07 Sep 2023

Compressed hours: How do you prioritise employee wellbeing?

Employee prioritising her wellbeing.

With the news that expansive flexible working legislation is coming into power in the UK next year, flexiwork arrangements, such as compressed hours, are becoming increasingly popular. By completing a standard work week’s hours in fewer days, employees can enjoy longer weekends or mid-week breaks, boosting their work-life balance. But with these extended working days come challenges – primarily, ensuring employee wellbeing. Let’s delve into the world of compressed hours and explore strategies to promote wellbeing in such a setup.

What are compressed hours?

At its core, compressed hours is a flexibility model. One common example is the 9 day fortnight method, where employees work their usual fortnightly hours in nine days versus the usual 10, resulting in an extra day off every two weeks. While it offers numerous benefits, like reduced commuting times and enhanced personal time, it also means longer daily work hours, which might strain an individual both mentally and physically.

9 day fortnight: A popular example of compressed hours

The 9 day fortnight stands out as a favourite among compressed hours schedules. By simply extending daily working hours slightly, employees can enjoy an additional day off every two weeks. While the allure of a three day weekend is strong, the extended hours on working days require proper management to ensure wellbeing. Implementing the strategies mentioned earlier can ensure that the 9 day fortnight remains both productive and beneficial to employee health.

Is working compressed hours detrimental to employee wellbeing?

Compressed hours, while offering flexibility, also present certain wellbeing concerns. Whilst you and your employees are not adding extra hours, depending on how compressed the schedule is, you could be working an hour or two longer each day.

Physically this can be exhausting, since longer working days can result in extended sitting periods, which might lead to back problems and repetitive strain injuries.

Additionally, these elongated schedules can culminate in mental fatigue, potentially causing burnout and diminishing cognitive abilities as the day progresses. Moreover, even with the advantage of an extra day off, the extended daily work hours might pose challenges in balancing personal responsibilities, potentially encroaching on much-needed relaxation time.

It is also crucial to consider that a 9 day fortnight model might be alienating to the parents among your workforce, who perhaps cannot spend an extra hour at work every day, and risk overspending on childcare as a result.

How do you promote employee wellbeing on a compressed hours based schedule?

Frequent breaks

Encourage employees to take short, regular breaks. Stepping away from the desk, stretching, or a brief walk can reduce physical strain and mental fatigue. Consider implementing the Pomodoro technique, where individuals work for 25 minutes and then take a 5-minute break.

Ergonomic workspace

Ensure that employees have an ergonomically designed workspace. This can significantly reduce physical ailments resulting from prolonged sitting or improper posture.

Mental health support

Offer resources or workshops focusing on mental health. Tools like mindfulness apps, counselling services, or even mental health days can make a considerable difference.


Just as compressed hours offer flexibility, the manner in which they’re executed should also be adaptable. Perhaps an employee might start earlier some days and later on others, or maybe they split their day with a longer mid-day break. Find what works best for the individual.

Foster a supportive environment

Encourage a workplace culture where employees feel comfortable voicing their concerns or challenges with the compressed hours setup. Open dialogue can lead to tailored solutions.

Training and awareness

It’s crucial for both managers and employees to understand the potential challenges of compressed hours. Training sessions can equip teams with strategies to cope and thrive.

Promote physical activity

This could be in the form of discounted gym memberships, organising group workouts, or even just encouraging a daily walk. Physical activity is known to combat stress, improve mood, and boost overall health.

Proper nutrition

Longer workdays might mean irregular eating habits. Promote the importance of regular, nutritious meals to fuel the body and mind. Perhaps provide healthy snacks in the office or offer workshops on nutrition and meal planning.

Compressed hours, like any flexible work arrangement, come with their set of challenges and benefits. The key to reaping the advantages while navigating the challenges lies in prioritising employee wellbeing. By creating a supportive environment, understanding potential pitfalls, and proactively addressing them, companies can ensure that their compressed hours system is not just a perk on paper but a genuine boost to employee morale, health, and productivity.