves Fridays off, and you know that sounds cool. But do you really know how it works?
It’s like this:
The 9/80 work schedule works on a two-week period.
The first week, employees work 9 hours a day Monday – Thursday.
On Friday, they work 8 hours.
The second week, employees work 9 hours a day Monday – Thursday.
On Friday, they don’t work. They earn that day off.
Thus, over a period of 9 days, employees work what is typically worked in 10 days: 80 hours.
It sounds fairly straightforward and logical: if you work longer hours, you add up enough time to take a day off. It can get a little tricky, however, since by protocol of the US Department of Labor, employees can’t work more than 40 hours a week unless you want to pay them overtime. Since, with the 9/80 work schedule, employees work 44 hours the first week and 36 the second, this is problematic.
The solution: end the work week midway through the day the first Friday. The first four hours of the day belong to the first week. The second four hours of the day belong to the second. 40hrs + 40hrs = no problem for the government.
As we explore this topic more, we examine the gains and potential losses of the 9/80 work schedule. For now, we’ll keep an objective tone and give you the facts about how the 9/80 workweek got started and what it means for employees.
In the late 1800s, the US started collecting data on how many hours factory workers were putting in on a weekly basis. Their findings were a little shocking: most workers were racking up 100 hours a week.
A conversation around “how many hours a week is fair” began, but it wasn’t until 1940 that the government put the 8hr day/40hr week into law with an amendment to the Fair Labor Standards Act. As of 2015, if you earn more than $23,660, you qualify for overtime pay.
This discussion of hours worked a week and fairness is heating up again. The nature of work is changing. In 1940, there was less technology, less streamlined productivity, different household dynamics, and a lot fewer women in the workplace.
Today, working from home is an option for a solid portion of the population, at least for part of the day. For families with both parents working, daycares are now a hefty monthly payment. The 9/80 work schedule appeared in the late 1990s as a way to present employees with a little more flexibility in their personal life.
To most people, a day off is a blessing. That part of the 9/80 work schedule they can get behind. As for working 9 hours a day, 4 days a week, they may not be so sure. According to the US Department of Labor:
“The FLSA does not set a minimum or a maximum number of hours in a day or in a week that an adult employee may be required or may choose to work, nor does it regulate work schedules or employers’ utilization of their work force, so long as overtime is paid or compensatory time off is given if an employee works more than 40 hours in a workweek.”
Thus, there is no rule saying employers have to pay overtime to those who work over 8 hours a day. Work as many hours as you want in a day, just not more than 40 per week. Although this may change on a state-to-state level, it generally stands as rule.
But there’s actually not much scientific thought behind the 8 hour day. They didn’t run elaborate tests to see how many hours humans can work an maximum capacity. It was during the Industrial Revolution that people noticed their productivity increased at 8 hours instead of 15. That’s a lot larger gap than between 9 and 8.
But how many hours a day can humans actually work . . . and remain happy? The debate centers around focus. If the work environment already does not promote productivity and focus, more hours is not going to accomplish more goals. If employees focus and take restful breaks, one extra hour is feasible. It may even be beneficial.
The most obvious benefit of the 9/80 work week: employees get 2 guaranteed days off in a month. There are other benefits, however, and some of them benefit the company, not just the employees.
Employees may end up asking for less days off. By guaranteeing full days off every two weeks for employees, companies may see a decline in “sick” days and half days off for personal appointments. Thus, even though employees are gone every other Friday, the amount of days missed in a month decreases.
Tasks are more likely to be completed in one day. An extra hour of work 4 days a week means that employees are more likely to complete tasks the day they start them. Instead of having to leave and go home in the middle of a project, they have extra time to wrap things up. The next day, they start fresh, increasing the quality of their daily work.
Staff are generally more refreshed. Working 9 hours a day more be more exhausting than 8 hours, but there is always a light at the end of the tunnel for the employees: the upcoming 3 day weekend. With more time for rest, relaxation, and taking care of personal needs, employees enter the office ready to go on Monday morning. They know the effort of their extra long days always ends in reward.
People are more excited to work for a company with a 9/80 work schedule. That’s right. The workforce, especially young people, are looking for ways companies stand out in respect to how they treat their employees (think Google, Epic). You don’t have to make your company into a playground, but offering a 9/80 work schedule certainly sets you above your competitors. Remember when we said the way we work is changing? Job seekers are looking to see if your company acknowledges this fact.
Less commuting = better for the environment and the driver. Not working every other Friday means not driving to work every other Friday. Less gas, less miles on your car, and less impact on the environment. Happy people, happy planet.
Employees can make personal appointments during business hours. When you work a 9-5 business day it can be difficult to make appointments at places that are only open from 9-5 during the business week. Even simple tasks like haircuts and dry cleaning become impossible. You can get a whole lot done on a whole day off, which means you can actually relax on Saturday and Sunday, instead of catching up on errands.
