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What are Compressed Hours?

5 min read
compressed hours

Flexible working solutions, such as compressed hours, flexi-time and remote working, are becoming increasingly popular. The pandemic has forced many companies to re-assess how their employees work.

With the majority of the nation moving towards a hybrid or work-from-home model, companies have started to consider how traditional working models can be adapted to modern demands in other ways, such as the standard 9-5.

In this article, we’ll look at the alternatives organisations are offering. We’ll cover what compressed hours are, how a compressed work schedule works, the benefits of implementing one, and how employee attendance tracking would need to adapt to this way of working.

  1. What are Compressed Hours? 
  2. Pros and Cons of a Compressed Work Schedule
  3. Flexible Working Examples UK
  4. How to Calculate Compressed Hours
  5. How to Calculate Bank Holiday Entitlement for a Compressed Workweek
  6. Time and Attendance Tracking

demo employee attendence

What are Compressed Hours? 

Employees who work compressed hours work their total contracted hours over fewer days. Compressed working hours are just one type of what is known as flexible working practices. Under UK law, an employee is entitled to request flexible working practices. In December 2022, the government confirmed they will introduce legislation giving people the right to request flexible work from day one (dependent on certain factors). These changes will come into effect in 2024.


Instead of working a full work-week, an employee may choose to work four 10-hour days (Monday to Thursday) and then take a three-day weekend. This is known as a 4/10 schedule or a 4-day workweek, and it is the most common arrangement for compressed hours.

Other options might include working an hour extra Monday to Thursday in order to finish early on Fridays or taking a shorter lunch break to leave work earlier. It’s about giving employees the responsibility and flexibility to manage their own time, provided it doesn’t affect their work.

Pros and Cons of a Compressed Work Schedule

Before you decide if introducing a flexible working arrangement policy in your business might be beneficial, there are a few pros and cons that you need to consider. Although there are many advantages to having fewer working days each week, your policy must be well-managed to avoid attendance issues that could impact productivity.

Advantages of Compressed Hours

  • In the case of a 4/10 compressed schedule, employees spend less time commuting and overall have more free time to recharge, improving their work-life balance. This results in improved employee well-being and engagement, as well as increased commitment and productivity.
  • Compressed hours are a great solution for those interested in pursuing professional development as they have more free time to fit in with their studies. And the more training your employees receive, the better skills they will have to offer your company.
  • If your employees will be working longer shifts, then you can offer extended business hours. This is especially beneficial for customer service departments and those companies in the service industry.
  • Because they have more flexibility, employees are less likely to take time off from work to run errands, attend medical appointments or resolve personal matters, resulting in fewer absences.
  • Offering three-day weekends could do wonders for your employer brand, making you more likely to attract and retain top talent.
  • Research from the University of Reading’s Henley Business School suggested that switching to compressed workweeks could save UK businesses an estimated £104bn every year. They believe this is because it increases staff productivity and physical and mental health, resulting in fewer sick days.

Disadvantages of Compressed Hours

As an employer, you might have concerns about the effect compressed hours could have on your business, including the following:

  • Restructuring the working week might cause disruption in the office, especially if you don’t have a clear system for keeping track of when your teams will be working.
  • If you have no system for tracking and monitoring your employees’ time, it could also result in understaffing issues. This includes potentially having staff unsupervised if there are schedule conflicts between managers.
  • It could make it difficult to schedule internal meetings if you have no visibility over employee schedules.
  • A lack of time tracking could also make it harder to coordinate schedules with clients and business partners.
  • If not well-managed, longer working hours might result in fatigue and decreased productivity.
  • Working more hours in a day can be more physically and mentally demanding for employees.
  • If you are not tracking the compressed hours your employees work, you risk failing to comply with UK employment law, including overtime laws and laws on the working week.

Flexible Working Examples UK

  • The UK recruitment company MRL Consulting moved to a four-day working week in 2019. The aim was to improve wellness and reduce stress. The company saw an increase in productivity and a reduced number of absences. Staff retention rose to 95%, productivity increased by 25% and short-term absences were reduced by 40%.
  • Another UK company, Synergy Vision formalised its 4-day working week after a trial showed staff to be happier and more productive. Synergy have reported no adverse impacts since employees started working compressed hours. In addition, employee surveys demonstrated that employees were happier (27% more employees reported happiness levels of 7 or more).
  • The public relations company Radioactive PR implemented the four-day working week in 2018. This was part of a wider initiative to build a culture of trust where employees manage their own time. The only condition was that clients continued to receive the results they expected. Employees report a better work-life balance and turnover has increased by 70%.
  • WorkWise UK, a non-profit that advocates “smarter” working practices, has also adopted this approach. According to CEO Phil Flaxton: “Technology is shifting the need for traditional nine-to-five work patterns – replaced by a more flexible approach. This will continue as more of us embrace new, smarter ways of working”.

Employees deciding number of hours to work

How to Calculate Compressed Hours

When an employee works a compressed work schedule, they are still working full-time hours. The key difference is that they can adapt how those hours are spread across the week in order to work fewer days.

For this reason, the employee working compressed working hours must work out their annual leave using hours rather than days.

How to Calculate Bank Holiday Entitlement for a Compressed Workweek

When an employee works compressed hours, then their annual leave is calculated using hours rather than individual days.

Therefore, if one of their usual working days happens to land on a bank holiday, the employee’s number of hours for that day will be deducted from their annual leave entitlement. Discover the bank holidays in the UK here.


Time and Attendance Tracking

If you decide to implement a flexible working policy in your company, then one vital aspect you will need to consider is time and attendance tracking. Employee time and attendance are legal requirements of the Working Time Regulations (1998).

You may already have a system for monitoring the hours that your employees work. However, if your employees adopt a flexible working schedule then you will need a transparent system that you can rely on.

Our time tracking can help you manage your employees’ schedules and track their working hours to ensure compliance with all legal requirements. There are many benefits of implementing this working model into your business, especially as a source of retaining your top talent.

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Content and Outreach Marketing Specialist with experience in the Marketing industry since 2015.

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