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The pros and cons of introducing a 9/80 work schedule in your workplace [List for 2020]

Recent studies on workplace productivity have shown that flexibility over full-time working hours improves staff morale, workplace culture and productivity, not lessens it. Staff that have connected autonomy — that is, they have greater control over the where, when and how of managing their time and workloads while still feeling like they are an integral part of a team — are happier. And happier staff mean more productive staff. The more rigid the workplace, the more dissatisfied the staff, particularly if they are knowledge workers.

It goes without saying, but we’re saying it anyway (because it can’t be said enough) that the benefits of a flexible workplace for staff include:

– being able to work around family commitments

– taking a personal day that doesn’t use up sick days or annual leave

– if they are travelling less, employees spend less money on gas and less time on the commute to work

– reduced child care costs, which can be significant

– working according to when they are most alert and creative

– greater autonomy and control

– being able to claim “work at home” tax deductions.

Benefits for the workplace include:

– increased staff morale and therefore happier staff

– decreased absenteeism and lateness

– positioning the company as a “great place to work”

– reducing employee “churn”.

Of course, there are disadvantages on both sides, so these need to be weighed carefully against the advantages before implementing more flexible working conditions. And make no mistake, this is a change management project and will need to carefully planned ahead of time if it has any chance of being successful, and this includes changing systems and processes.

Introducing your new best friend: the 9/80 Work Schedule

There are a number of programs that are being introduced to workplaces to foster flexibility and these include remote work, working from home, job-sharing, the four day week and compressed hours week. One program that is attracting a lot of attention is the 9/80 work schedule (9 days, 80 hours — geddit?).

The 9/80 schedule is a simple concept that reaps a range of benefits for staff and workplaces. Staff feel more in control of their time and schedule, without having to sacrifice salary in return for reduced working hours. At the same time, organisations feel in control of their staff and payroll. It really is a win-win.

So… what is the 9 80 work schedule? And why would you want to implement this particular work/life balance program in your enterprise?

Simply put, the 9/80 schedule turns the standard 9 to 5, Monday to Friday work week on its head. The hours worked are the same in a pay period (assuming you work 80 hours in a fortnight), but staff generally work a two week roster of four 9 hour days, then one 8 hour day that is divided across two 4 hour blocks. The first 4 hour block finishes off the first work week, and the second 4 hour block starts the second work week off. Four more days are worked in the second week, and then the employee has a day off as a flex day. Your staff will work their usual 80 hours per pay period (if that’s what they are contracted to work) without the need for payment of overtime, or time off in lieu.

The major consideration with the 9/80 work schedule is time tracking and payroll: you must designate one of the work weeks — usually week two — as the cut-off for input of payroll details.

Depending on typical working hours, you may introduce a work schedule that looks something like this. The 9/80 does not have to begin on a Monday, and start and finish times can be negotiated with your employees, depending on core business hours:

FIRST WORK WEEK PERIOD:

Monday – 9 hours (for example, 8AM-1PM, unpaid break for lunch, 1.30PM-5.30PM)

Tuesday – 9 hours

Wednesday – 9 hours

Thursday – 9 hours

Friday – work 4 hours (first block of 8AM-1PM the end of the first work week)

work another 4 hours (second block of 1.30PM-5.30PM is the beginning of the second work week)

Saturday and Sunday: off.

SECOND WORK WEEK PERIOD:

Monday: Off (can be any day in the second week)

Tuesday: 9 hours

Wednesday: 9 hours

Thursday: 9 hours

Friday: 9 hours

Saturday and Sunday: OFF.

If your staff usually work a 38 hour work week (7.5 hours per day), you can adjust the 9/80 schedule accordingly.

Challenges of the 9/80 work schedule

The main challenge implementing the 9/80 work schedule is around payroll and time tracking — and communication of how the 9 80 will work for staff. Should it be an opt-in program? Or should it be rolled out for all staff in order to make payroll easier? These are deep, philosophical questions about your organisation and its culture — kind of akin to the meaning of life — and should be discussed in a frank and fearless manner with your employees before you even think about doing the 9/80 dance with them. Why bother wasting time, effort and money implementing a system that no one wants?

If your frank and fearless conversations and your staff are all for it, there are a few things you will need to consider before rolling out the 9/80 work schedule across your organisation. Some of these considerations include:

– a longer workday, which may take some getting used to, and your employees may feel that all they do is get up, go to work, go to bed. Rinse and repeat. This could effect their motivation in the long run because they may feel they have reduced leisure time, which is the whole point of the 9 80 schedule in the first place.

– being required to start work earlier than staff are used to may also effect their motivation and productivity. If it’s snowing outside, and you have to get to the bus or train station before the sun has risen, a 9AM start is a more attractive option than a 7AM start. The 9 80 schedule is more likely to benefit morning people.

– changing your sick leave policy to account for a 9 hour work day. Most sick leave policies cover an 8 hour day, so your policy will need to be reviewed and updated to ensure staff aren’t disadvantaged from a pay perspective if they call in sick.

– paying overtime. Staff awards mean that generally they work a set number of hours per week, for example, 40 or 37.5 hours. Employees who work overtime may be a headache for payroll, for example, an extra ten hours in one week and five in another will throw out the 9 80, so you’ll have to work out what to do about paying overtime before you roll out the program.

– public holidays. You are legally required to give your employees the day off, fully paid and accounted for, but it means that they will have an extra day off in the 80 hour pay period. Lucky them, but it means your business has lost a day in terms of productivity, and you’ll have to negotiate with your employees how you deal with that.

– the day off is fixed. The whole point of the 9 80 work schedule is having a regular day off every two weeks for staff flexibility, but for payroll reasons the day off must be fixed. The way that 9/80 works is that the day off can not be changed, and this may prove to be too rigid for your staff.

Introducing the 9 80 work schedule has benefits for staff and workplaces, but tracking time in an ethical way can be problematic. Traqq — a time tracking app — can help you with this. Traqq is installed on computers and runs in the background. The app tracks the time your employees work and the data collected includes screen shots, internet usage, app and program activity. Traqq can be used offline, and data will sync when you are next online.

Suitable for freelancers or large multi-national teams, activating your Traqq account is free and includes access to the full suite of tools and features, including encrypted data and ethical tracking.

Try Traqq today for free.