At the end of every other week, Lockheed Martin systems engineer Cindy Schulz is especially thankful it’s Friday. Instead of sitting in the office all day, she’s out running personal errands, getting an early start on a weekend trip to the mountains or otherwise taking a day off.
It’s a perk called a 9/80 workweek that’s standard at Lockheed Martin Space Systems, which has its headquarters in Colorado’s Waterton Canyon and employs about 3,800 in the Denver area. Employees get every other Friday off, working 80 hours over nine days in a two-week period.
Aerospace executives say this alternate work schedule helps in recruitment and retention, particularly when competition for the best employees is fierce. “In the aerospace industry, there’s a shortage of talent,” said Scott Tibbitts, co-founder of Louisville, Colorado-based aerospace company Starsys, which also has a 9/80 workweek. “We all have the same problem: How do we keep and retain the very best people? There’s a desire to put benefits in place that (make) people say, ‘That’s a reason to go work for that company,’ and the 9/80 sort of stands out.”
For Schulz and most colleagues, Monday through Thursday are nine-hour days and the working Friday is an eight-hour day. That can make a stressful job, combined with a busy personal life, more bearable. Schulz, 38, has two sons, ages 6 and 8, and likes to handle tasks like going to the bank or the doctor on her Fridays off.
Some drawbacks of the system are that it often takes more coordination to work and communicate with people outside the company who are on a standard schedule. Those with set child-care schedules may find it difficult to arrange later pickups.
It also makes for longer workdays Mondays through Thursdays, but “a lot of us were working nine-or-10-hour days before they implemented this anyhow,” Schulz said.
Lockheed Martin Space Systems started using the 9/80 workweek about seven years ago. The company was introduced to the idea by employees asking for it and government customers that had it, according to Rich Kludt, vice-president of human resources for Lockheed Martin Space Systems. The government sector is one of the largest users of the 9/80 workweek, according to the Society for Human Resource Management.
At Lockheed Martin Space Systems, employees can opt out of an alternate work schedule, subject to their managers’ agreement, but about 75% of them are on the 9/80 schedule. “It’s very popular,” Kludt said. “Employee morale is hard to measure, but you can see it and you can feel it.