Work-life balance: Is a compressed workweek right for you?

If you're like most working Americans, that so-called work-life balance can be tricky to achieve. In fact, only 30% of current employees are happy with their work-life balance. Thankfully, a growing number of companies are recognizing the need for flexible arrangements by giving employees some wiggle room in their schedules. For some workers, that means telecommuting part-time or even full-time. For others, it could mean working a compressed week.
A compressed workweek is one where rather than work the traditional Monday through Friday schedule, you condense your work time into a fewer number of days -- typically four, though you might manage to pull off three. To be clear, you're not working fewer hours, but rather, are cramming them into a shorter time frame to give you an extra day off (or more) each week.
Now, not all jobs lend themselves to this option. If, for example, you manage a team and have daily meetings, not working once a week might negatively impact the business. But if condensing your workweek is possible based on your role and responsibilities, here are some of the pros and cons you might experience in going that route.

Benefits of a compressed workweek

The primary benefit of working, say, four days a week instead of five is having that extra day off to yourself. If you're currently stuck spending weekends tending to errands and housework because you don't have time to tackle those tasks during the week, then having an additional day to play with might free up some much-needed weekend leisure time for you.
Another advantage to consider is the possibility of saving money on your commute. If you spend $15 a day driving back and forth to work, having one day off a week will put $60 a month, or $720 a year, back in your pocket.
Finally, working a compressed week might enable you to save money on child care. If the daily rate at your child's center is $60, that's $240 a month in savings if you're able to stay home with your child an extra day per week.

Drawbacks of a compressed workweek

On the other hand, there are a few negatives you might encounter should you decide to condense your schedule. For one thing, the days you do work will be tougher ones. If you typically work 40 hours each week, you'll be logging in 10 hours a day instead of eight, and that can really take a toll on you over time. Not only might you feel drained during the week, but you also might end up too exhausted to enjoy your extra day off.
Another drawback of compressing your workweek is that your productivity might suffer, thus impacting your performance and career. Imagine you usually find yourself mentally spent by the time 5:00 p.m. rolls around every day. If you're now forcing yourself to work until 7:00 p.m. to snag an extra day off each week, there's a good chance you won't get much done during those last two hours, whereas you'd likely be more productive spreading your workload out over a five-day period instead.
Though compressed workweeks are a great way to weave a little flexibility into your schedule, they may not be the right choice for you. If your company offers the option, it pays to try it out for a month and see how it goes. If you find that it improves your quality of life, great. If not, you can always revert to a traditional schedule and chalk it up to an interesting experiment.
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