Working 9 to 5: Is there a better way to make a living?
The lyrics of Dolly Parton’s song about working 9 to 5 seem particularly prescient in 2021. While most of us will have sung along to this empowering message of breaking free from the rat race and those constrictive traditional office hours, it was something we nodded along to but didn’t ever imagine could be changed.
After a year in which the majority of us have been working from home, the future of these rigid working hours seems to be up for debate as we start to imagine restarting our post-Covid lives. This bid to wave goodbye to working 9 to 5 is not just being led by staff reluctant to return to the office, after having become accustomed to a more flexible work-life balance. It is also being spearheaded by companies.
Software company Salesforce has spoken out on the issue, with its chief people office Brent Hyder proclaiming that “the 9-to-5 workday is dead”. As such, all its staff will now have the option to be based in the office, adopt an exclusively remote working model, or be ‘flexi’ with some time at home and some time in the office. Salesforce expects the majority of staff will choose the latter option.
There has been discussion around flexible working models long before the pandemic, with studies showing that there are benefits for both employers and staff. Working from home productivity levels can be higher than when in the office. Allowing staff to choose their own hours also reduces stress and burnout, promotes a healthy work-life balance and leads to increased job satisfaction. Offering flexible working conditions can also help companies attract and keep top talent – a study by Global Workspace Analytic found that 95% of employers noted an increase in staff retention after relaxing office-hour policies.
In 2003, the government introduced ‘the right to request flexible working’, a statutory requirement that meant employers had to consider requests from employees who wanted to have flexible start and finish times, or work from home. Originally, it was targeted at parents and carers, but now applies to everyone. However, it has been largely unsuccessful as all employers are required to do is consider requests, not grant them.
So why is flexible working finally being adopted? One of the reasons is that remote working seemed very theoretical, and somewhat far-fetched, before the pandemic. Yes, staff preferred flexible hours, and there was science to back up its positive impact, but nobody could imagine a world without the office. Surely that wouldn’t work? Then, Coronavirus hit, and we found out that – with a few adjustments and extra tech – office workers could all work successfully from home. It was an enforced litmus test, but a successful one.
As such, major companies are getting behind this new more flexible approach to working hours. Fashion company Boohoo has just signed the lease on a new London office, which it says will offer “flexible working” for 600 of its staff. Accountancy firm PwC has said that its 22,000 staff will now work between 40% and 60% of their contracted hours from home, and will be allowed to finish early on Fridays during the summer so they can make the most of the good weather. Recruitment agency Investigo has – on a trial basis – introduced core hours of 10am to 4pm three days a week, and is allowing staff to choose where and when they make us the rest of their hours.
With the nation’s mood very much in favour of flexible working hours, and employers waking up to the benefits after a year of trial by fire, it seems that the concept of working 9 to 5 could soon become an archaic model best left to the history books. As Dolly Parton so acerbically put it: “What a way to make a livin’.”