Is the 9-5 Job Dead? The Rise of Flexible Working in the Post-Pandemic Office

In February 2021, just two months before all US adults were to be offered a COVID-19 vaccine, Brent Heyder, the president of Salesforce, declared, “the 9-5 is dead." Even if it soon becomes safe for office-based employees to return to work in their droves, some companies are not entirely sure that the traditional 9 to 5 job is worth returning to. 

Instead, companies like Salesforce are giving employees the choice between: 

  • Flexible working (1-3 days in-office for collaboration, meetings, and presentations)
  • Fully remote (for roles that do not require the office or those who live too far from one) 
  • Office-based (for roles that cannot be done from home) 

The company argues that ditching regular work week hours will improve employee connection, work-life balance, and equality, ultimately leading to increased innovation and better business outcomes.

So, is the 9 to 5 job really dead?

There is no doubt that flexible working looks likely to become a standard offering for many employers. With improvements to technology, we have seen trends such as the rise of digital nomadism flourish. Around 70% of employees expect flexible work schedules post-pandemic, and 50% say they would leave a job if it were not offered. However, the idea that “the 9-5 is dead” may be an oversimplification. 

According to a report by Inc., regular work week hours have always been a "modern-day illusion," and clocked time has never been a good indicator of progress or productivity. It argues that, by giving employees task ownership instead, they can complete these more efficiently with respect for both their own time and their teammates’.

Inc argues that the 9-5 job is not dead because it did not really exist in the first place — most workers struggled to get their work done within the allocated time, even before the COVID-19 pandemic. By allowing flexible working and shifting our focus to outcomes, workers can avoid burnout by using their time more wisely and setting appropriate, achievable timelines for their goals.

Why working 9 to 5 hours may not suit younger employees

Enabling flexible working will not only future-proof your organization to accommodate employees’ expectations, but it will also be an important move for retaining younger employees. For example, nearly one in two (45%) of millennials will choose flexibility over pay. And when the vast majority of businesses report that it costs $15,000 - $25,000 to replace a millennial employee, it could be an expensive mistake not to hear this preference. 

The New York Times echoes this, saying, “it’s not about jumping up titles, but moving into better work environments.” Companies such as Apple and Walmart have also begun to discuss the need to shift the focus from prioritizing shareholders to taking care of employees. An increase in flexible work schedules may also help gender equality. As more fathers and non-parents request it, there is less space for "the flexibility stigma" mothers experience to remain. A survey by Werk also found that older generations are just as likely to want flexible working — they’re just less likely to ask for it.

How to move away from regular work week hours

So, if flexible working is inevitable, then what is the best way to implement it? A report by Inc. advises to keep these three golden rules:

  1. Debunk the 40-hour myth. What was first introduced by Henry Ford in the early 1900s to attract autoworkers who were used to 12-hour shifts has become obsolete. In fact, having fewer hours to complete a task tends to sharpen focus.
  2. Adapt to peak-performance styles. Some people thrive by replacing their fifth working day with four 10-hour shifts, while some find that impossible. Offer your employees the opportunity to decide when and how they work best.
  3. Synchronize schedules. Ensure that teams who do need regular meetings have at least some overlap during their flexible working hours. This may not need to be every day but assess how often your team will need it.

Different flexible working options

Inc. outlines some of the options available for organizations hoping to move on from the concept of the 9 to 5 job below:

  • Flexitime: Employees can choose from a range of available hours
  • Compressed work week: The work week is compressed into fewer than five days (usually by creating four 10-hour days)
  • Flexiplace: Employees can work virtually from home or any non-office location
  • Job sharing: Two people voluntarily share the duties and responsibilities of one full-time position, with the salary divided according to this share
  • Work sharing: Usually used to avoid layoffs, this introduces reduced hours and salaries for a portion of their workforce in order to maintain all employees
  • Expanded leave: Employees can request extended periods of time away from work without losing their rights as employees – this can be paid or unpaid
  • Phased retirement: Under this arrangement, the employer and employee agree to a schedule of gradual reduction of work commitments over a period of months or years
  • Partial retirement: Employees can continue working on a part-time basis, with no established end date
  • Work and family programs: Employers provide some degree of assistance to employees who have childcare or elder-care responsibilities

Benefits of flexible work schedules

According to job advertisement site Flexjobs, some of the benefits of leaving a 9 to 5 job behind for employees include:

  • Improved retention: Even pre-pandemic, 80% of workers would choose a job that offered a flexible schedule over those that did not, with 80% saying they would be more loyal to their employer if afforded flexible working.
  • Increased talent: By offering what is known to be one of the most attractive perks, offering flexible work schedules can help your organization recruit top-tier talent.
  • Improved diversity: Not only has inclusion and equality become a non-negotiable for younger workers, building a more diverse workforce creates higher-performing teams, so it’s also smart business.
  • Increased productivity: Even before the pandemic, remote workers worked more hours on average than in-office employees. But more importantly, shifting to a results-oriented culture enables teams to focus on getting the results they want.
  • Improved employee engagement: One of the best ways to drive engagement is to show workers they are respected enough to be trusted with flexible working
  • Decreased costs and environmental impact: Unsurprisingly, fewer overheads and less commuting (or at least less rush-hour traffic) have a hugely beneficial impact on cutting costs and helping climate change.

How Wrike helps teams succeed with flexible working

Now that the world’s workforce is starting to ditch the 9 to 5 job, we need the right software to keep up. Wrike enables teams who opt for flexible work schedules to gain 360° visibility on progress and productivity with shared dashboards, one-click Gantt charts, and advanced, automated reporting. Get started for free

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