Can Remote Work Eliminate the 9-5 Work Day?
If your freedom and livelihood revolve around an eight-hour block of time five days a week, you might be suffering from 9-5 job slavery. Waking up every day at ungodly hours to punch the same clock at the same time in and the same time out can have a soul-crushing effect on your motivation and your personal identity as a human being.
So, why is this format so popular that 71% of Americans currently work 9-5 jobs? If you asked famous poet and writer Charles Bukowski, it’s all about fear of the unknown. “And what hurts is the steadily diminishing humanity of those fighting to hold jobs they don’t want but fear the alternative worse.”
If that sounds bleak and depressing, it’s probably because they didn’t have remote work in Bukowski’s time. In 2021, millions of people have quit their jobs in April and May to avoid returning back to the office, and the rigidness of their previous schedules.
The question is, can remote work contend with the 9-5 regime? It will have to match 9-5 work in terms of productivity while also satisfying people’s desire for more flexible schedules. If it succeeds, remote work could potentially replace 9 to 5 job slavery.
The History of the 9-5
The 9-5 originated in the United States. Historians date its first inception back to a labor law in 1867 that mandated an eight-hour workday for factory workers in Illinois.
Almost 70 years later, in 1926, Henry Ford gave some of his employees an eight-hour workday and ignited a national discussion regarding the standard workweek. Eventually, Franklin Roosevelt signed the Fair Labor Standards Act into law, obligating overtime payment if an individual worked more than 40 hours a week.
Before the implementation of this law, many manual laborers would work 10 to 12 hour days and saw their bodies quickly deteriorate. With this new act people were able to organize and fight against forced labor, they also suddenly had a lot more free time.
However, since the implementation of the Fair Labor Standards Act there hasn’t been much change in the U.S. labor laws regarding the 9-5. The 40-hour workweek has become the standard. Despite that, movements to end the 9-5 and give workers more flexibility have been gaining steam in the last decade.
The Negatives of a 9-5 in a Modern World
While the drawbacks of a 9-5 might be evident, let’s go over some of the critical reasons why it doesn’t make sense in the world today.
Your time is more valuable than ever before
If you have gone back to a standard 9-5 wage week after working from home, you realize how much of your free time it consumes. Those obligatory eight hours from one place, eat up most of the day and in many jobs you have to stay later to get all of your work done. You also have to consider your commute and how tired you’ll be when you get home.
Most people are so exhausted from working through their 9-5 that they don’t have the energy to do anything more than sit on the couch and vegetate.
As a working professional in the 21st century, your free time is the only other opportunity for you to increase your income streams. You can take the time after work or the weekends to learn a new skill, invest in stocks, cryptocurrency, or businesses, or start a private business of your own.
Not to mention the time you need for leisure and to spend with your friends and family.
When you work a 9-5, you don’t have time for any of those things. You’re lucky to have Saturday and Sunday, and even those days are usually prioritized for relaxation and entertainment.
2021 is the year of investing in yourself with so many online opportunities like remote work and e-trading. By working an eight-hour job, the only chance you’re affording is success in your current company.
Beyond these chances to increase your wealth, you also have to consider the importance of time on your mental health.
As Lane Goodwin, internet entrepreneur and self-help guru put it: “‘Thank God It’s Friday’ is the motto of every 9 to 5 worker” and “Life does not begin on Friday night and end on Monday morning.” Keeping yourself happy shouldn’t be a luxury you allow twice a week. It should be something you strive towards every day.
There’s very little upward mobility in a 9-5 environment
Let’s face it, your boss isn’t working a 9-5, and if he is, then he has a boss who isn’t. Working for a company is about reaching a point where you make your schedule based on the skills and experience you bring to the table.
By working a regular schedule, you’re putting yourself in a position where the only way for you to succeed is within the company’s metrics -- and the only way to stand out is to grind past your colleagues and work longer.
Companies aren’t geared to shift most entry-level employees to high-paying positions. You’re lucky to get a 3-5% pay raise from your company in most cases. Even then, many businesses will want some additional training or experience to incentivize these raises.
For those, that have gotten raises and have achieved a level of comfortability in their organization they may still find themselves disposable. Just ask the millions of people who got fired once COVID initially hit. All that time they put in, was washed away in an instant.
Alternatives are available and better
In the past, there was no real alternative to the 9-5. Most companies used this format, and people saw it as the only way to get a steady job with good benefits. Even today, people still see 9-5 salary slavery as the most stable career path. Millennial magazine recently stated their advantages of working a 9-5 and stated things like “paid benefits” and “paid time off” as top reasons for choosing a 9-5 over an alternative.
However, it’s possible to get these same benefits in most remote positions today without holding yourself down to one location. In a 100 remote companies’ benefits study, we found that 62% offered their employees healthcare and 72% offered some kind of paid leave.
That means you no longer have to worry about foregoing your benefits for an alternative lifestyle.
There are hundreds of remote companies hiring workers right now, and globally 18.3% of employees work remotely. More than 3.2% of the U.S population works remotely as well, and those numbers are growing.
