When we think about work, we’re so used to only considering the standard 9-5, Monday to Friday schedule. For many of us, any other way of working seems impossible. However, the shift to remote and hybrid workspaces gave people the opportunity to work from anywhere in the world where there’s Internet access. This has raised the question of whether the so-called “standard work week” is the best option for every job and every employee.
With employees in so many different time zones collaborating effectively, it brings the topic into the limelight: does it truly matter that people start the work day at 9 and finish at 5? Isn’t it more important to get the work done? Let’s try to answer these questions below.
The Call for a New Flexible Work Schedule
Of course, there are industries that have to work according to a particular schedule — for example, those that serve customers, especially institutions such as banks, government agencies, etc. However, rigid work hours just don’t make much sense for many people working in industries like IT, marketing, and journalism.
This is because the work is highly project-based, meaning it comes in waves. There are days when you might clock more than 8 hours if you’re working on multiple projects, but there are other days when you don’t have much to do. During those slow days, you’re left wondering what to browse on Google during your work day, just because you have to be in front of the computer for those eight hours.
Reconsider What “Work-Life” Balance Means to You
The idea of having “work” hours and “personal-life” hours has led to an obsession with the “work-life” balance. One perspective on the work-life balance ideology is that it convinces people to suffer through the work hours just so they can have some precious time to dedicate to the things they actually care about in life.
As Shirin Etessam phrased it in a recent Rolling Stone article on the subject, “life is happening while you’re working; you’re working while life is happening.” In other words, we should stop pretending that life only happens outside of work, and strive to live while we’re working too!
Enduring work for 8 hours so that you can get to enjoy the rest of your day isn’t really “balance.” If we talk about real work-life balance, we have to discuss flexibility — being able to work only when you have things to do, as long as you stay productive and in control of your deadlines.
All that should matter at the end of the day is how well you finish your tasks and if you do so in time, not how much time you spend in front of the computer screen with nothing to do.
Moving forward, as we switch to hybrid and remote work models, we will also likely change to more flexible work schedules, hopefully reducing the number of ineffective conversations around the topic of work-life balance.