In five years, none of us will have jobs. At least, those are the findings according to Intuit, which predicts that by 2020, more than 40% of the American workforce will consist of “contingent” workers — that is, freelancers, temps and those with flexible alternative schedules.
Of course, this fact begs the question: why?
5 Reasons Why the 9-5 Job No Longer Makes Sense
Why are companies increasingly relying on contingent workers, and why are workers so eager to make the change? Just what is it about the 9-to-5 workday that isn’t working anymore?
Here are 5 reasons why the 9-5 job no longer makes sense.
1) It’s Misguided
Part of the problem with the 8-hour-day model is that while many employers view it as a floor, it was originally intended to be a ceiling.
The 8-hour day, synonymous with the 40-hour workweek, finds its roots in the American organized labor movement.
That’s right: we only have weekends because of unions. Beginning in the late 1800s, in response to shifts as long as 12 or 14 hours, American workers began demanding a schedule similar to that espoused by Welsh social reformer Robert Owen: 8 hours labor, 8 hours rest and 8 hours recreation.
That demand was met with heated debate by both politicians and industrialists.
Over the next several decades, union workers sweated (and bled) in an effort to turn the tide. In 1869, those efforts bore fruit, when President Ulysses Grant passed the National Eight Hour Law Proclamation, granting the 8-hour day to all government employees.
Then in 1898, United Mine Workers made private-sector history, when they won the battle for an 8-hour day in a series of back-to-back strikes. Finally, in 1914, Henry Ford — recognizing the productivity gains to be made — voluntarily instituted the 8-hour day for all workers at his company, and the rest of the world followed suit.
(Though it should be noted that Henry Ford was otherwise no friend to organized labor. In 1932, he would oversee one of the worst acts of anti-union violence in American history, ordering his security officers to open fire on a crowd of striking workers in an event known today as the Ford Massacre.)
The point of this history lesson is that the 8-hour day wasn’t established because it was the most efficient length for a shift. It was established as an upper limit, like a reverse version of the minimum wage.
It was an agreed-upon threshold that said, “If you cross this line, you’re exploiting your workers.”
But here’s the key point: most workers are paid more than the minimum wage, because most companies are sane enough to realize that stopping just shy of exploitation is a terrible way to go about business. So why should the length of a shift be any different?
2) It’s Inefficient
Have you ever reached 3 in the afternoon and felt like you’re no longer getting anything done? There’s a reason for that. Studies show that worker productivity starts to decline above 30 hours a week, slows to a crawl at 40, and stops dead at 55.
They also show that the most efficient amount of time to work is just under an hour, accompanied by 20-minute breaks.
The 9-to-5 does not encourage these habits. It wrongly conflates butt-in-chair time with getting things done — something we all know isn’t actually true.
3) It Punishes Workers for Sincere Effort
It is a statistical fact that workers today create more profits for their companies on an individual basis than the workers of yesteryear. Thanks in part to advancing technology, worker productivity has risen almost 80% since 1973.
Yet employees haven’t been given a piece of that increasingly-large pie. Instead, they’ve been treated to stagnant wages, decreased benefits and slashed retirement plans.
Why, then, should a salaried worker on a 9-to-5 schedule bother to go the extra mile?
If they’ll be paid either way, and know their extra efforts won’t be rewarded, what incentive do they have to give anything more than the absolute minimum?
In today’s economy, an inflexible schedule decouples pay from performance. Rather than creating an environment that fosters the smartest, most efficient efforts, it encourages doing the least amount of work for the most amount of time. It punishes those who strive to do better, and rewards those who run out the clock.
4) It Treats All Work as Equal
I once knew someone who worked as a ride operator at an amusement park, and was surprised to learn that park policy mandated employees switch between rides once every 45 minutes, take breaks every 2 hours and not work more than 8 hours in a day.
Why? Because the park had run studies and discovered these were the optimal intervals for maximum employee attentiveness, and therefore guest safety.
What they knew, and what more businesses are learning every day, is that not all forms of work are created equal. Operating a roller-coaster is a much different exercise than sweating in a coal mine, flipping burgers or collating spreadsheets.
They’re all vastly different activities, require varying levels of physical and mental effort and produce different levels of fatigue over time.
That’s probably why more companies like Best Buy are exploring goal-based scheduling, which stipulates that salaried employees can come and go whenever they like, so long as they get the job done. These companies recognize that a one-size-fits-all approach doesn’t work, and a rigid 9-to-5 simply doesn’t make sense.
5) It’s Not Flexible Enough
Numerous surveys have shown that flexibility and a proper work-life balance are consistently ranked among employees’ top desires. This is particularly true of millennials, who report they’ll even take less pay or relocate to achieve it.
The benefits of a reasonable flex-time policy are well known: workers with increased freedom are happier, healthier and more productive. As a result, more workplaces are adopting such policies every year. Companies like VRM also place importance on a healthy work-life balance that feels rewarding for their employees.
Keeping employees engaged through volunteer work not only allows employees to switch up the pace from the grueling 9-5 office time – but also fosters positive team spirit. As modern life grows increasingly busy and the needs of business expand beyond daytime hours, the 9-to-5 just isn’t agile enough to keep up.
The Workday Isn’t Working Anymore
For these reasons and more, a growing number of employers and employees have simply realized that a monotonous, inflexible daytime slab of a schedule is detrimental to everyone involved. It’s no surprise, then, that the strict 9-to-5 schedule is on the way out — and frankly, good riddance.
What’s your take on the 9-5 job? Leave a comment below.