Alternate Work Schedules

Alternative work schedules (AWS) is an umbrella term that refers to compressed work schedules and flexible work schedules. AWS have the potential to enable managers and supervisors to meet their program goals, while at the same time, allowing employees to be more flexible in scheduling their work. As employees gain greater control over their time, they can, for example, balance work and family responsibilities more easily, become involved in volunteer activities, and take advantage of educational opportunities. AWS programs also serve as useful recruitment and retention tools.

There has been growing interest in AWS due to its potential for improving productivity, relieving traffic congestion, expanding the hours of service to the public and providing greater employment opportunities for those persons who need flexibilities for their work hours. Results from many Federal agencies that have introduced AWS show increased productivity, improved employee morale, and other favorable impacts. Many concerns can generally be minimized by careful planning and good communication of the objectives and ground rules of the program.

Subject to the obligation to negotiate with exclusive bargaining unit representatives, the decision to establish an AWS program is at the discretion of the installation commander or other authorized senior leaders (for example, Headquarters Department of the Army and organizations with civilian activity heads). Organizations may establish, modify, or terminate Alternative Work Schedules (AWS) plans. The Secretary of the Army's memorandum, dated 13 June 2014, SUBJECT: Delegation of Authority - Hours of Duty and Authority to Determine Adverse Agency Impact Stemming from Flexible and Compressed Work Schedules delegates the authority for establishing and changing the tours of duty of civilian employees to the Assistant Secretary of the Army, Manpower and Reserve Affairs (ASA (M&RA)). This authority has been further delegated by the ASA (M&RA) through a memorandum dated 18 June 2014 and the accompanied matrix (item #34) to the Administrative Assistant to the Secretary of the Army, and Commanders of Army Commands, Army Service Component Commands and Direct Reporting Units, with authority to further delegate the authority, in writing, to other Department of the Army officials, but not lower than the local Commander or activity head.

If a proposed or existing AWS plan is deemed to have an adverse agency impact, it may not be established, must be modified (e.g., an employee or group of employees must be excluded, the use of credit hours must be restricted, etc.) or it must be terminated. Note that an "adverse agency impact" is defined as: (1) a reduction of an agency's productivity; (2) a diminished level of services furnished to the public; or (3) an increase in the cost of agency operations (other than the administrative costs to process the establishment of an AWS program). For CWS covering bargaining unit employees, disputes as to whether a CWS has created, or would create, an adverse agency impact are decided by the Federal Service Impasses Panel. See 5 USC § 6131(c).

There are two categories of AWS; they are:

  1. Compressed Work Schedules (CWS)
  2. Flexible Work Schedules (FWS)

Compressed Work Schedules are widely used within Army.

Compressed Work Schedules

The most commonly used CWS in Army organizations are:

  1. Four-day Workweek (e.g., four ten-hour workdays and one non-work day per week)
  2. 5-4/9 Plan (e.g., eight nine-hour days, one eight-hour day and one day off per bi-weekly pay period).

For full-time employees, CWS have a basic work requirement of 80 hours of work performed in fewer than 10 workdays in a biweekly pay period. Title 5, United States Code, section 6121, defines the basic work requirement as "the number of hours, excluding overtime hours, which an employee is required to work or is required to account for by leave or otherwise." For part-time employees, the basic work requirement is less than 80 hours which may be scheduled in fewer than 10 workdays and may require the employee to work more than 8 hours in a day. Tours of duty are defined by the particular schedule the installation or organization chooses to establish. For employees on CWS, the tours of duty are arranged in such a way that employees fulfill their basic work requirements in fewer than 10 work days within the biweekly pay period.

Note: For CWS such as 4/10 and 5/4/9, although agencies may change or stagger the arrival and departure times of employees, there are no provisions for employee flexibility in reporting or quitting times under a CWS program. Compressed work schedules are always fixed schedules.

Flexible Work Schedules

FWS are comprised of workdays with core and flexible hours. Core hours are designated times of the day when an employee must be at work and flex time is hours that an employee may set (within defined management bounds) to start and end their work day.

There are five types of flexible work schedules; they are:

  1. Flexitour Schedule
  2. Gliding Schedule
  3. Variable Day Schedule
  4. Variable Week Schedule
  5. Maxiflex Schedule

Additional information on the above mentioned flexible work schedules can be found on OPM's website at There is no authority to establish hybrid work schedules using the authorities for flexible and compressed work schedules in an attempt to create hybrid work schedules that provide unauthorized benefits for employees. For example, it would be prohibited to allow employees to combine a 5/4/9 schedule with the flexible schedule that would allow employees to arrive at work any time during the morning flexible band and depart after completing their required number of hours.

Additional regulatory guidance can be found regarding CWS and compensatory time off, leave, excused absence, holidays, temporary duty, travel, overtime and other premium pay provisions in 5 CFR, part 610.

Content last reviewed: 4/01/2015-SZ