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Flexible Work Schedules

Often called 3-36, 4-40, or 9-80, employees work longer hours but fewer days over a conventional week. Flexible work schedules can also include varying the hours during the day an employee works. Offering employees flexible schedules increases employee satisfaction, removes trips from peak commute hours as flextime participants arrive earlier and leave later than a conventional 8 am to 5 pm schedule, and takes trips off the road on flex days. Employee satisfaction means employee retention and reduces recruitment and training costs. Twenty-two percent of Southern California commuters say their employers offer flextime.

Employees often identify flexible work schedules as the benefit they want most. The benefits to your company are many, including employee satisfaction and retention which means reduced recruiting and training costs, as well as reducing traffic during peak hours and on flex days. For a sample company policy, click here.

The times they are a’s what studies show

  • Gen X workers (52%) place a higher value on family than work as compared to the boomers (41%)
  • Boomers and Gen X workers are both demanding work/life balance
  • Many employees end up moving, either to a different job or a different home in order to improve their commutes
  • Recruitment, retention, productivity, and absenteeism are at the forefront of business issues

Employee Advantages

  • Flexible schedules allow employees to balance their careers and have families
  • Greater job satisfaction to balance work/life
  • A faster or less stressful commute
  • An eliminated commute one or more days a week

Community Benefits

  • Reduced trips and Vehicle Miles Traveled
  • Meets the requirements of the South Coast Air Quality Management District’s Rule 2202
  • Reduced congestion
  • Safer neighborhoods because people are around during the day
  • Savings on fuel
  • Reduced carbon footprint

Major Types of Flexible Work Schedules


Allows employees to begin work early in the day or stay late, while working the same number of hours per day. Implementing flex-time is easy. Establish what your core workplace hours are and then set overall office hours, for example:

Office hours: 6:30 am - 6:30 pm
Core hours: 9:30 - 11:30 am/1:00 - 3:00 pm
Lunch: 12 pm - 1 pm

Employees can choose a schedule that flexes beginning and end times outside the core hours.

Compressed Work Week

Compressed work weeks are common in many employment sectors. Variations include 9/80, 4/10, and 3/36.

9/80 (common in information-based industries)
Employees work eight, nine-hour days and one eight hour day, take 10th day off

4/40 (common in manufacturing)
Employees work four, 10-hour days and take 5th day off

3/36 (common in hospitals/shift work)
Employees work three, 12-hour days and take two days off

Employer Considerations

  • Coverage — Early in the morning and late in the afternoon
  • Eligibility — Not for every employee
  • Hardship — Some employees may not be able to adopt the program due to personal needs such as school schedule and child care
  • Holidays and Vacation Time — Counted as 9 hours for 9/80 or 10 hours for 4/40
  • Rideshare Arrangements — May facilitate rideshare formation or impact existing arrangements unless all are on the same schedule

Legal Issues

  • Fair Labor Standards Act defines overtime for non-exempt as hours worked in excess of 40 per week
  • Solution: Start of work week for non-salaried on 9/80
  • California labor laws define overtime for non-exempt as hours worked in excess of 8 per day
  • Solution: Need 2/3 vote of non-exempt employees for change of schedule and treatment of hours per day

Staggered Hours

  • Start and end times are assigned/shifts
  • Shifts can vary by as little as 15 minutes or by many hours
  • Benefits are to spread out the peak commuting period and relieve congestion in the immediate vicinity of the workplace and other infrastructure, such as parking lots or elevators


  • Develop appropriate shifts
  • Not as many benefits to employees
  • Beneficial for reducing congestion on elevators, in parking lots, and in immediate neighborhood or Central Business District
  • May allow seasonal changes on shift

Main Issues for Implementation of all Programs

  • Determine how to handle holidays and vacation time (many revert to use of hours/some credit)
  • Develop core period & general coverage (cross train staff)
  • Assess cost of programs if any
  • Consider impact on other modes if schedule may impact carpooling or vanpooling
  • Develop a written policy (enrollment process)
  • Address hardships and concerns
  • Introduce program
  • Monitor & evaluate results
  • Expand, if possible