Is the death of the 9-5 workday inevitable?

It may have governed our working lives for decades but one leading academic says millennials will soon do away with the structure for good.

Flexible working may be creeping into more and more offices around the world but it’s the age-old nine to five that still remains as the status quo in most workplaces – but not for long.

According to workplace expert and leading academic Alexandra Levit, the 8-hour structure we’ve come to love or loathe could be abolished in just 15 years.

“By around 2030, the millennial majority will likely have done away with the 9-to-5 workday entirely,” she writes in a recent article for the Muse.
Levit, who is president of Inspiration at Work, says there are four key reasons why millennials will insist on reshaping the current way of work.

Work-family balance

Research has found that millennials are defined more by their friends, family and community and they are by their work and careers – unlike that of older generations.

“Given this, demands on millennials’ personal time are bound to increase as they balance work commitments with raising young children,” says Levit. “And, as they are closely connected to their parents, they are likely to be personally involved in caring for them as they age.

“The trade-off, of course, is catching up on email at 10 PM or finishing a project on a Saturday morning to make up the time, but in my experience, that’s one that most millennials are fine with making,” adds Levit.

Skills educating

Millennials are placing increased value on professional development – and their employers are listening.

“U.S. spending on corporate training grew by 15% in 2013, the highest growth rate in seven years,” says Levit. “In addition, many companies are fulfilling the millennial desire for ‘experience-hopping’ through leadership rotation programs that allow them to test out different areas of a company.

“In any case, millennials will be spending time taking classes and working additional jobs to skill up, and some of this activity is bound to occur during the classic workday,” she explains.

The disappearing corporate office

“By 2030, professionals will work mostly from home using super-fast data terminals,” prophesises Levit.
“Most companies will have nixed their permanent physical office locations in favour of chains of interconnected hubs with different plans for individuals to access space,” she adds.

“Meetings will routinely occur virtually and across geographies and time zones, rendering air travel to visit clients or partners unnecessary. And if the office isn’t necessary – why set office hours?”

The (company’s) bottom line

It’s not just about freeing up more time for employees to spend outside of the office, flexible work hours are actually better for business.

“Flexible work hours do make employees more productive,” says Levit.

“Research by Stanford professor Nicholas Bloom found that working remotely increases productivity, overall work hours, and employee satisfaction,” she reveals.

“Over a nine-month period, Bloom observed 250 employees at Ctrip, a Chinese travel website. Half of the employees worked from home, and half worked in the office.

Turns out, removing the time it takes to physically commute to work and the distractions of the in-office environment made a huge difference: The telecommuters completed 13.5% more calls than the office workers, performed 10% more work overall, left the company at half the rate of people in the office, reported feeling more fulfilled at work, and saved the company $1,900 per employee.

Of course for many HR professionals, designing and implementing an effective flex work policy is no easy feat and it’s definitely not going to happen overnight.

“My guess is that we’ll start with ‘easier to swallow’ flex-work arrangements, such as job-sharing (two employees split the workload and time commitments of one 40-hour per week job), day shifting (some employees work from 7 AM to 3 PM while others work from 10 AM to 6 PM), and on-peak/off-peak work schedules (employees work more hours during their busy season and vice versa),” predicts Levit.

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