The Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century when agricultural societies became more industrialized and urban.
The transcontinental railroad, the cotton gin, electricity, and other inventions permanently changed society.
The first law in the United States that called for an eight-hour workday was passed in Illinois in 1867.
In 1926, as many history scholars know, Henry Ford influenced by US labor unions and instituted an eight-hour workday for some of his employees.
Prior to the 8-hour workday, many Americans, who worked primarily in manufacturing and industrial capacities would work 10 to 12-hour days.
Their jobs consisted primarily of manual labor, it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that labor unions, advocates, and politicians lobbied hard to limit workers’ hours.
Ask anyone who’s ever worked manual labor, and they’ll tell you the same thing, it’s brutal.
Even if they were able to notch 60-hour workweeks, it was only a matter of time before their bodies would break down physically.
Since the pandemic in 2020, the freelance and self-employment marketplace is exploding.
The 9 to 5 workday is quickly becoming obsolete, largely thanks to technology.
The ability to work from anywhere has its downsides, most notably, the rise of the “workcation”.
The major upside is that it enables you to get the job done without being shacked into a fluorescently lit cubicle.
This is definitely a good thing, given that studies have shown that working outside the confines of office space makes people happier and has some major health benefits.
Studies have also shown that people who are self-employed tend to be more satisfied with their lives in spite of all of the anxiety of not having a set salary, mostly thanks to the flexibility of their schedules.
If you’ve got a job that mandates numerous interactions with other people, then maintaining a set schedule makes sense, as you need to set meetings at a mutually convenient hour.
But if you’re evaluated predominantly on the basis of your output, how quickly and competently you complete a project is much more significant than when you do it and whether it takes you eight hours or four.
In those cases, a 9 to 5 schedule doesn’t really make sense, and it mostly just encourages employees to lag on their workload, as there’s no apparent reward in place for getting something done sooner.
So where did the old 9 to 5 workday even come from?
Why wasn’t it 7 to 3, or 10 to 6?
Here are 5 reasons why the 9-to-5 workday doesn’t always work and shouldn’t be accepted blindly.
Energy and time are not the same thing
Human beings are not machines.
We are unable to focus on a single task for prolonged periods of time without succumbing to distractions.
This doesn’t mean we can’t be skilled, successful workers, but we do need to recognize our natural rhythms.
Research shows that humans are unable to focus on things for more than 90-120 minutes without needing a 20-30 minute break.
These breaks allow valuable time for recharging mental energy. In fact, without these breaks, performance lowers.
The 9-to-5 workday does not allow for these breaks every hour and a half, and people often find themselves distracted because of it.
Not all tasks are created equal
It goes without saying that some tasks are simply completed more quickly than others, regardless of what industry you work in.
Some employees, need an extended amount of time to work on a particular task.
For others, they can complete it in under two hours. Does that mean one employee is more efficient than the other? Not necessarily, or not across all tasks.
The 9-to-5 workday does not accommodate for differences in task duration.
Many employees complain of excessive downtime at work – or they struggle to understand why they must stay in the office until 5 pm if they’ve already completed the day’s tasks.
This is proof that the 9-to-5 schedule is increasingly becoming inefficient and obsolete.
The rise of freelancers and small business owners has changed everything
More and more seasoned experts and millennial workers are choosing to work in this way and quit the corporate cycle.
An increase in technology is likely responsible for this rise in independent workers, as more and more networks are available to make freelance work accessible.
There are a number of benefits to remote working for employers as well – such as cutting costs and maintaining higher levels of happiness and productivity amongst employees.
A lack of flexibility does not make for happy workers
The 9 to 5 workday leaves little to no room for flexibility.
This is also caused by work-related stress.
This inflexible schedule simply does not make sense.
For instance, the majority of workers are confined to the 9 to 5 workday schedule, yet most doctors’ offices are only open during the same hours.
This is similar to a number of other resources such as post offices, dentists, and even most retail establishments.
How are people expected to find time to go to the doctor if it’s always closed by the time they leave work?
Thus, the 9 to 5 schedule is incredibly ineffective and simply does not work in many instances.
The 9-to-5 schedule simply isn’t for everyone, and in today’s digital world, many people are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with traditional corporate environments.
They are seeking new, innovative ways to be more productive at work while still maintaining flexibility.
Indeed, the 9-to-5 work schedule might have been a solution to end the 16-hour workdays that reigned during the Industrial Revolution, but there is no question that they are growing more out of place in the modern world.
As the number of freelancers and creative careers continues to rise, so too will the level of dissatisfaction with a rigid eight-hour workday.
More and more forward-thinking companies are turning to shared office spaces and freelance employees to battle the changing sentiment about work schedule flexibility.
Human beings cannot function in the linear way machines can. We require breaks and flexibility in order to work effectively.
As the 9-to-5 schedule is structured with machines in mind, without taking into account people’s need for time to recharge their mental energy, hopefully, it is soon to be a thing of the past.