Rethinking 9-5

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How long do you think you actually work during your 9-5 schedule? Between your lunch break, scrolling through social media, or gossiping with your colleagues, you probably think you’ve wasted 1, maybe 2 hours. However, you might be surprised to find the average employee with a 9-5 schedule works only 2 hours and 53 minutes! If people are only working 3 hours on average, is the 9-5 work schedule too long? Productive? Obsolete?

There is no scientific evidence or proof that the 9-5 workday is productive, so why are the majority of Americans working these hours? Because we have been socialized to accept this as the norm: 8 hours work, 8 hours recreation, 8 hours rest. Popularized by Henry Ford in 1914 for the Ford Motor Companies, the 9-5 work week has since been the standard.

The working day world has changed dramatically since 1914. With impressive advances in technology, telecommuting, and automation, people no longer have to be confined to their desks to complete their daily tasks. of adult Americans have smartphones and 70% have a desktop or laptop, allowing the ability to do work in real time without being in the office. Additionally, there are many more women working in the 21st century, meaning parents need the added flexibility in their schedule.

If you had 8 hours to complete a couple tasks that should took 3 hours, you’d still probably take 8 to finish. Studies show 8 hour shifts ultimately lead to decreased productivity, exhaustion, poor engagement, and frustration. We are conditioned to think the number of hours we work proves how hardworking we are; however, it’s not the hours you work, it’s how productive you are in that time.

The modern working world is about managing energy, not time. Having fewer working hours to complete tasks ultimately sharpens employee focus, leading to increased productivity. For businesses to get the most out of their employees, they should focus on tailoring their schedules to meet their employee’s needs. Depending on the business and individual, that could mean working 4 10 hour shifts, 5 6 hour shifts, or cutting the work week to 32 hours.

That being said, you might be in the middle of your 8 hour shift being “unproductive”. Here are some tips to help you focus:

  • Allow yourself to take breaks. Studies show 90-120 minutes is the time your brain can focus before you need a break.
  • Complete your most demanding tasks when you’re typically most productive
  • Focus on one task at a time rather than multitasking
  • 3 PM is the least productive time, so don’t start a difficult task, and instead take a break
  • Avoid potential distractions when working
  • Split your day into different time windows, alternatives include:
    • 25 minutes working, 5 minute break, repeat
    • 90 minutes working, 20 minute break, repeat
    • Plan a 15 minutes break mid-morning and another 15 minute break mid-day
  • During your break reward yourself whether that’s getting a coffee, scrolling through Instagram, taking a walk, or listening to music
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