Work more to work less with a compressed work week

compressed work weekDEPENDS ON THE PERSON…


Many of you might agree working a compressed work week would make your life easier but for others it’s not a perk they care too much about.

Factor in the possibility that you might have to retire later in life because you aren’t working the amount of hours you are used to and it might deter you further.

If you can picture yourself living the retired life how old are you when that happens?

Getting up and going to work for everyone around the globe is a part of life as is earning an honest living.

We all have employers with different missions and values and even some who look after their staff with such care that they worry about how their days outside of work will impact their productivity when they come back to work.

Sounds too good to be true but some employers want their staff to come back to work refreshed and able to give them 110% rather than 50%. I know that what happens behind closed doors no one may ever know but if your employer takes extra steps to ensure they make your working days easier they may see a huge rise in sales, teamwork and more importantly a happy staff.

You only have to watch those bosses on the TV program “Undercover Boss” to see just how dedicated some employers are to their staff. You may not get all the perks your friends get at work but having options or having an employer that cares is a perk all in its own.


Compressed work week


What is a compressed work week?

The reason some people don’t know what a compressed work week (also called a variable work week) is composed of is because it’s not something that is widely offered to many workers.

You may find out that your employer offers a compressed work week but is governed by a collective agreement or contract so you may have provisions you need to abide by in order to apply for such working conditions. Not all careers are able to take on the compressed work week.

Our neighbour who works in the public service works 12-14 hour shifts for three days and is off for four. She enjoys running and gardening and says that it’s a time she needs to wind down and rejuvenate especially given the field she works in.

I am the same way. It’s not that bad really just a few extra hours a day but you get used to it. I agree that for those that hate their job it may be something they have no interest in. You have to love what you do otherwise you will have no interest in staying at work longer each day.

For those that do have the ability to work a compressed work week they embrace the opportunity to get in and get out and enjoy life.

A compressed work week really is nothing more than working more hours per day so you work less days per week. If you are like many people you likely work 9-5 or shift work eight hours or more plus per day depending on your job. Your job might even include overtime. A standard work week might include showing up to punch in five days each week and you get Saturday and Sunday off or two days at various points in the week.

Would you work three days each week, 11-12 hour shifts which is considered a compressed work week if that meant you had four days off to yourself? This may mean you might not be able to retire early according to Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. In a recent Financial Times article the communications tycoon says, “We should only be working three days a week.”

At a conference in Paraguay according to the article Slim says that our lives need a “radical overhaul” and that instead of retiring in our 50’s and 60’s that we should continue to work which means it will take longer to retire but you get more free time in the process.

To me it seems like you are taking the free time you “might” get after you retire if you are in good health and balancing it in the present while you are still healthy enough to do so. You can travel now instead of worrying about travel insurance issues as you age or not wanting to go far because of your health.

Not everyone has health issues as they age but if you can balance what you have now which is a certainty for what is a possibility Slim may be on to something. Sounds interesting since balance to me is a big part of living.

I also agree with Slim when he says working only three days a week you would have more quality time to relax and with four days off you have more of an opportunity to generate more interests, in other words “other ways of being occupied”. At least that is what I took from his words quoted below from the Financial Times. Why? I’m living it. I’m no billionaire by any means but I’m certainly enjoying the flexible work options I have.

“With three work days a week, we would have more time to relax; for quality of life. Having four days [off] would be very important to generate new entertainment activities and other ways of being occupied.”

Some people work 4 days a week 10 hour shifts which leaves them 3 days off each week to get what they need to get done, including family time, rest and enjoying life. A compressed work week might not be suitable for everyone but I can speak from experience and say that I really enjoy it. I have many colleagues that work a compressed work week due to the careers we are in. I spoke to one of my co-workers who works with me and he said that it really helps keep him focused on the job.

I speak for myself but for the most part your body should be able to adjust to 3 days a week working compressed hours a lot easier than it can adjusting to night-shift working 5 days a week. I’ve had to do both. We all like to sleep at night so it’s a tough shift to adapt to but for some they also get used to it.

Sure it can be quite tiring in the beginning but you adapt and enjoy the results. I have no issues staying focused at work for 12+ hours, it just depends on what you’re used to and whether you can physically and mentally adjust. Not everyone can.


My working life


When I moved to Canada I never dreamed I would be working a compressed work week but I am. Working only 3 days a week has its pros and cons which I will talk about today. Back home in the UK I worked whatever was dished my way because working more meant more money in my pocket which I could use to pay off my mortgage, renovate or even go on all the holidays I used to go on.

I would travel anywhere from four to seven times a year all around the world. Mind you we have more holidays in the UK than in Canada and I banked quite a few as well which helped. It was shocker when I moved to Canada to find out what kind of vacation time is offered but I’m used to what we don’t get here. You just have to balance what makes you happy. Having worked in my career for many years now I do have plenty of vacation and I do bank holidays which I work.

Work was hard to come by in the UK especially if you lived in small villages and had to drive out of the village to get to work. If you didn’t drive you were stuffed or had to car pool. If you didn’t have a bus system like the big cities you had to rely on having your own vehicle.