How Remote Work Changed Our Perception of the Workday
Before COVID-19, everyone thought that remote work was reserved for coders and company call center employees. Now it’s grown so big that major companies like DropBox and Coinbase are shifting to remote work permanently. How did remote work become so popular during the pandemic?
The biggest concern companies had about shifting to a remote format was a drop in efficiency. They imagined their employees would get too distracted at home and forget about important tasks. It turns out that the opposite happened. PWC’s study on remote work found that 83% of employers considered their shift to remote work as successful (up 10% from June 2020).
Once something is deemed possible in business, the next question is always “is it profitable?” Again, the answer is a resounding yes. Companies experienced very little dip in their profit generation in pandemic-unaffected industries. Those who switched to fully remote are saving a ton on office leases and other physical properties.
More time to do the things you care about
That same PWC study also found that most employees (61%) want to return to the office more slowly than their employers. One reason for this could be they’ve gotten used to having extra free time. Working remotely on a flexible schedule eliminates the commute and allows you to craft your day to your individual interests and plans.
More people have begun using this time to better themselves through education and healthier life practices. Others took time working on their hobbies or creating additional streams of income. Some folks were just happy to be at home with their families.
Either way, this extra time showed people that there’s a way of life where you don’t have to do the same thing at the same time every day. It allowed people to see what schedule freedom feels like, and we don’t think they’ll be forgetting that anytime soon.
Personal and professional lives can mix
Initially, many people struggled with maintaining a work-life balance when switching to remote work. The pandemic also held children home from school, turning professional parents into teachers and babysitters as well. Other employees struggled with keeping a strict regimen and found their workday regularly bleeding into their free time.
However, now employees see better opportunities for maintaining a healthy profession and personal life through working remotely. An owl labs survey asked several remote employees about their feelings on remote work and home office.
They received a majority of positive feedback stating that working remotely let them be “better able to achieve a work-life balance.”
Everyone’s life is different
Finally, remote work humanized employees more and made companies respect the differences in people’s schedules. When everyone arrives at the office around the same time, it’s impossible to know if someone’s kid is sick or another person's building is under construction.
The pandemic brought these nuances in everyone’s daily life to the forefront as video conferences were interrupted time and time again by a crying child or a power drill.
We learned that life happens, and people’s timetables work differently. There isn’t a cookie-cutter set of hours that’s perfect for everyone.
Have you ever met someone who describes themselves as “not a morning person?” It turns out there’s genetic evidence that proves humans are predisposed to be more productive in either the morning or the evening. If you’re an evening person, then you deserve your extra few hours of sleep as long as you stay productive.
Why Going Back to the Office Doesn’t Mean a Return to Normal
Some people think that the changes brought about by the pandemic are only temporary. Offices are already welcoming back most of their employees. Won’t remote work fade into the distance like a strange dream?
Definitely not. Less than 20% of executives say they want to go back to the way things were pre-pandemic. Remote work has permanently changed the way we view work.
While most companies are welcoming their employees back to a physical office on a regular schedule, many are adopting a hybrid model. A hybrid remote working model is when employees spend part of their week in the office and the other part at home.
Most executives (68%) believe employees should be in the office three days a week, but they’re open to the other two days being work from home. Employees agree. More than 50% say they’d like to work at least three days a week remotely.
Many companies are planning on reducing their overall real estate to save money and embrace this policy. Employees will be on cycling schedules, so the office never needs to hold the company’s total capacity.
Companies are staying remote
When analyzing trends in the market, you can always look to the top companies for insight. We already mentioned that Coinbase and DropBox are switching to remote-first formats, so are Quora and Upwork. These companies have shown us the possibilities for a complete shift to remote work.
Quora decided to rent co-working spaces for their employees when it came time to collaborate. DropBox highlighted the importance of their co-working tools in their transition. From these companies and others like them, we can see that the business world is embracing remote work, and significant corporations are finding the best ways to utilize it.
Companies are switching to shorter or more flexible work days.
Many business and financial publications are beginning to envision a world with shorter workweeks and workdays. Forbes just published an article entitled “The Future Of Work Will Be Five-Hour Days, A Four-Day Workweek And Flexible Staggered Schedules.”
In this fascinating article, they examine the results of the pandemic and the fundamental flaws in how we currently schedule our work weeks. They argue that people spend a large portion of their day slacking off anyways and a diligently worked four or five hours would be more productive.
They go on to describe different companies that tried these various practices, and they were met with mixed results. Some employees loved it while others felt overworked with less time. This signifies the importance of flexibility with a schedule.
People should be allowed to work as long as they want as long as they accomplish whatever tasks their boss assigns in a timely manner.
In the end, the answer to this question isn’t if remote work can eliminate 9-5 job slavery. It’s whether or not it’s better. We’ve shown you that remote work can provide the same benefits, is preferred by workers, and is even more profitable than 9-5 labor.
If you know the world of business, you know it’s only a matter of time before they speed up and kick the 9-5 to the curb.
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