The Traditional 9-to-5 Workday is Finished—Now What? 

Do you want to rebuild your organization for the future by giving employees what they want and need, while increasing productivity and loyalty?

The 9-to-5 workday—also commonly known as “the way we’ve always done it”—is how our workforce has behaved since Henry Ford implemented the policy in the 1920s. (It was later standardized by the Fair Labor Standards Act in 1938.) But since the Industrial Revolution, “work” has changed dramatically. The manufacturing and industrial jobs that the 9-to-5 workday was created for don’t really exist anymore, at least not in the United States.

So, why do most of us insist on using this outdated standard work policy? Does the way we’re doing things still make sense for businesses? While these questions have been much debated over the last five to 10 years, it’s really the last 18 months that’s brought the issue completely into focus. A strong argument can now be made that it simply doesn’t make sense to continue with a traditional 9 to 5 workday.

As advisors, we speak with employees every day who say they get more work done now—and in less time—than when they were in the office full time. (Full disclosure: We’re both in that camp as well.) The pandemic has, obviously, caused the modern-day work environment to make a huge shift. When, where, and how employees work was forced to change, quickly and dramatically. Currently, many companies are talking about when (and how) people will return to the office full time since the delta variant has pushed this discussion out through the remainder of 2021. After this forced, work-from-anywhere-at-anytime environment, should we return to the way it was? Not if you want your company to stay relevant and adapt to the needs of your employees.

This situation is an opportunity to start an important conversation about evolving with the times and adjusting to meet the needs of your company’s employee base. As a business owner, this is your chance to increase productivity by giving employees options for greater work flexibility as you craft your return to the office plan. A Flex jobs survey reported that only 2% of workers want to be in the office full time; roughly 39% said, if they were forced to go back to an office full time, they would look for another job. Employers will have to shift to stay competitive.

Why shift your paradigm?

A recent article observed the way working remotely has affected productivity: “Corporations, such as Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook and Google, saw record profits. The stock market has hit all-time highs. Studies show that employees worked longer hours way into the night and during weekends. Their productivity was—without question—phenomenal…at this point, it’s only inertia holding us back from changing the 9-to-5, five days a week program…wouldn’t it be more humane to offer schedules that fit employees’ needs and wants?”

We understand the periodic need—and value—of in-person collaboration. There are certain collaborative accomplishments that you do not get by using email, Zooms, or phone calls—as well as the need to check-in in person with your teams. But how aggressive do you need to be with your program? What we’re recommending is a hybrid scheduling plan that accommodates multiple situations and flexible options for your team.

The pros outweigh the cons of enlisting this new way of thinking, yet we are starting to see the 9-to-5, mentality comes back to the forefront. We advise against that and encourage an open mind for the possibilities. Flexible workplace hours have been shown to: improve work-life balance; employee mental well-being; increase productivity; improve employee loyalty and retention, and allow employers to reimagine a different—and more successful—future.

Meet with your team

So how do you develop a hybrid scheduling plan? Have a deep conversation with your team to assess exactly what they need or want, and then try to accommodate their “asks” in a way that benefits everyone. Consider offering half-days, a variety of scheduled hours, or a hybrid of on-and-off premises workdays. You’ll never go wrong surveying your team and communicating with them about what they need to be their most productive—benefiting your bottom line in the end.

With our developing work culture increasing the emphasis on work-life balance, and a growing workforce of younger people, employers have a choice to make. Do you want to rebuild your organization for the future by giving employees what they want and need, while increasing productivity and loyalty? Or, do you want to go back to the way things were done 100 years ago? We think the answer is clear.

Andrew McNeil and Rosario Avila are senior benefits advisors who collaborate with their clients as a team, using their different perspectives to deploy one solution. Their unique work has been nationally recognized in Employee Benefits Adviser magazine. To learn more, call (707) 992-3789 or visit

Related Posts