Every employee would like a more flexible schedule. Every employee would like more days off.
Unfortunately, though, putting a flexible work schedule in place can be challenging, especially for small-business owners.
Let's look at some options that will not only provide more days off for employees -- not fewer hours worked, but fewer workdays -- but can also help create greater social distance in your workplace.
1. 9/80 Work Schedule
A 9/80 work schedule is a compressed work schedule in which employees still work 80 hours every two weeks, but in the process get one extra day off. (In case that sounds too good to be true, it's a schedule approved by the Department of Labor.)
A 9/80 schedule works like this:
First week: An employee works nine hours per day, Monday through Thursday, and eight hours on Friday. Since the total is 44 work hours, for payroll purposes the following week actually "starts" at noon on Friday.
Second week: The employee works nine hours per day, Monday through Thursday. Those 36 hours, plus the four hours from the previous Friday (when the payroll clock started at noon), add up to 40 hours.
Which means the workweek is over, and the employee gets Friday off. On Monday, the two-week cycle starts again.
I know what you're thinking: "But my business won't allow everyone to be off on any given Friday."
No problem: Simply make the off day different for different employees. Mine might be Wednesdays. Or Mondays. Or whatever works. Regardless, everyone gets a weekday off every two weeks.
Just keep in mind the three-day weekend that results from getting Monday or Friday off will be prized, so consider putting a periodic day-off rotation in place.
2. 4-Star (12-Hour, 3.5-Day Workweeks)
When I worked on a shop floor, the facility ran 24/6 and often 24/7. For a long time, we worked three eight-hour shifts, and weekends when required. But working 13 days straight gets old, so instead of maintaining three shifts, we created four, made up of employees who all worked 12-hour shifts.
In practice, it looked like this:
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday: Crew A works 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Crew B works 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Thursday, Friday, Saturday: Crew C works 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Crew D works 6 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Sunday: Crews take turns working Sundays (if required).
Then, every month crews swapped days of the week and shifts.
For example, Crew A moved to the night shift and worked Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Which meant crews shifting from working the front of the week had to work six or seven days in a row to make the change, but it also meant the other two crews got seven days off. (In short, in one four-week period, you had to work seven 12-hour shifts in a row, but during the next four-week period you got seven days off in a row, without having to use any vacation time.)
This schedule works great for businesses that staff around the clock and during weekends.
The problem, though, is the resulting 36-hour workweek. Our crews didn't mind; they were happy to make less in return for getting a lot more days off.
If that's not possible for you, you'll need to add in an extra workday every week or two, depending on your pay cycle. Employees might need to work an additional four-hour day. Or an eight-hour day, if your payroll period covers two weeks.
That makes the process more complicated, but not insurmountable.
And the hassle could be worth it. The turnover rate on 4-Star crews was less than half of that for employees on eight-hour crews.
People who worked three 12-hour day shift schedules loved getting all those days off. For them, time off was a lot more important than pay.
And some used the time to start side hustles. Before side hustles were a thing.
3. Four 10-Hour Days
The grandmother of modified work schedules, with obvious benefits: same pay, same hours worked, one less workday per week. Scheduling, and creating a rotation schedule, is also easy.
If you have five employees, simply rotate the day off among them. This week, I get Monday off, next week Tuesday--but no matter what, I work only four days a week.
Of course that means you must have sufficient work to fill 10-hour days, and can also afford to have fewer employees present at any given time.
But if you have, say, 100 employees, that means you've instantly increased social distance among employees by 20 percent.
Combine that with some form of work-from-home policy, and distancing may be relatively simple to achieve.
How to Get Started
First, decide to what extent a flexible schedule might work for your business.
Then ask your employees what they think. Explain the pros and cons. Most important, lay out your expectations.
In short, make sure it works for your business and your employees.
Because without productive, engaged, and loyal employees, you don't have a business.