Monday, June 9, 2008

The 9/80 Work Week: Salvation from High Gas Prices Or Screwball Hippie Idea?

Author: Nick
Category: Money

comic 33 - friday off

There have been rumors spreading where I work that we may soon be switching to a 9/80 work schedule. If you don’t know what that is, consider that most professional adults work a 5/40 work week: 40 hours a week over five days a week (usually eight hours a day). With a 9/80 work schedule, one must look at a two-week work calendar. During an “A” week, one works nine-hour days for five days. During the subsequent “B” week, one works nine-hour days for three days, an eight-hour day the fourth day, and zero hours the fifth day. In short, you work more hours the other days to take every other Friday off.

9/80 work weeks are certainly not a new idea; small parts of my business have been doing it for years. But most workplaces hadn’t given the alternate schedule much thought since it ran counter to a decades-old tradition of 40 hours a week, every week. Today, as gas prices continue to soar and people look for ways to cut down on their commutes, the prospect of saving a round-trip every other week is forcing some employers to give 9/80 a second look.

The 9/80 plan has its clear benefits and drawbacks compared to the traditional 5/40 schedule as the table below summarizes.

9/80 Benefits 9/80 Drawbacks
  • One less commuting round-trip every two weeks.
  • Most work days last nine hours.
  • Frequent non-weekend time off for errands, doctor’s appointments, etc.
  • Holidays and vacations may have scheduling issues.
  • Nine-hour work days may help you avoid rush hours.
  • Nine-hour work days may exhaust workers, reduce productivity.
  • May help company reduce overtime expenses if everyone works nine hours most days.
  • Doesn’t help people who normally work nine or more hours a day anyway. (They may have to work 10+ hours a day now.)
  • Helps discourage “long lunches” when people have an extra full day off every other week.
  • May impact child care schedules, cost workers more for longer care.
  • In theory, workers would take fewer sick days simply because they work fewer total days.
  • May not be viable if your business’s customers all work 5/40.

Personally, I don’t have a preference for a 9/80 or 5/40 work schedule. I usually work a 9-9-9-8-5 work week anyway, so a 9/80 schedule would just mean I’d do a 9-9-9-8-0 every other week instead.

A few places are also trying out 4/40 schedules—10-hour days, every Friday off. While I do work 10 hours a day fairly often anyway, if I had to do that every day, I would probably be rather grumpy by mid-Wednesday. Then again, I’m usually grumpy by mid-Wednesday anyway.

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