There you are; out of bed and scrambling to find your belt that goes with the black pants you have on. Remembering reading about the importance of eating breakfast, you jammed some bread in the toaster even though you are not hungry. There is construction on the main highway you take during your commute and three children need to be fed, dressed, and dropped off at school. You kiss your significant other goodbye, pet the dog, and like a flash of light you head to work. This is the morning of the average working-class person. Give or take some of the details, chances are you have compressed your morning into a skittish dance, only to spend the next eight hours in the same building. Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a different work schedule?
In decades of the past, the average worker was in a laborious position. Their hands were cranking, or inspecting, or meticulously fixing. Eight hours is nothing to scoff at, but those tasks can be executed while maintaining accuracy for lengthy hours such as those. Erin Falconer, editor in chief of “Pick the Brain”, says “In the case of the modern information worker, nearly all tasks involve creative or strategic thinking” (2007). With that in mind, we must recognize the natural ebb and flow of energy and productivity. In theory, asking workers to sit for eight hours to compress time spent on tasks makes sense. Eight hours is enough time to plan and produce a plan of action for any given project. Anything less would mean breaking the project into various pieces, and to anyone making a timeline, more time and more pieces is a bad thing.
Imagine, however, working only in the most productive parts of your day? And using the rest of that time in-between to recuperate? Chances are those times are not a solid eight hours conveniently placed between nine and five. Writer for the New York Times, Phyllis Korkki writes about in interview with Professor John P. Trougakos, and his opinion of “mental concentration [being] similar to a muscle. It becomes fatigued after sustained use and needs a rest period before it can recover” (2012). She goes on to say that the eight hour work day becomes a sort of purgatory for a drained brain. We work, and work, and work, and instead of being able to take the time to refresh, we must “keep the pace” and keep going. Trougakos additionally mentions that the nine-to-five mindset instills guilt on those who take breaks. “Breaks can induce guilt because they’re ‘this little oasis of personal time that we get while we’re selling ourselves to someone else, but that’s just the point.'”
The point is that the idea that achievement is reached by working without quality breaks for substantial amount of time is not only inaccurate, but detrimental to true, solid work. So where does the more money come in? If you have not noticed, the amount of gen-yers who have nixed the nine-to-five myth and gone on a more remote or freelance schedule, have done so because technology has granted them that freedom (Schawbel, 2011). By being able to create their own schedules and dictate their work hours, they are able to follow their own ebb and flow. Picking only the most productive times to engage in challenging and demanding work. Being able to truly use your time to your advantage (cleaning the house when your brain needs a break, and solving that creative problem when it is refreshed) you are able to fit all of your tasks around your day, instead of managing your day around your work schedule. More efficiency has always meant more financial gains.
Sadly, we do not all have the means to leave a nine-to-five environment. So how do we use this knowledge to our advantage from our desks? Maybe you think the 9-to-5 day is still valuable. Or maybe you need help ending being pushed past 9-to-5. Either way, use this information as a conversation starter in your office. Use better planning strategies that employ detailed timelines that include guilt-free breaks. Not only will you see a spike in true, distraction-free productivity (Facebook is not as exciting when you only have an hour and a half of mental energy AND know that you can just check it on your next break), but you will feel a little more sane and in control in the process.
Falconer, E. (2007). Why the 9 to 5 Office Worker Will Become a Thing of the Past. Pick the Brain. Retrieved from http://www.pickthebrain.com/blog/why-the-9-to-5-office-worker-will-become-a-thing-of-the-past/
Korkki, P. (2012). To Stay on Task, Take a Break. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/06/17/jobs/take-breaks-regularly-to-stay-on-schedule-workstation.html
Schawbel, B. (2011). The Beginning of the End of the 9-to-5 Workday? Time Magazine. Retrieved from http://business.time.com/2011/12/21/the-beginning-of-the-end-of-the-9-to-5-workday/