On Jun, 25 2020
In 2008, streaming giant Netflix was among the first to offer what seemed at the time a revolutionary work schedule — unlimited PTO, as long as you can finish all of your assigned work. The model worked; Netflix employees reported feeling less stressed, more engaged, and were happier than traditional 9–5 workers in competing companies. Productivity soared. Turnover dropped.
Of course, this anything-goes policy may not be feasible for many companies, especially smaller start-ups. However, Netflix’s success has set an example proving that with the advent of modern technology, the 9–5 workday has become outdated and inefficient. This is especially true of tech companies, where most of the work can be completed remotely.
So why do we persist in keeping it?
Like many American customs, the concept is rooted in tradition. Labor unions in the 19th century lobbied for better working hours in a time when child labor and overwork was frequent. It took half a century and several riots before FDR finally signed the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, creating a standard for overtime pay and minimum wage.
However, the white-collar workers of today are no longer smartly-dressed businessmen swamped in typewriters and loose papers. Much of the work now done by IT workers requires only a laptop and an Internet connection, making physical presence in the workplace both unnecessary and cumbersome.
According to a survey conducted by Deloitte, a professional services network, 70% of Millennial workers would prefer to have more flexible working hours than at their current place of employment. Another 77% say that their productivity would increase if they were free to work whenever they wanted to, instead of according to a traditional 8 or 9-hour work day.
The rigidity of the 40 hour work day has led to employee burnout and been linked to rising mental health issues and higher frequencies of heart disease. A study conducted between the Harvard Business School and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business found that overwork kills nearly 200,000 a year, with an additional increase of $190 billion in costs in the health industry sector.
The standard schedule has also contributed to morning and evening traffic and congestion, turning what should have been a brisk 15 minute drive into a 45 minute nightmare. The average commute in Silicon Valley takes 36 minutes, or around 5.6 hours a week, cutting into valuable time your employee could have spent being productive or spending more time with family and loved ones.
Perhaps what’s most important to remember is that tech work is brain intensive. Human brains simply aren’t programmed to focus for such long hours at once. Research suggests that the average human can focus for peak capacity two hours before needing a half-hour break, with employees flatlining in productivity towards the end of the day.
There’s no reason why companies should continue to measure by hours rather than the result. Keeping your employees in the office for long stretches of time harms health, lowers efficiency, and ultimately harms your company through lost profits. Offering flexible hours gives employees the ability to work when they’re most productive, ensuring that your employees are providing you with their best work.