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Compressed Hours – Do They Represent the Future of Work?

compressed hours

Flexible working solutions, such as compressed hours, flexitime and remote working, are becoming a growing trend. Although a number of companies have been following working practices such as these for a while now, the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has forced many more to re-assess how their employees work. With many employees now being forced to work from home (and some of those struggling to balance work with childcare) companies have begun to wonder if perhaps the traditional “night to five” isn’t the only way to do things.

In this article, we will take a look at the first of these flexible working solutions. What are compressed hours? How do they work? How do you track employee attendance if they follow flexible schedules? We will also discuss some of the pros and cons of implementing a flexible working policy in your company.

What are Compressed Hours? 

Employees who work compressed hours work their total contracted hours over fewer working days. So, for example, instead of working a full working week they 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 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.

Compressed working hours is just one type of what is known as flexible working practices. Under UK law, an employee is entitled to request flexible working practices. The only requirement is that they have worked for the same employer for at least 26 weeks. Employers reserve the right to reject requests if they feel it would negatively impact business and operations.

Impact of Flexible Working

Before you decide if introducing a flexible hours 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 working compressed hours, if flexible employee schedules aren’t well managed then it could lead to a number of issues within your company.

Advantages of Compressed Hours

  • In the case of a 4/10 schedule, employees spend less time commuting and overall have more free time to recharge, improving their work-life balance. This results in improved employee wellbeing 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.
  • Fewer absences. 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.
  • Companies that offer compressed hours are more likely to attract and retain talent.
  • Research from the University of Reading’s Henley Business School suggested that switching to a four-day week 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 feel apprehensive about the effect compressed hours might have on your employees. Potential concerns include:

  • 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 difficult 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 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 claims that they have reported no adverse impacts. 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: clients continue to receive the results they expect. 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”.

How to Calculating 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 employees’ number of hours for that day will be deducted from their annual leave entitlement.

Free Holiday Calculator

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 and avoiding the trend of ‘the big quit’. Try our HR software today and track your employee hours with ease. Whether it’s a four or five day week.

Related video: Time Tracking Software: Explaining how with Factorial you can set a work schedule for employees and calculate hours worked.

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