I took every opportunity presented to me even if I was exhausted but looking back maybe I was doing myself more harm than good. Sure the money is nice to have but our health and well-being is more important. Sometimes we are too busy making money we forget to live life. In a way maybe I was doing that with bouts of holidays in between.

I often hear people boast about their flex-time work schedule where they are able to start work or end work with-in a certain time frame. Having flexible hours in the workplace works out great for lots of people, mainly office workers who have child care needs, appointments etc. to take care of.

For many this is a perk of their role which gives them the opportunity to choose what works for them. Not everyone is so fortunate. If you are a business owner you know as well I that flex-time and a compressed work week may not be in the cards, at least not in the beginning. My wife remembers a couple who bought a Tim Horton’s restaurant years and years ago who worked day and night.

They both quit their full-time careers to take on what some would say is a “liquid gold mine” but it’s not without plenty of work. They were at the store for the first few years working as owner/operators and managers. It wasn’t until they got themselves sorted out financially and with their staff that they hired managers.

They no longer had to be at the store around the clock and were able to enjoy their life. This is what they chose to do, we all have choices and are in control of the wheel even when the going gets rough. Attitude plays a big part in how we view our life.


Working three days a week


I’m very fortunate in my career to have the flexibility to do my job at my own pace (unless an emergency arises where I have no control) working a compressed work week. I am able to get other things done as well. I may not work 40 hours a week every week but close to it and am able to make ends meet. Some weeks I work 60 hours + depending on situations. It all depends but the compressed work week is what I have to work with.

You get used to the income you earn so if you make more, you might spend more. If you make less money you still might spend more money. It all depends on how much money you need to get by in your household without going broke. It also makes a big difference how you manage your money as well.

However with the compressed work week there are plenty of opportunities to work overtime or extra hours or even get a second job because you have the available free time to do it. The second job could be something that you always wanted to do or something that might get you a foot in the door into a new career like I’m doing. Working the compressed work week I also only pay for gas to work and back 3 times a week as opposed to 5.

Some employers may not offer 12 hour shifts they may offer 11 hour shifts as Slim requests but wants his employees to work until the age of 70-75. That’s certainly not for everyone.

I may not work traditional hours like 9-5 but I do work enough hours each week that I am able to be home four days a week. I know that this arrangement might not be for everyone however the pros far outweigh the cons for me.

I have worked 8 hours a day for 5 days a week before on a night shift which was horrible. When you woke up in the afternoon you spent 5-6 hours a day waiting to go to work. What a waste of time that was. I’d rather go to work and get it all done in as little time as needed and then enjoy my days off.


Pros of my compressed work week


  • I get four days off 🙂
  • Less stress
  • I don’t have to commute to work five days a week (time)
  • I spend less gas going to work
  • Less wear and tear on my vehicle
  • Less lunches to pack
  • More alert and productive at work even though I work longer hours
  • I can spend more time with my wife
  • I can travel more
  • I have a long weekend every weekend (although it may not be Friday, Saturday and Sunday)
  • I can get more done around the house
  • I get plenty of rest
  • I’m happier
  • My wife loves it
  • I can blog when I want and work on my hobbies
  • I get to choose when I go shopping rather than on the weekends when it’s jam-packed
  • I am able to book appointments when needed without having to make other arrangements
  • I can work my second job which is my dream job but only offering part-time hours


Cons of my compressed work week


I’ll be honest to say it was hard for me to come up with many cons here. I know we don’t have any kids “yet” but even so it won’t impact our family because of my ability to have shift hours that are flexible and compressed.

The one thing that I don’t know about is when I can retire. I do the best I can to figure out how much money I will have when I retire but nothing is for certain.

I still get paid the same amount whether I work five days or three days a week so I’m not sure why I’d have to retire later in life. That part of what Slim says is still brewing in my head because unless you are working less or earning less you still should be able to have the same saving power as you would while working five days a week.

The pitfall might be for those who typically work 40-50 hours a week and the hours are reduced to 30-35 hours which means yes you are out some cash because you work less. It all depends on what your employer offers with a compressed work I suppose.

Besides most employers including mine include shift premiums into your pay because you are working long shifts. Some offer paid breaks and paid lunch hours too.

  • My working day is longer so I get tired (but who doesn’t)
  • Can be mentally and physically challenging at time of emergency or unexpected occurrences but that’s the nature of my career

If you are a dual income family the compressed work week may also help with childcare needs where you spend less on childcare because one spouse is home a majority of the time. Daycare costs can crush a family budget and another reason some mom’s opt to stay home rather than return to work. The compressed work week would give the couple options.

Not everyone has the flexibility to work longer shifts either which means they may struggle to balance their family life.

One guy I know is in his 70’s and is still working and enjoys it although retirement is just around the corner for him. He has had the opportunity to be flexible with his schedule over the years but since he is self-employed he figured why retire early when I can continue to earn money and work all the flex hours I want? Interesting… some people just don’t want to retire.

Would you work a compressed work week and retire later? Could your budget handle working less hours in a compressed work week to enjoy more days off each week ?


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  1. I thought this post was prompted by Carlos Slim.

