It's Time to Kill the 9-to-5

9/30/2016
Rebecca Greenfield

Jessica Piha gets to work whenever she wants and leaves whenever she wants—really.

"There's really no set schedule," said Piha, the director of communications at home-improvement startup Porch, which lets its employees work flexible schedules. Piha likes to get in "super early" and leave at 3 p.m. for a workout class.

"I just like to be able to do my work when it needs to be done," she said. "I will never not hit deadlines and deliver."

That's how it should be for all of us whose jobs aren't shift-based—that is, for the 42 percent of the workforce who, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, don't work hourly wage jobs. We should decide how and when to get our work done—yet so many of us are stuck on the clock.

"Our culture in the U.S. is rooted what I call an hours mentality," said Carol Sladek, a partner at the human resource consulting firm Aon-Hewitt. "And by that I mean scheduling—really driven by shift work—that doesn't make sense in most of our service-based industries."

The 9-to-5 schedule doesn't conform to most people's lives, or their workflows. Sitting in a chair for eight hours straight doesn't produce results; many studies have established the benefits of taking breaks during work. And the best hours for productivity vary from person to person. Not everyone is a morning person. One study found sleep deprivation costs employers an average of $2,000 a year per worker; other research suggests cognition peaks in the later afternoon.

Workers also find schedules dogmatic. We're adults, and we like autonomy over our lives.

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