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Alternative Work Schedules

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Alternative Work Schedules

Also known as Compressed Work Week, an Alternative Work Schedule challenges the traditional paradigm of America's standard work week. It regularly allows full-time employees to eliminate at least one work day every other week by working longer hours during the remaining days. The definition's intention primarily includes weekly and biweekly arrangements. Weekly arrangements such as 4/40 eliminate one work day every week. Biweekly arrangements such as 9/80 eliminate one day every two weeks.

Such work arrangements must be agreed upon between the employee, their customer, their leader, and their team.

An Alternative Work Schedule is a natural extension of Flex Time. Flex Time is a policy allowing individuals some flexibility in choosing the time, but not the number, of their working hours. When a work day is eliminated we refer to this as a flex day off.


Work Schedules

  • 5/40 The traditional 5 day 40 hour work week, usually eight hours a day, Monday through Friday. Due to flex-time and project demands, actual hours may vary. The 5/40 is not considered an "Alternative Work Schedule", but, is defined here for the sake of comparison to the Alternative Work Schedules defined below.
  • 4/40 Work is scheduled over 4 days a week, taking one regularly scheduled flex day off each week. Due to flex-time and project demands, actual hours may vary from the average 10 hour work day.
  • 9/80 Work is scheduled over a nine day work period as opposed to a ten day work period, taking a flex day off every second week. Due to flex-time and project demands, actual hours may vary from the average nine hour work day.
  • 5/40 Variation Work longer hours for four days, and work a half a day on Friday. Note that while this may suit ones lifestyle or TDY travel schedule, this doesn't eliminate a commute trip. Due to flex-time and project demands, actual hours may vary.
  • 6/60 Some projects are just like that. You've put in a full work week by Wednesday and you know you'll be in on the weekend too. See the discussion below about hour counting.


Establish an Agreement with Your Leader, Customer, Team

The opportunity to use an Alternative Work Schedule is evaluated on a case-by-case basis with consideration given to the availability of appropriate work, employee requirements, impact on the account, impact on the project requirements, et cetera as determined by the leader. The schedule is evaluated regularly to determine if it is still viable with respect to the employee's contributions, employee's personal needs, project consideration, customer impact, and effect on the account and staff.

Most employers do not expect that project requirements be met regardless of the work schedule or arrangement. Employers also expect that business needs may necessitate a temporary change in schedule and that the employee remain flexible to meet those needs.

Your job may require you to document in writing the terms agreed upon between employee and the leader.

Make it clear that the employee is still working full time for full time compensation. Eliminating a work day under this arrangement does not constitute part-time work for a reduction in compensation and benefits.

Hourly employees may be affected by state laws that determine when overtime should be paid. The leader and employee should recognize that these schedules involve working more than 8 hours a day and some involve working more than 40 hours in one week. Consider when an hourly employee works the 9/80 pattern, 44 hours are worked one week, and 36 hours the next. Is overtime due just because the first week exceeded 40 hours? The leader and employee need to find a definition of overtime that is agreeable to both parties, and follows state law.


Stick to a Regular Schedule

A schedule is established that will remain constant each week. (e.g., The employee working a 4/40 schedule, works Monday through Thursday and takes Friday off.) The employee, however, must remain flexible for unforeseen needs and be able to respond in a timely manner to customer requests.

Endeavor to have training and travel fall within a 'normal' work week. However, circumstances may require the employee to change their 'normal' weekly schedule. The employee should be aware of this possibility and each leader should work with the employee on a case-by-case situation.

The employee is encouraged to schedule personal business when not at work. (After all, the employee has an extra day off during the week, to wait at home for the cable guy or whatever.)

Employees working a compressed work week schedule at least one half hour lunch break daily. (Note: Hourly employees are generally required by law to take schedule breaks. Please see your supervisor for details.)


Coordinating with Team and Customer

The employee must work out with the team and the customer what day they will take as their flex day off. Some teams will require that flex days off are distributed so that they are not ever short handed. This would ensure someone is always there to support the customer. Other teams may require that everyone take the same flex day off. This works well when a team is developing a product together and cannot afford to wait for someone to return from their flex day to share information.

Individuals always notify their team mates and customer when they will be out of the office for their flex day.


"Banking" Flex Days for Future Use

Saving flex days for some future day should not allowed. Flex days must not be confused with vacation days. "Banking" flex days for future use creates an accounting nightmare. If the employee feels that they have worked an especially long number of hours one week and feel they should be compensated with additional time off in the future, they should see their supervisor.


Hour Counting

Many people are salaried employees and as such are not paid by the hour. A 40 hour work week is considered a "norm", so most of the examples given here use hours for clarity. Due to flex-time and project demands, your actual hours may vary from day to day and week to week. Try not to get too bogged down in hour counting. The idea is to pace your workload over fewer days, not to watch the clock.

Try as you will, sooner or later it will happen that someone not working an Alternative Work Schedule notices that he is working 10 hours a day 5 days a week while his team mate works 10 hours a day for 4 days with Fridays off. Supervisors should deal with this by recognizing when someone is assigned too much work and needs relief or when someone does not have enough to do.

To avoid the pit-falls of hour counting, focus on productivity and accomplishments, not body present time.


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Last modified: 06/11/12