Why The 9-to-5 Workday Isn't Going Away, Despite Predictions Of Its Decline



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Flexibility is the buzzword of the 2022 workplace. Flexibility when it comes to where someone’s working. Flexibility when it comes to when they’re online and responding to emails. But then “when” of flexibility still looms around a 9-to-5 standard — a standard that unfortunately doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.

In her New York Times opinion essay, “The 9-to-5 Schedule Should Be the Next Pillar of Work to Fall,” Emily Laber-Warren argues that it’s time for the modern workforce to rid of the traditional 9-to-5. “If more employers truly embraced flexible schedules and allowed employees to work at the times that are best for them,” she says, “the benefits would be a healthier and more productive, creative and loyal work force.”

The research shows she’s right: when employees are given the freedom to choose their own hours, on their own schedule, they not only tend to be happier and more engaged — but also more productive, too. And that productivity holds even if they’re working fewer hours.

The best example of this is the four-day workweek. Workers in Iceland and New Zealand who switched to a four-day, 32-hour workweek were more productive and reported better well-being than when they worked the traditional five-day, eight-hour workday.

Yet the four-day workweek has yet to truly take off in the U.S., despite evidence that it could help both employers and employees. That’s because implementing it doesn’t just mean changing employee hours; it requires a complete overhaul of workload, workflow and team dynamics

This is why the decline of the 9-to-5 is a ways away. The argument shouldn’t be whether we should or shouldn’t move away from the 9-to-5; it’s how we should work to move away from that standard.

We get glimpses of what a non-9-to-5 workday could look like when people truly embrace flexible work and flex hours. We know what’s possible when people are free to work whenever they want, to catch up and communicate on their own time. 

But for many employees and employers, this reality comes with its own set of challenges. What happens when people need to collaborate and they work completely different hours? Will flexible hours make people feel like they’re always required to be online, even when they’re not working? Should there be any standard common hours — and who decides those, and when are they? What happens to company culture when people are working at different hours? 

It’s not these challenges aren’t worthwhile to consider, or that we shouldn’t brainstorm and implement solutions. In fact, it’s what we should be doing if we truly want to embrace flexible work. 

The decline of the 9-to-5 is a bit too early to call. Yet if we focus on making flexibility work now, we can pave the way for a future without the 9-to-5 standard. 


This article reflects the views of the author and not necessarily those of Fairygodboss.

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