The current rage in the public sector is the four-day work week. The idea of a compressed work week has caught on in cities and towns across the country and, for now, in one state (Utah), though it’s not hard to imagine that other states will follow in the future. The private sector has not been as enthusiastic about the idea, or at least so quick to act.
There are some fundamental questions to consider before deciding to convert to a compressed-schedule workweek. Executive management will want to know the answers to these questions, as well, so it’s best to consider them in advance. If you feel comfortable with each of the issues below, then you are likely able to sufficiently design a workable policy.
What is the purpose of offering a compressed workweek? Is it because of the organization’s emphasis on work-life balance? To help employees bear the increased burden of the costly commute? Is the focus on the reduction of energy consumption and the desire to reduce the company’s carbon footprint? Or is it an innovative approach to increased productivity and efficiency?
Outlining the Scope
What is the basic offering of the program? In other words, what is a “compressed workweek”? Currently, the four-day, ten-hour-per-day option is most popular. But that’s not the only option. There is the 3-day, 12-hours-per-day option, or the 80-hour-per-9-days alternative.
Also, is this a trial program intended to last on a temporary or probationary basis? Or is this the “real deal,” intended to be a long-lasting option for future employees?
Who is eligible to apply for a compressed workweek schedule? Is the option available to full-time and part-time employees? Is there a minimum length of employment that must be completed before the option becomes available? All job positions and pay grades? All facilities or only certain facilities? Is there a limited number of persons per unit or department that will be permitted to switch to a compressed schedule, after which, no requests will be granted? Can employees combine a compressed workweek with other flexible arrangements, such as telecommuting or job-sharing?
Submitting a Request
How should an employee go about making a request for a compressed workweek? (See 5 Steps Toward a More Flexible Workplace for details on ways to make the request-submission process most effective). How will requests be considered? Is there any preferential consideration given to employees with more seniority, for example? Or with the best performance evaluations? What factors might prevent an otherwise eligible employee’s request from being granted? Operational factors? Workload? Performance history?
Impact on Compensation and Benefits
How will holidays be compensated when they fall on the employees’ normally scheduled day off? If a holiday falls on a normally scheduled workday, will the employee be paid for 8 hours or 10?
Terminating the Program
What if an employee desires to return to a “traditional” schedule? Is there a process that must be followed? Is this considered a request for permission or is it awarded as a matter of right without any “permission” being awarded? How much notice will be required? And what if the employer needs to terminate the program? What are the conditions that could cause this to occur?
Reviewing the Success of the Program
How often will the program be reviewed? Will it be reviewed on a company-wide basis or just on an individual level? Will the employee be involved in the review process? What about the employee’s team members? What factors will be considered?
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