Ever heard of the 9/80 work schedule? If you’re not familiar with this alternative way of working, don’t feel too bad. Between return-to-office mandates, quiet quitting, and the four-day work week, staying on top of the latest working trends can be challenging.
Not to worry—we'll hook you up with what you need to know!
What is a 9/80 schedule?
A 9/80 work schedule differs from the typical 9 to 5 schedule that most knowledge workers follow. In a traditional 9 to 5 schedule, employees work eight hours a day, five days a week. In a two-week pay period, this adds up to 80 hours over ten working days.
In a 9/80 work schedule, employees also log 80 hours, but the configuration of those hours varies. Specifically, team members work eight nine-hour days and one eight-hour day, for a total of 80 hours across nine working days. This earns them one day off at the end of the pay period.
Benefits of a 9/80 work schedule
A 9/80 work schedule offers several potential benefits that are worthwhile for organizations to consider:
- Improved talent attraction. Companies that offer flexible working policies, such as a 9/80 work schedule, may be able to attract higher-quality talent relative to their competitors.
- Improved retention. Allowing employees to set flexible work schedules may improve retention. Don’t underestimate this—the loss of an employee incurs estimated costs of 1.5-2 times their salary, not to mention the indirect costs on productivity and employee morale.
- Better productivity. Offering flexible working policies could result in increased productivity if staff view the extra day off as a motivator. Theoretically, team members may also be more engaged when they work if they know they have a day allocated for personal use.
- Less time wasted. For teams that work onsite or are hybrid, employees can save on their commute time by structuring their days to avoid traveling during peak hours (not to mention the time they save during their scheduled days off).
Disadvantages of a 9/80 work schedule
While the 9/80 work schedule has many benefits, it also has a few drawbacks. These include:
- Longer days. It may not be reasonable to expect employees to remain productive when working longer, nine-hour days. Preliminary research suggests that productivity may peak at six hours per day.
- The schedule may not fit everyone. Working a nine-hour day may be challenging for those with dependent care obligations.
- Burnout risk. Employees may feel pressured to schedule personal activities exclusively on days off rather than on other days. This may inadvertently promote burnout.
Who should adopt a 9/80 work schedule?
The 9/80 work schedule is suitable for many different types of industries as long as the organization takes its time to think through the reasons for adopting this type of schedule and implements the necessary policies to support its practical use.
For example, while working in the U.S. government consulting space, I interacted with many clients that followed the 9/80 work schedule. I found their schedules fit fine within the project management process, as good project managers have to plan for many things. Accounting for time off was simply another detail to schedule around.
One reason that the 9/80 work schedule was successful where I worked was that it was deployed across a large organization. If a portion of the workforce were out of the office on a given day, the impact was relatively minimal. Small businesses may need help adopting the schedule, particularly if they are concerned about ensuring a sufficient level of customer service support.
One potential solution may be implementing a shift schedule, where half of the organization receives a day off in week one, and the other half receives a day off the following week. Another option is to offer different days off. For example, in government, some individuals opted for a lieu day on Fridays, while others took it on Mondays.
Another way to reduce disruption is to have employees work two four-hour days over the two-week pay period rather than receive a full day off.
The 9/80 work schedule can also succeed in onsite, hybrid, or remote environments (although the commute time savings won’t matter as much to those employees). Remote employees are likely to have a high degree of flexibility over their schedules already, so some may perceive the 9/80 work schedule as too restrictive.
How to implement a 9/80 work schedule
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and decided that a 9/80 work schedule is right for your organization, how do you put it into practice?
- Start small. If you need more clarification about the utility of a 9/80 work schedule, it’s best to test it out first. Start with a pilot program, define what success looks like, and establish metrics to track productivity before and after your experiment. Your pilot could be organization-wide or limited to a single department or cross-section of employees. If you meet your success criteria (which should include positive employee feedback!), then you can offer the 9/80 work schedule across the organization.
- Get it in writing. Consult with your HR and legal teams to update your employee handbook, policy docs, onboarding guides, and other related materials to reflect the new policy, why you’re implementing it, and how it will benefit employees. Comprehensive documentation is especially critical for remote and hybrid organizations.
- Practice what you preach. It's not enough to quietly update the paperwork, record a couple of training videos, and hope for the best. Managers must lead by example if they want this policy to succeed. If staff see their bosses doing it, it lessens potential stigma and encourages adoption.
- Operationalize. Publish the logistical details of the new schedule and share them with your employees (and your customers!). If you’re using a resource planning software like Float, update team calendars to account for the planned time off and evaluate any associated impacts to resource planning and project schedules. This way, your team will have visibility into everyone’s schedules.
- Advertise. Keep sight of the PR opportunity that a flexible work schedule can create to attract customers with similar values and help you recruit top-notch talent. Your social media and other recruiting platforms should sing the praises of your new way of working.
An easy way to keep track of team schedules
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Best practices for planning work schedules
If you’re considering adopting an alternative work schedule like a 9/80 work schedule, a four-day work week, or something similar, keep in mind the following best practices:
- Consistency is key. Alternative work schedules are easier to implement—and more likely to succeed—if policies are consistent across the organization. For example, if others are working on their scheduled day off, a team member may not feel comfortable taking the day due to fear of missing out (FOMO). There’s no FOMO if the entire company isn’t working that day!
- Change starts at the top. Only some government employees followed the 9/80 work schedule when I worked in government consulting, but it was an established policy that enjoyed managerial support beyond lip service. Bottom line? If leaders don’t normalize following the 9/80 work schedule, employees won’t take advantage of it—and you’ll lose the intended benefits.
- Don’t set it and forget it. I like to do a little spring cleaning on my projects from time to time, and your scheduling tool should be no exception. Review your work schedules on a set cadence (perhaps quarterly) and evaluate employee sentiment. Is the schedule working? Should the tooling change? Don’t be afraid to evolve in response to feedback!