The US company Salesforce recently sent out a press release with the words "The 9-to-5 workday is dead", causing many media outlets to pick it up. Reason enough for //next columnist Markus Sekulla - a friend of alternative work models - to get to the bottom of this bold hypothesis.
Hardly a day goes by without a major tech company announcing that the classic work model has had its day, even when the pandemic is over. Last week alone, it was Spotify and Salesforce. Often, press releases point out the many benefits of more flexible work models. Those benefits, I want to be clear here, have been around for many, many years. So is it all merely a way of cool-washing the company, getting some good PR? Or one might say fine, as the old saying goes "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time to plant a tree is today."
But the many announcements are reason enough to put my thoughts on remote and flex office to the test again. So please join me on this very subjective journey to the pros and cons of the traditional 9-5 work model.
To put it in perspective, I've been a freelancer (blogger and management consultant) for 12 years, which means I've been able to work from wherever I wanted for a long time. At my desk in Dusseldorf, in beach cafés or in co-working spaces in Berlin or New York. I have worked through huge work packages everywhere. In the process, I never had the feeling that my work performance was negatively influenced by my geographic location. The opposite was true. Long journeys, traffic jams, full trams or jeans are things that often put you in a bad mood in the first few hours of the day. This brings us to the first advantage of flexible working models: You have more free time in relation to working hours - the keyword here is work-life balance. You can sleep longer, take your kids to daycare in a more relaxed way, no searching for a parking space... quality of life in heaps.
In addition to the quality of life, there is also the environmental factor. Everyone knows the "this meeting could have been an email". In the current version, many of us have realized that many meetings could have been video calls. Business trips to the other side of the country, continent, or even the world for meetings that often last only a day? Find the sense in that? Me neither. The environment would thank us for less pollution.
To be fair, some meetings are worth the journey (at least within Germany). For me, these are mainly get-to-know-you meetings. You can learn a lot about other people via Teams or Zoom, but I will always be able to better assess facial expressions and gestures - and thus the person himself – in face2face offline meetings. For most other gatherings, the future is looking forward to less pollution from flights, traffic jams, etc....
Let's move on to a factor I'd like to bring up as both a plus and a minus of alternativ work models. Free time management. An acquaintance of mine recently told me "In my home office, it's less likely that my boss is constantly on my case.” And what I find really appealing about free time management, is that I can work on tasks when you want to. For one person, that can be from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but for another, it can be from 8 p.m. to midnight. As long as the tasks are completed, and the quality of the output doesn't suffer, work can adapt to people's natural cycles (as a night owl, I never liked getting up at 6:30a.m. for school). The issue of core working hours has been raised as something that is certainly good for task coordination, but completely irrelevant for working away in a deep work state to get things done.
Just to mention another upside here, the size of the talent pool rises. Moving to another city for the job, that used to be commonplace. If you can work from everywhere, at any time, then my computer can have the ocean view feature.
Free time management sounds very tempting at first, but it can also become a trap. Effective work needs clear lines and space for deep work. That's what it also takes in the office between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., but I've always had the feeling that the working atmosphere in offices was a given, and if I've been there, I've been working. Many say they can simply concentrate better in the office than at home. Outside the company’s premises, you have to carve these spaces more clearly. Once that's done and the human tendency to procrastination is put aside, I tend to see free time management as an advantage. If it goes in the direction of being constantly available, even well after hours - as is required in many jobs - this can become a problem for one's work-life balance.
For me, the most important pro 9-5 point are the social connections we make at work. In recent months, many of us have noticed what it's like to not connect with other people (professionally) offline at all. In my case: it's always great when you can do home office, the going gets tough when you have to do home office and everything you like about days in the office is entirely eliminated: conversations at the water cooler, a gentle nod in the hallway and quick clarification of things because you can just ask across the desk. You also don't get the hallway chatter, nor the important chats after the meeting at lunch. What I want to say is that most of us are not made to be alone and humans are social beings, for whom offices help against social isolation.
These advantages and disadvantages can be evened out with a flex office. This way you can enjoy the best of both worlds. Only come to the office when it fits into your life. Only when you feel like working with your colleagues - sounds too good to be true, but it doesn't have to be (in the future).
How much one likes to work flex is primarily a matter of personal preferences. So this article somehow can’t pass as more than my subjective opinion. To pick up the initial point again, the 9-5 is not dead, at least not for most of us office workers. However, I fully agree with the notion that everyone should work the way that suits their circumstances.
I will continue to want to manage my work life as flexibly as possible. I can get things done in my own four walls and I enjoy meetings with customers. So I am a proud member of TeamFlexOffice. Are you too? Let’s discuss in the comments.
Text: Markus Sekulla