Nothing gives you better clarity than a near death experience. It awakens you to the frailty of life, and the importance of living with purpose and meaning. The pandemic was a wake up call. It shook us out of our complacency. We started seriously looking into the way we lead our lives. Many of us decided that our jobs were dead ends, and quit in the “great resignation” wave. This mass exodus shows that people no longer want to waste their lives doing work that they don’t like and will search for better opportunities that offer growth and a future.
This new mindset has also shifted to other areas of our work-lives. The standard nine-to-five workweek is now up for change. The pandemic-induced remote work year and a half experiment proved to be an undisputed success. Corporations such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google saw record profits. The stock market has hit all time highs. Studies show that employees worked longer hours way into the night and during weekends. Their productivity was without question, phenomenal.
Once remote work has shown that it is beneficial for both workers and management, it makes sense to see what other standardly accepted practices need to be adjusted. Why is it necessary to work nine-to-five, five days a week in a sterile cubicle farm with harsh fluorescent lights, little access to window views, sitting in uncomfortable chairs, poor ventilation and its either too hot or cold?
To reach your job, you’re forced to combat long, tedious commutes on decrepit crowded highways that may take three hours door-to-door roundtrip. The time you get home, you’re exhausted. There is little energy left. Some dinner, television and it's time to go to sleep and prepare for the hamster wheel of tomorrow.
In 1926, Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company, started the concept of a five-day, 40-hour workweek for its assembly line workers, down from much longer hours. The 9-to-5 workday was created to serve the needs of business titans who ran manufacturing plants that relied upon lots of people standing on assembly lines.
A century later, we’re in a service economy. Times have dramatically changed. Back in the day, a worker was judged by how many widgets were made during his shift. They were basically human robots. Employees would do the same task, hour after hour, day after day. It was pretty mind-numbingly brutal and boring. It's different now, but we’re tethered to a desk in an office setting rather than standing at a conveyor belt.
At this point it's only inertia holding us back from changing the nine-to-five, five days a week program. Its time to consider other options. Wouldn’t it be more humane to offer schedules that fit their employees’ needs and wants?
In the past we didn't possess the technologies that easily connect people so that there was more of a need to herd everyone together in one place. With a variety of online video platforms, interactive and conversational software and the means to instantly send messages and communicate with people around the world. There is no longer a need to keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last century.
In the 1940s it was rare to have two working parents. Now it's commonplace. Back then, one of the parents, usually the mother, would stay at home to tend to their childcare, help with school assignments and care for sick relatives.
Fast forward to 2021 and both parents are working. This entails great pressure and stress to bring their children to school and pick them up. It's a daily struggle to juggle the dual mandates of career and kids. There is a high degree of anxiety trying to make it to the office on time. Coming in late invokes the ire of the boss. Eyebrows are raised when you leave work early to pick up your child from school or you get a call that they are sick and you need to rush home to get them.
Instead of the nine-to-five, it would make more sense for companies to ask their employees what type of schedules would work best for them. Some may select to start the day later and stay a few extra hours after five, if needed. Others could request coming in early and leaving a little around three of four o’clock. Maybe taking a couple of half days will help you recharge to do your best work. A four-day work week could do wonders for a person’s mental health. It won’t take too much work from management, but would make the lives of workers significantly better.
The eight hour day isn’t eight hours. You need to add in the commuting time, following up with emails, texts and calls at night and weekends, and always being on call. Let’s be frank, the long days at the office do not promote efficiency and effectiveness. When you arrive at work, you’ll spend time kibitzing with your colleagues. There's the obligatory questions, “did you watch the game last night?” and “what did you do this weekend?” along with some gossip, spreading rumors and complaints about the boss.
There are morning coffee runs that take up a lot of time when you go up and down elevators in skyscraper office buildings and wait in line for your Starbucks along with throngs of other bored and tired people. At around ten thirty someone is always asking about lunch and where everyone wants to go or order from. By three thirty or so, our energy levels plummet. Productivity rapidly decreases. When four o’clock rolls in, you’re biding time, watching the clock tick down.
It's been proven that people work best when they have control over their schedules. They are happier and can organize their days around their biorhythms, chores, home responsibilities and hobbies. It's likely that they’ll actually spend more time working and their productivity will be enhanced.
The change in 9-to-5 will eventually happen, one way or another. The Gen Z and Millennial generations watched their parents burnout. They saw them laid off, passed over for promotions and leading lives of quiet desperation. They don’t want this for themselves. Being stuck inside of an office for hours on end feels antiquated and barbaric to the younger workers. They want flexibility and control over their lives. Eventually the baby boomers, who have done the 9-to-5 grind for over thirty years, and are so used to the toxicity of the grind, will retire.
Companies shouldn’t wait for the baton to be passed to the up and coming future leaders. They should act now by initiating changes to the 9-to-5 structure. Middle management may not be happy as they’ll lose some of their petty powers, but the workers will be ecstatic.
With the mass resignations taking place, it's clear that workers are voting with their feet. If they feel unappreciated, they’ll walk out and find a new job. Smart, progressive forward thinking companies will scuttle the 9-to-5 schedules in a bid to attract job seekers.
The best and brightest will leave for a company that listens to them and makes their lives better and more well rounded. The stodgy corporations will lose their star employees. As the smartest people leave to join rivals, the old-fashioned, resistant-to-change bureaucratic companies will fall by the wayside.