Working 9-5 what a way to make a living!


So sang Dolly Parton back in 1980. And in those days, before the Information Age, she had a point.

31 years on and a revolution has taken place in the world of work. We’re constantly connected in a 24×7 world where customers expect instant responses via Facebook, Twitter, or plain “old” email.

But here’s the thing. Unless you’re in retail, or you’re a tech startup, then the world of work is still organised around those “core” hours that the Queen of Country sang about way back then.

Why?

Well, we’ve moved forward in leaps & bounds in those 31 years. Those were the days of Command & Control structures, where staff were there to be bossed around & shouted at and in many ways abused. Nowadays that behaviour would see you in court! The computer has transformed our working lives and we’re all way more productive. Some jobs have been consigned to history, and being networked and connected is where it’s at.

But actually, as employers, we’d quite like it if everyone could still work when it suits us. 9-5 please, ‘cos that’s what we’ve always done and it works. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Do you think we’d have an iPod or an iPad if Steve Jobs thought like that?

I had a coffee this morning with a good friend of mine, Mark Griffiths, the MD of Aberdeen-based Codify and we were discussing this very point. We both work flexible hours, we start early, maybe take some time out during the day to swim or ride the bike, and then we’re back online until we go to bed. Working, socialising, connecting & engaging. For us it’s 24×7 because we love it. But we also get the balance that suits our own style & habits.

But in both of our companies we still ask people to shoe-horn into our “Business Hours”. However we’ve both realised that if we want to get the best out of our people, then we need to give them that same lattitude. We’re not asking them to work 24×7, far from it. But we’re both going to look at how we can make the working day better for them.

If you live out of town, hate the traffic, and aren’t a morning person, why not start at 10 and work through to 6. In fact, why not start at noon and work until 8? Likewise, if you’re like Mark & I, a morning person, then come in at 6 and finish up at 2. As long as we’ve got cover to support our customers throughout the day, then why not? We pay the rent for 24 hours, so why are we only using a third of what we pay for? That doesn’t make sense.

And what about you? If you’re running a business what do you think? If you’re an employee, what would you like?

It’s time to re-invent the way we work.

3 thoughts on “Working 9-5 what a way to make a living!

  1. Ali

    Excellent post, and key point of business leaders adopting flexible hours, but sometimes not talking to their team enough about what would work best for them.

    A couple of wee stories.

    First, after having a brilliant young newly qualified CA (from Aberdeen, as it happens!) work for me as a FC in Cayman for a couple of years from 2002 to 2004, I sat with her to review her time with us before she headed back to a career move back in Scotland. She started out by saying “you were dead sneaky!”. Hmm.

    She recounted how, during her first few weeks, she would check in to see if she could take time out in the day to sort out the stuff you need to do when moving to a new place (look at cars, place to live, hook up a phone etc). Fine, all normal. However, she kept checking in with me on things like taking time out during the day for personal appointments etc. I then sat down with her and said “look, you aren’t on a timesheet anymore, you take whatever time you need whenever you need, just get the work done when it needs to be done and set your own hours, and do the same for your staff”.

    In that final meeting before she left, she noted “I put in far more hours in this job than I ever did as a CA trainee on a timesheet, but it never felt like it as I simply worked when I needed to work and always made time for myself.”

    That’s flexible working.

    Another one. A young German woman came to work with me as my PA in 2002, and my message was similar. 9 years later, she is a senior manager with her own team. She tends to get in to work around 8am and leave around 6pm. She doesn’t take a “lunch break” (few in Cayman do take a formal one hour break out of the office), but does she feel that she works too hard by being in the office for 10 hours a day ? Nope. Since day 1 she would be on (back then) MSN Messenger from time to time in the morning (afternoon in Europe) to her friends and Mum, around lunchtime she’d stream German radio while eating her food at her desk and reading her hometown newspaper at her desk. In other words, total work:life integration.

    Finally, a story of two large law firms that I am very familiar with, and their IT policies.

    One firm has total blocks on everything that integrates work and life. No gmail, no hotmail, no Facebook, no Twitter.. not even the senior partners can view jpgs attached to emails. Ah, but at least they have one standalone PC off the network you can use if you are “on a break”. Sigh.

    The other firm has, unfortunately, gone a similar direction now, but up until a year ago, they were more enlightened. They had an almost totally open IT policy. Yes, it meant the IT manager had to spend a lot of time focussing on anti-virus and firewall work, but the guiding policy was to keep the staff happy and productive, and if that meant they stayed AT THEIR DESK longer if they could check in to FB from time to time, so be it. Now, at one point one of the senior lawyers came to the CIO and said “the legal secretaries in my team aren’t doing any work, they are on facebook and doing personal emails all the time”. The CIO’s answer, put slightly more diplomatically, I hope, was “well manage them better and give them more work then !”. The key here was that when the lawyer escalated this, the Managing Partner backed the CIO.

    Flexible working works as long as the Culture of the organisation is there and embedded from top to bottom. What I mean by that is that Culture sits at the top, but one then needs everybody to be clear on their roles, responsibilities, accountability. Managing their time then becomes almost completely unnecessary. As a Shirlaws Business Coach, these are key areas we work on frequently with businesses globally.. and it really works.

    As for me ? Live in Cayman, majority of my clients overseas, with a significant number in Europe at 6-7 hours time difference, as well as some work with people in Asia. Work:Life is totally integrated at all times…… and I wouldn’t have it any other way !

    Oh, good luck at Etape Caledonia, I’ll be about 90 minutes behind you at the finish. Oh and that trip combines a) Shirlaws CPD training, b) Client meetings in London and Edinburgh, c) that wee bike ride, d) GlobalScot pro bono meetings with Scottish companies… oh, and d) some personal time too !

    Keep it going Ali, in blogging and in life !

  2. Hey Tom! Thanks for such a great response! Between the blog & LinkedIn I seem to have generated plenty of discussion! The theme’s are the same on both platforms – it’s time for change, but that requires enlightened leadership (like your own example above) and trust. Something that for many of our large organisations just doesn’t exist.

    So it’s over to us smaller guys to innovate and lead the way. Fantastic! Wouldn’t have it any other way…. 🙂

    Hopefully we’ll catch up when you’re over in a couple of weeks time.

    Ali

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