What are Compressed Hours?

What are Compressed Hours?

Compressed hours are a type of flexible working where you increase the amount you work each day so you can reduce the number of days you work in a given period or take a days holiday in lieu. Typically people will work a four day week or a nine-day fortnight but there are many variations if your employer supports them.

Compressed hours meaning

Compressed hours, just like it sounds, compress the number of hours you need to work over a period of time, say a week, into fewer days.  The period can be what you choose; it may be a week, every other week, or a month.  The shorter the time between days off will impact how much more you will have to work each day to make up the time.  Some companies may support a specific schedule, like a nine-day fortnight, but in general, most companies allow you to accrue the hours to use how best works for you.

If you want to work a four day week, you need to compress the number of hours you do that week into four days.  Or perhaps you would like to have Friday off every other week, for that you need to compress your contracted hours for two weeks into nine days.

Compressed hours do not change the total amount of hours you work, so if you are full-time, you remain full-time when you compress hours, you just do those full-time hours over fewer days.  Similarly, if you are part-time, you still do the same amount of hours as before.  So this means you are entitled to the same salary and benefits as before.

Compressed hours does mean long days at work which may be more tiring to perform or more difficult to plan around but like many things, it’s a trade-off.  You are foregoing more time during the days you work so that you can free up more days that you don’t work.

What do compressed hours mean for holiday entitlement?

Compressed hours can make holiday entitlement a little confusing depending on how your company calculates them.  For most people it’s simple, you are entitled to the same amount of holidays as any other full-time employee if you are working the same amount of time.  The fact you are in the workplace less total days should not make a difference to the amount of holiday or vacation days you receive.

The confusion often comes when companies calculate annual holiday entitlement based on the days you’ve worked through the year.  Companies that support compressed hours will have a way to calculate the correct allocation, it’s just that their handbook or HR guide will be written to reference days vs hours.  Contact your HR department if you have a question about it but your holiday entitlement should not change if you are working the same amount of total time.

Considerations when thinking about compressed hours?

People who work compressed hours highlight the following positive points:

  • Maintaining your full-time income whilst being able to work fewer days.
  • Better work-life balance by reducing the total number of days in the office.  Having a full day away from the office enables you to plan more outside of work.
  • Working fewer days reduces the amount you have to commute which has been shown to have positive health and well-being impacts as well as costing less.

Compressed hours is not without challenges though:

  • Working more hours in a day can be more physically and mentally taxing, with some people finding it more difficult to find time for much life outside of work
  • Being outside of the office for a full day can lead to requiring you to catch up on activities that occurred while you were out.
  • Getting contacted by work on your days that you are out of the office, as others are still working they may contact you with enquiries.  If you find this happening you should discuss it with your employer.  It’s important to have an alternate contact to avoid days off being interrupted with work matters.

Examples of how compressed hours work

Example 1

Claire works full-time on a 35 hours a week contract and is looking to work four days a week.  By increasing her working day by 1 hour and 45 minutes each day she is able to take every fifth day off.

Example 2

John works full-time on a 40 hours a week contract doing 8 hours a day.  He wants to take every other Friday off from work so must work an additional hour for eight of the nine days between each day off.

Compressed hours calculator

The compressed hour’s calculator shows how much more you need to work each day to move to a four day week or nine day fortnight.

The compressed week experiment

If you are looking to convince your employer about how you can perform your job in a compressed week, the following video and accompanying book may help.  Andrew Barnes, a successful businessman moved his entire company to a four day week.  In this experiment, they did not need to work additional hours to move to a four day week but confirm they could complete the work they had previously done in five in just four by being more effective.  The experiment was a great success and they found many benefits in terms of how the workforce responded to the challenge.  Obviously this is quite an extreme example but it’s helpful to see that it can be done and use it to show what has been done in other organisations.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you calculate compressed hours?

Compressed hours are calculated by dividing the amount of time you must work by the reduced number of days you plan to work.  For example, if you work 40 hours a week and want to work a four-day compressed week, its 40 / 4 = 10 hours per day. For a nine-day fortnight it would be 40 x 2 = 80 (gives your fortnightly hours) then 80 / 9 = 8 hours 53 minutes.

How do you request compressed hours?

Compressed hours are a recognised type of flexible working so you can submit a request under UK employment law. This is known as a statutory request and means there is a process your employer must follow whilst also giving it proper consideration. You can also request flexible working without a statutory request which may be the best first step in some instances.

How many hours is a nine-day fortnight?

The amount of hours in a nine day fortnight depends on how many hours you are contracted to work each week. If you work a 35 hour week, you must do 70 hours in a fortnight (35 x 2). To work out your nine day fortnight you just need to divide your hours over nine days, so that could be 7 days of 8 hours and 2 days of 7 hours. Or it could be 9 days of 7 hours 47 mins.

In Summary

Compressed hours are a great way to reduce the total number of days you work or increase your holidays with time off in lieu. You still work full-time hours so there is no reduction in pay but you have to work more hours on the days you work to make up the time. Some people find the additional hours to be demanding but for many the ability to have additional days off work on a regular basis out weight the extra time spent.


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