Why 9 to 5 might be poison for the will


Willingness — it’s an attitude, a posture, a way of thinking. A strong will embraces life in the midst of great challenges. Everyone wants to work in an environment that feeds the will, that encourages people to give their all and make sacrifices for the company. But the conventional wisdom about work might be what keeps us from having the experience we know we want.

The conventional wisdom says we work from 9 to 5.

In a lot of offices, you are expected to get the bulk of your work done 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. There’s nothing wrong with that, but problems come when we allow the office schedule to influence our thinking so that we become unproductive. Case in point: we’ve all had the boss who says, “just make sure you get your 8 hours in.”

Thinking 9 to 5 can make us really unproductive.

So here’s what happens: we sit and wait for 5:00 to come. Why? Because we are being “good employees”, getting our 8 hours in. The problem is that logging time merely for the sake of fulfilling 8 hours is inefficient and expensive. Somewhere in our subconscious, we are aware that we won’t be able to finish anything we start after 4:00, and so we devolve into busy work in order to eek out that last hour so that we can go home.

But what value have we actually produced in that last hour? And… how many times have we followed that same pattern at other parts of the day — like the first 30 minutes before or after a meeting? or the last 30 minutes or so before lunch? Or the 10 minutes around the water cooler?

Just getting in your 8 hours probably costs the organization at least an hour a day of true productivity. That’s at least 12% of all the time we work.

Just getting in your 8 hours also probably creates a desire to log more hours than we should, in an effort to appear more productive. That affects us throughout the workday.

We know that people don’t really want to work in that kind of environment. People really want to put their best foot forward — to actually bill hours when they do their best work, and to be free to do their best work and be able to log the time appropriately. And nobody wants to work in an office where there are always some people just eeking out that last hour.

So how can we break the cycle? 4 things.

As workers, we’ve got to make work sacred.

Everyone knows who spends too much time cutting up at the water cooler, or who takes the most smoke breaks. We’ve got to come to the place where we decide to leave those things at home. Embrace work as work. 

As leaders, we’ve got to learn how to encourage productivity.

If you’re a leader, it’s not because you’re better. It’s so that you can bring out the best in your subordinates. Encouraging people to do things simply to fill out a timesheet usually doesn’t help the company’s bottom line. We’ve got to be more concerned with real productivity.

Organizations need to be a little more flexible — workers need to be a little more rigid.

A flexible organization is always innovating, changing with its environment — a lot like an organism. On the other hand, workers tend to want to push the envelope a little too far.

As people, we’ve got to communicate better.

Better communication usually leads to better results. Teams that practice honesty will be more nimble, and will be able to perform better. Good communication will foster openness and support — allies of creativity and productivity.

Ultimately, honesty, courage, and action are the keys to a willing attitude — at home and in the office. If we can find it in ourselves to rethink our attitude toward rest, then why can’t we also question our attitude toward the workday as well?


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