The pros and cons to doing a Compressed Work Week

I did a Compressed Work Week when I returned from mat leave in early 2019 – I was the first in my company of 40,000 people to do a Compressed Week (one of Australia’s top 4 banks) and I loved doing it.

I continue to embrace a ‘compressed week’ now, as there are so many benefits. That’s not to say it’s a walk in the park – it does take a while to work out your schedule, how to manage your time and energy, what to say to stakeholders, including clients and Executives (who I was working with in my job) – and adjust to a new way of working.

So here are my list of pro’s and con’s from my experiences and others who I’ve interviewed and spoken to about this flexible work choice.

Pros (Advantages of doing a Compressed Work Week):

  1. You get to have quality time with your family, or doing something that you love, like doing an MBA. Quality time with children and/or elderly parents is one of the most common reasons that my clients do a Compressed Work Week – they value how precious this time is. I wanted to do a Compressed Week because it meant quality time with my son, George, as I knew I’d never get this back with him whilst juggling a job and career that I loved. It gave me the best of both worlds.
  2. You become highly effective and efficient – get ready to supercharge your productivity and became laser focused on your KPIs and deliverables. You become organised and plan ahead every week.
  3. You learn how to do this new way of working. One of the things that Rebecca Hickman (she does a Compressed Work Week – 9 day fortnight at Transport for London – read more on LinkedIn) and I strongly agreed upon was that it does take time to ‘adjust’. By adjusting to this new way of working, we were talking about things like: organising your week, managing deadlines with less time in the office, liaising with stakeholders and planning how you’ll meet your deliverables.
  4. Keep your full time salary and long-term financial benefit. The people I know who do a Compressed Week do it because they want to maintain their full time salary and be paid fairly for the work that they do. You can see my economic model here, which shows the difference in earnings of a 4 day per week role and 5 day per week role over 10 years. The disparity: £100,000 or AUD$200,000.
  5. You don’t feel resentful towards your employer for working “over time”. So many professional new Mums (and Dads) that I know who work part time or a 4 day week, typically end up working the equivalent of 5 days / a full time role. Over time they become resentful and feel “trapped”. I have seen this this lead to burnout, exhaustion and people changing jobs or careers in favour of more flexibility or work/life balance on numerous occasions.
  6. It can improve your relationships with stakeholders. This includes building even more trust as you try this new way of flexible working. You need to show and effectively communicate with stakeholders that you will ‘uphold your side of the bargain’ in doing a Compressed week and continue to deliver on your KPIs and deliverables.
  7. Reduced costs: Childcare fees, commuting costs, work lunches and coffees etc. Also, by doing a Compressed week, you’ll likely have one day less of childcare per week. This was a significant saving for my family (around £65 / AUD$130 per week really adds up, in fact to around £3,250 for 50 weeks/ year or AUD$6,500 per year).
  8. Overall, better work/life balance: Once you know how to do a Compressed Work Week, you can do it at any workplace and the rest of your career. The challenge is learning how to do it and then you can do it in the long term, leading to a much better work/life balance.

Cons (Disadvantages of doing a Compressed Work Week):

  1. It can be exhausting and tiring. You have to learn how to manage your time and energy effectively.
  2. You need to become super-organised with your schedule including meetings. It’s really important to be clear on the meetings that you must attend and are critical to your role. Look at possible solutions, like whether a colleague may be able to go for you and take notes, and if you can go to a meeting for them. The “divide and conquer” expression has never become more real!
  3. You need to be productive, a lot of the time. There’s little room for procrastination. When doing a Compressed Work Week, your time becomes absolutely crucial and so does being productive within those hours.
  4. You need to communicate with others and be ready to answer lots of questions around a Compressed Work Week. As this way of flexible working is relatively ‘new’, you need to be ready to communicate with others around your deadlines, deliverables and your schedule. You may also get a lot of questions from colleagues and friends. Be ready for a lot of interest and talking about it.
  5. It’s not suitable for all professions. Of course there are some professions where this works better than others and in some, it’s not even deemed a possibility. Most people who I know who do it are in corporate or government jobs.
  6. It can be hard to negotiate for a new job, or in a job interview. Though I do know people who have done it. I spoke with a recruiter recently who said that over the past few months (late 2020), he was speaking with a lot of candidates – in fact around 5 per week – who were wanting to negotiate a Compressed Work Week.
  7. Preparing a proposal is a lot of work. Developing your business case can take a lot of work and it’s something that I’ve worked with many of my clients on – both negotiating and re-negotiating when they haven’t been successful. It can take time to do the negotiation and it’s worth being prepared for this, including knowing how to overcome objections. Once you’ve negotiated it, the next stage is to determine how you’ll do it, including how you’ll adjust to this new way of working and manage your time and energy.

If you would like to find out more about how to negotiate and develop your Compressed Work Week proposal, please do get in touch with me. I also offer a Compressed Work Week program, which takes you from developing your proposal through to knowing how to implement and actually do a Compressed Work Week.

I’m continually offering free webinars on the topic (get in touch for upcoming dates), supporting my clients to do it who work at companies like Deloitte, Amazon, Bupa, plus Asset Managers and insurance companies, and I frequently speak to businesses about it too.

I will happily provide you with my advice, expertise and suggested next steps, dependent to your situation.

You can also download one of my many guides on Compressed Work Weeks here.

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