Employees experience less personal interruptions with their work. There’s always at least one person who brings his personal life to the office. Maybe an argument that didn’t get resolved at home, or maybe a lack of sleep because of a child’s birthday party over the weekend. Wouldn’t it be nice to actually have time to resolve that argument? Or to take down the streamers on the ceiling? An extra day off is opportunity to resolve these things.
Employees may feel more like themselves. Work and personal business isn’t what life is all about. People need to do the things they love in order to focus on the other parts of their lives. Running, reading books, rubbing the dog’s belly — these things make us humans happy.
Examining the benefits of the 9/80 work schedule boils down to this question: does the 9/80 work week make an employee more productive and more happy? Happiness and productivity relate to a proper work/life balance. There is no right way to live, no universal answer on how to spend our days. There are, however, a lot of articles written on how to maintain a better work/life balance (like this one in Forbes). And all of them seem to to agree that taking time for yourself that is not related to work or personal chores makes you more focused and happier at work.
A few extra days off a month contributes to a better work/life balance by offering extra time for these personal needs. Therefore, the 9/80 work schedule allows for higher productivity and more happiness for the employee. Abuses, however, can happen with any type of work schedule, as we examine in the next section.
Sometimes having a day off gives you more pain than pleasure. It’s like the little kid who faked a cold to stay home from school and chill but his mom cut the cord to the TV and made him read Moby Dick. Even planned perfection can spoil
So here is a list of things that can go wrong, and have gone wrong, with a 9/80 work schedule. And after, we offer some pointers on how to avoid these pitfalls. The biggest fight: avoiding overtime.
The government. Maybe tomorrow, after reading this article, you decide you want to implement the 9/80 work schedule at your company. Not so fast. Turns out, a major problem with the 9/80 work schedule is that companies forget to let the government know that they’re changing the way they file their hours and paychecks. This means, with payroll ending on Saturday or Sunday as per usual, employees ending up clocking 36 hours one week, and 44 the next. That means, according to the government, you owe your employees 4 hours of overtime pay.
The solution: make the switch to a 9/80 work schedule strategic. Follow the US Department of Labor’s rules. Study up on case studies from other businesses who implemented alternative work weeks, and ask yourself if their pitfalls are translatable to your business.
Federal holidays. When a federal holiday lands on a Friday that your employees already have off, this becomes an issue. It means you owe your employees a full day off, that you have to squeeze in sometime during the regular workweek. You already miss one day of production every 2 weeks, now you will miss another.
If your company can’t afford to lose another day of production, give your employees an option. They can choose an additional day to have off, or you will pay them overtime for the extra day they worked. The cost of overtime may be less than two days off in one pay period for a large portion of your employees. If neither of these options appeal to you, there are other, less money-centered, way to appease your people. Gifts, casuals days, dinner, etc.
Employees get pushy. If you give them an inch . . .
Employees may want to switch the days they have off. You may hear, “Can I take off this Friday instead of next?” or “What if Thursdays are my days off instead of Fridays?” These exceptions don’t fit with the work week ending at noon on Fridays, which can get you in trouble with the government (see above). Or yourself, because you might end up owing overtime.
As you research the proper ways to implement a 9/80 work schedule, have team meetings to establish rules. The alternative work week is already an exception to the norm, other frequent exceptions are not allowed. Make it clear that this is not an open door to work less, but a way to establish more balance in their personal lives. Need an overview of tools on how to talk to your employees so they actually listen? Check out this article.
One way you can be preemptive with your upcoming 9/80 work schedule is setting up a compressed work week in Bric.
Bric is different than other time tracking softwares. While most time tracking softwares offer a simple time tracking calculator (like the one we give away for free), Bric actually offers tools for capacity planning. It’s also employee-centered, which means the end-goals of time tracking with Bric aren’t just payroll and invoicing. The goal is to make time tracking not only easier, but desirable for employees.
Bric’s dashboard shows all your company’s employees, telling you how much time they have available that week and how far along they are on their projects. That’s what we mean by capacity planning. If your creative agency gets another project, you can see at a glance who is available to take it on.
This feature makes switching to an alternative work week, like the 9/80 work schedule, a fairly simple change. As the administrator of Bric for your company, you can set days off for individual users. If ⅓ of your employees switch to the 9/80 work week, you can assign those employees to have every other Friday off.
All of those changes are reflected in the dashboard. If you have a project with a deadline fast approaching, you’ll know who is working this Friday and who isn’t, who works 9 hour days and who doesn’t.
In that way, using Bric to manage a 9/80 work schedule works better than other scheduling options. Let’s quickly go through that list of pitfalls again, this time noting how Bric specifically helps alleviate those issues.
Convinced and ready to make the change? Try a free trial of Bric and see if we can alleviate some of your fear of transitioning to the 9/80 work schedule.