    I love compound interest so I want to earn as much as possible as early as possible. But with that said, I keep an eye out for signs of burnout.

  2. For me, financial freedom looks like a compressed work week. I would LOVE to only work 3 days a week and chill the other 4. I actually don’t even care what the hours would be for the 3 days just to earn 4 days of rest.

    1. LOL .. that’s what I do Shannon and I’m used to it now. It really is a great work week. I love having so much freedom away from work.

  3. I worked part time back when the kids were quite small. Hubby worked nights so he was my daycare. We did that for a few years until our daughter was a year and a half so roughly 3-1/2 years worth on that.Mat leave has come a long way since those days!!! I went back to work when our oldest boy was 3 months old and went back with his sister after 5 months. After that I was a stay at home Mom as it was so much easier with hubby working a straight night shift. He has a streak of night owl in him so it worked fairly well for him. He would do his running around and work on the house when he came home in the morning and he loved that part. As he was usually working on the house he could go and get what ever when ever. He would have lunch with us and then go to bed, getting up just before leaving for work. To the kids it was normal, it was what they grew up with. Mind you as the kids got older it could be tricky some days sleeping while they were up and doing things. Such is life. The hardest part for him was a bad habit of going back to a day shift weekends and holidays. First couple of days of the week could be rough!!!
    The lady next door worked the compressed work week, working four 10 hours days every week. She did a lot of her running around on Fridays.

    1. The compressed work weeks don’t work for everyone but for those that do enjoy them it’s great to have the freedom to be off so many days. Many couples do end up with a stay at home mom or dad because it makes it easier and cheaper on the budget. It really depends on the career they are giving up to stay home. Did you enjoy being home all the time? or did you miss working?

      1. I loved being home with my kids!!! It was so hard to leave them when I went back even if it was their father looking after them!!!:(. I made most of my kids clothes when they were little and some toys like stuffiness and such. They grew up in the days of Cabbage Patch Kids and those dolls had a better wardrobe then I did thanks to my sewing machine!!! I did crafts like crochet, knitting, and a little quilting too while home. We read all the time too…we have enough books in this house to give a small library a run for the money!!!! LOL!!

  4. I work long days but won’t call it compressed week. Some jobs tend to expand and I suppose the way to do it is to have very hard limits around achievement. Thanks for making me think about this anyway.

    1. Even though I have a compressed work week I work long days and some days even longer than the norm but what can I do. I used to be the way you are.

  5. I’ve kind of worked the same as Mary. It really gets to be a drag to work all those hours for free. I’m working less now because I’m just not doing it anymore. I would love to work my full-time hours in 4 days instead of 5, having a three day weekend each week would be great.

    1. It really is great to be home more and I’m sure many people would love to get their work over and done with and spend more time doing other things outside of work. Do you just say no to your employer when they offer overtime?

      1. Basically, the work just doesn’t get done and things fall behind. You feel crappy and dissatisfied. When you are asked about something on your list, you have to say that you haven’t had time to work on on it because you’ve been working on X instead. You have to communicate periodically all of the things you are working on or things that are not getting done so that there are no surprises and misunderstandings. It’s not pleasant because you feel like a failure because you can’t get all your work done. You either say f*ck it and just keep going, or periodically you do work more to get to some place of sanity or feeling of things being under control (all unpaid overtime). You can take time off later in lieu, but there’s always a big risk of falling behind again. So in many ways, paid overtime is the best way to work. You are compensated and you don’t have guilt and feelings of inadequacy. Thanks for asking.

  6. I was “salaried” for many years based on a 40 hour work week but the reality of the position was that it was a 70-80 hour per week position with unpaid overtime because of the “salaried” designation. Compressed work week… oh you bet I would have loved it! If I needed to work 12-14 hours a day anyway, I would have really enjoyed 4 days off to recuperate and unwind! That wasn’t my reality though… with a 24/7 365 day a year “on call” status, unfortunately for no additional remuneration, there certainly wasn’t the option of having 4 days off per week. 🙁

    1. That’s very true Mary. Some salaried people don’t get paid overtime and they must endure the hours so a compressed work week would have been great for you. You were working it anyways. Thanks for sharing.

  7. I loved working a compressed work week. I did it for five years. I only had one con, I was not a fan of my job, I was there because I was good at it and could manage deadlines really well, so I wasn’t always keen to go in. But the 4 days away each week gave me enough separation that I was ok to go back the following week. My best pros were more time with the family, less day care to be paid overall, more availability to cart my son to his extracurricular activities, and I was lucky enough to have a predictable schedule, the same three days every week so I could make plans. No, I didn’t get weekends off, I always worked Sunday, but while my son was in school during the week chores could get done and it was more about spending time with him. Now that position is gone, I will have to see what is next for me. If given the opportunity to work a compressed week again, I would. However, since I am looking at office work, that likely won’t happen. Money never changed as well, it was the same if I worked 3 or 5 days as long as I put in the same number of hours.

    1. Loving what you do will play a big factor in whether a compressed work week will work for someone. I love working the compressed work week as I am able to do so much more with my life. A few extra hours a shift is no big deal any more for me. It all depends on the person. Thanks Angela.

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