Monday through Friday, 9-5, are work days. You commute to the office every day. And then you have the weekend off.
That’s how it has been for decades and decades, right? And before that Sunday was the only day off, and the hours were much longer.
These traditions began in factory settings when everything had to be standardized. It’s not like farmers were clocking in and punching out… they worked when there was work to do. Which was basically always.
But as we turn over to 2019, do we still need to work the five day work week? Do we still need to commute to the office? And should work even be hourly or even salary for most professions, or task-based?
Some evidence shows that a four-day workweek is actually more productive than a five-day work week. Companies say that staff is more motivated, and experience less burnout when working a shorter week.
And it makes sense. It’s not like all the hours spent at work are actually spent working.
If you have a certain amount of work to get done, you get it done in the time allotted, and will spend the rest of the time browsing, zoning out, or talking to co-workers.
A recent survey of 3,000 employees in eight countries including the United States, Britain and Germany found that nearly half thought they could easily finish their tasks in five hours a day if they did not have interruptions, but many are exceeding 40 hours a week anyway…
And with more automation and robotics in the workplace, shorter work weeks are one way for workers to share in the extra wealth created, without being displaced.
Working from home is another thing that is easy these days. And think of all the benefits like cutting the commute, avoiding traffic, and saving costs on office space.
I already work from home, and see it myself. My most productive hours are just when I wake up in the morning.
I enjoy the in-person meetings that we have for a few days once or twice a year. But I can feel myself using up my most productive hours showering and getting ready for the office.
I’ve already lost productivity just getting to work! And I feel frazzled and anxious from it all.
By the time the afternoon rolls around, with a couple hours to go, I was nodding off, ready for a nap.
In contrast, on nights where I have no plans, I often chip away at work projects and articles, even if it is just research and extra reading for background information.
Which does bring up another point that many people worry about–work-life balance. Some fear that if you never work at the office, you will always be at work. And to some extent that is true, especially depending on who you work for.
But already some people return from the office only to continue to be bombarded by work emails and tasks, expected to respond at all hours. That is the worst of both worlds.
The best way to handle that is to make sure you love your work. That doesn’t mean you always have to be working. But it shouldn’t be a heart dropping chore to finish up a little work on the weekend or dive in for an hour after dinner.
Personally, I like that this allows me to take off a random Monday afternoon when the family is in town.
I sat around the day after Thanksgiving at my aunt’s pool with my cousin from New York City. We both worked on our laptops for a few hours. So technically, yeah we both had to work the day after Thanksgiving. But this was not a huge burden, and still allowed us to spend quality family time together.
I’m not saying, this is exactly how it should be. I am just discussing how easy it is these days to tailor your work life to your own circumstances.
More people are becoming independent contractors and working for themselves, which allows them to set their own hours. And yes, that also means more responsibility to make sure you pull in the paychecks. No more clocking in and zoning out.
It seems like now is the time to examine some of these trends that were set long ago, and see if some change is warranted.
Many of the things we don’t want to change are rooted in tradition… and we usually forget where they come from.
Now, I don’t actually want to knock tradition too much. There is a reason for it.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. And sometimes we might not know why something is working, just that it is working.
For instance, all the rage these days is intermittent fasting.
Scientists believe that going without food for a day, or even as little as 16 hours, can have a rejuvenating effect by making your body go into a mini survival mode. It’s almost like rebooting cells, and clearing out all those excess processes using up CPU and spitting out waste.
Great, now we have a rational scientific explanation. But people have been fasting for religious purposes for thousands of years.
And before that, cavemen were involuntarily fasting based on the availability of food.
Turns out this ancient tradition had some great benefits and made a lot of sense, even if we didn’t know why.
So the challenge becomes examining the practices in our daily lives, or standard parts of our society, and determining which ones still have merit, which ones are causing harm, and which ones we just don’t know.
And it makes sense to trend towards inaction, especially for the ones we just don’t know about.
But other times you find that we are doing something unnecessary, like sitting in traffic, trying to stay awake at work, or even just keeping the lights on in the office.
So hey, might be something to consider as the new year rolls around. Do a little house cleaning for yourself or for your business.
It’s the little things that really improve our lives. Just keep trying to reduce that friction in daily life.