August 20, 2009

The new 9 to 5

Posted in A walk on the "dark side" at 9:07 am by R

Darryl Ohrt observes in Small Agency Diary that the work day is “all day — and night.”

It’s true that the barrier between work and personal is leakier than ever. Professional emails are answered late into the night and we spend time on “personal” sites like Twitter and Facebook during the day — though plenty of work gets done there too.

Social media and technology like smart phones have made the ages old “traditional work day” obsolete. These new tools have also made the idea of he-or-she-who-works-latest-works-the-hardest moot.

I don’t think that ideal ever really resonated with Gen Y anyway. We’ve always been so mobile and accessible that it’s hard to understand why the physical confines of the office were pressed so hard upon us. Showing your commitment to a job is in the response…not the physical location.

Granted, some things must take place inside the office. Teams have to collaborate together. Meetings must be had at some point. But Ohrt offers an excellent argument and solution for a less traditional office schedule:

What if employees were required to be at the office from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but the rest of the schedule was left to their personal preference? Meetings could be scheduled, clients could make contact and collaborations could continue to flourish during the core part of the day. But otherwise, morning people could be morning people, and night owls could be night owls. A morning person might come in at 8 a.m. and leave at 5 p.m. A late sleeper might come in at 10 a.m. and leave at 7 p.m.

Executives and senior creatives are already working with open schedules, as management trusts that employees at this level have dedicated themselves to a career, and are going to work day and night anyway. Freelancers and independents also enjoy a schedule of their choosing. Naturally, some agencies require a 12-hour work day for all employees, and can’t even enter the discussion.

Giving employees the flexibility to work at their highest potential on their natural schedule seems like a great way to increase productivity. You can only fight your circadian rhythm so hard after all.  It appears to be the solution to burning out or being stressed about accomplishing, well, anything in your personal life.

Ohrt acknowledges, and so do I, that this type of scheduling wouldn’t work for every office, every position or even every person. Some companies require a lot of “face time” due to the nature of their client roster. So positions are, by design, “office jobs.” And then there are some people who require enforced structure to get the job done adequately. Ultimately, the call is individual by business, boss and personal evaluation.

Personally, I like to show up early. It feels proactive and it’s quiet! I love the calm of the phone NOT ringing off the hook while make serious headway on my to-do list.

With Gen Y becoming an increasing number of the workforce, I think demand for schedule flexibility will rise…and probably productivity.

~R

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