The Evolution of Work: Extinction of the 9-5

Contemporary technology has given society the ability to collaborate over long distances, stretch our working hours into the early mornings of a new day, and be liberated from menial every-day tasks. With this kind of flexibility why does the prescribed Monday through Friday, 9:00am to 5:00pm work schedule persist? Why should we be constrained to foosball table infested offices, bosu ball seats, or standing desks? Not that there’s anything particularly wrong with this, but surely there is a better way to maximize on our well-being and creative potential, and break outside of societal routine. Let’s look into the unrealized and budding future of a liberated work culture–our utopia.

Nix the 9-5
The 9-5 workday came about in reaction to Britain’s industrial revolution in the 18th century when factory production exploded. The 9-5 was implemented to provide legal limitations for the working class to prevent a deterioration in the quality of labour, though this wasn’t legislatively enforced in many industrialized countries until the 20th century.

The concept was that a limited workday provided labourers with time for mental stimulation, recreation, and other extracurricular activities. For the same reasons that the 9-5 was introduced, it will be the author of its own demise. Dividing, quantifying, and restricting the conditions of our work lives does not suit a contemporary culture that thrives on experience and creativity.

A flexible work week introduces a whole new level of accountability, and millennials (the most often scapegoated in terms of work ethic) are ready to prove themselves:

Personal Responsibility: flexibility promotes ownership of time, monitoring one’s own actions and outcomes

Social Responsibility: everyone does their part, trust–employers can depend on employees and vice versa

There are many more contributing factors and reasons, as I’ll detail throughout this article, for us to adopt a much more free and open working schedule.

Individual well-being
Physical and mental health are more important than ever to national welfare, just consider our healthcare system as it buckles under bloating costs. You’ve heard it–“Sitting is the new smoking.” If you feel like you need a day off, you probably need it. Two-day weekends often don’t leave room for personal time. Members of our utopian workforce are entitled to a “me” day when the mood strikes; to exercise, take a walk, and uncover inspiration. A catch-up day is critical for making room for creativity, reflection, and growth. Netflix’s viral ‘Culture: Freedom and Responsibility’ presentation documents a “take as many vacation days as you want,” approach.

Not everyone is in their creative prime between the prescribed hours of 9-5 due to unique cycles of sleep and arousal. Creativity happens accordingly, within these personally independent rhythms. If working hours are allocated, individuals won’t necessarily apply their optimal thinking to work projects. It’s important to facilitate and nurture time for being voluntarily creative. I’ve always been a night owl and live by this code daily. I cherish my time between 8pm and 2am as it’s usually a time to create shifts in thinking patterns, and be completely undisturbed and uninterrupted.

Similarly, allocating designated “free” time to work on personal interest projects fosters personal growth. Consider the innovations that have come from Google’s 20% time where employees apply themselves to creative side projects–Gmail, Google Talk, Google autocomplete, Adsense. Google periodically shifts the structure and incentives involved in partaking in 20% time, but the idea remains that, “knowledge workers are most valuable when granted protected space in which to tinker.” This kind of philosophy is what keeps our tech industry constantly rejuvenated.

Farewell to the local, physical office
As technology expands markets to the global level, our workforce is doing the same. The global talent pool increases competition and this alone will increase the quality of work, along with providing access to new cultures and schools of thought. Organizations will need to become flexible with the lifestyles of their distributed teams. Some people are settled, and some are nomadic–everyone deserves to experience life on their own terms.

What might this look like? Co-working spaces in dense metropolitan areas. Working on our own schedules with our chosen lifestyles doesn’t mean we won’t work together. Collaboration will become more fruitful than ever as mixed-industry workspaces promote creativity and new perspectives. The Network Hub and The Hive are Vancouver-based examples of collaborative open-office space; or ShareDesk – the airbnb of hot desking.

Flat organizational structure
It’s about time that we let go of the hierarchical structure that has dominated corporate strategy for the past century. Managers will become colleagues and collaborators, leading to knowledge parity and improved innovation. The “even playing field” of flat organizational structure also introduces healthy workplace competition–it will be in everyones best interest to self-manage and motivate. This becomes an ecosystem built on shared, people-powered experiences where the process of retaining knowledge is made exponentially faster by involving yourself with the people around you. Systematically, a self-driven, self-managed workforce produces a realization of potential–a benefit iterated above within self-scheduling and finding a personal creative rhythm.

Formal education grows irrelevant
Not to disregard academia or univer$ities entirely, but infinite accessibility to relevant and current information through technology–social media, youtube, blogs–brings new meaning to being “educated.” Traditional teaching methods through institutions are slow to keep up with market shifts in demand, and individuals must seek out their own path to knowledge that is applicable in the real world. University graduates are not only facing high unemployment rates; but the value of a degree is falling relative to its costs.

Institutionalized work culture is ultimately unsustainable and holding us back from living the custom lifestyles that will improve the human experience, productivity, and innovation. With a new liberated work culture we will see entire markets shift towards realizing the true value in human capital – the economy of Knowledge and Experience, and its impact on global societal change.

Source: The Evolution of Work

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