What is 9/80 and does it offer flexible solutions?

The 9/80 way of working might be an attractive proposition to employers considering how to engage with working dads’ desire for flexible working in 2021

Businessman on plank balanced on a ball with the word Work at one end and the word Life at the other


Employers are going to have plenty of numbers to juggle in 2021. The economy should recover from the pandemic hit over the next 12 months but there’ll be financial bumps in that road.

But perhaps two key numbers could be 9/80.

It’s a whizzy term for a fairly straightforward concept. It stands for a nine day week in which employees clock up 80 hours. Hence 9/80.

Nine day fortnight

There continues to be a buzz around the idea of a four day week. But those firms adopting it remain few and far between. That might change in 2021 as it offers a way to spread less work among the same number of employees. But 9/80 might be the next step in mixing up the working week.

It used to be known as a nine day fortnight. But that term remains a little flabby. It doesn’t specify the hours worked. Under a 9/80 system employees continue to do the ‘normal’ amount of 80 hours. But they flex when they do them. That might mean adding around an hour on to the end of a regular 9 to 5. But it can be more radical than that. Many people, particularly working dads and working mums, found during lockdown that they were making up hours in the evening or even before breakfast because they lost time during the day to feeding and entertaining their offspring.

However they choose to do it, once employees have done their 80 hours across nine days they get the 10th day off. That might mean taking every second Friday off. But it doesn’t have to be. It could be every second Monday and using that day to get household admin done, sharing the domestic load between a couple. Or it could be taking another weekday off to help ferry a child to a sports fixture and watch them compete. (Assuming sports fixtures return in 2021!) Equally it could be half a day each week. With any flexible working the emphasis is on flexibility as long as outputs remain steady.

Working dads

We know working dads want to continue working flexibly. Our 2020 survey found around 80% of respondents said they wanted to retain the option to work from home or change their hours. The majority had never or only rarely worked from home before. But most said they wanted to keep doing so and they expected bosses to be more open to the idea. The trick is going to be finding a system that suits everyone. 9/80 is worth considering.

On the plus side for employees it means no cut in salary in return for flexibility. The total number of hours worked remains the same. And it can allow workers to boost holiday entitlement. By scheduling leave for the weeks in which you only work four days you can get more bang for your holiday allowance buck.

For employers it shows a willingness to engage with the desire among working dads for continued flexible working. But there is no loss in the hours put in or outputs. In fact there’s plenty of studies showing that offering flexibility boosts productivity and loyalty. And by giving employees time with their family or to pursue hobbies or to sneak in the occasional three day weekend break you can inoculate them to some degree against burnout and stress.

There are of course some downsides. 9/80 may yet prove too rigid for the new world of work. Employees may want to flex further. It requires a bit of management to make sure folk that need to work together are in at the same time and to ensure it’s not being abused. The greater trust implicit in the system ought to take care of the latter. And there’s a balance to be struck. Asking employees to work longer days could actually leave them more tired and stressed either in the long term or by the end of each nine day run.

Communication and experimentation

As with all flexible working options the key to making 9/80 work is communication and experimentation.

If you’re an employer considering it, talk to your workforce to explain what would be required and how it might work. Take on their feedback. If you’re an employee then float the idea in the first place and see where the discussion goes.

And don’t go all in at once. Run a trial period, perhaps three months.

9/80 offers an opportunity to get ahead of the curve and dip your toes in the flexible working waters. Expect to hear it bandied about more as 2021 bowls on.

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