ia play

the good life in a digital age

a decade of 9 to 5

My first job was 10.30 to 6.30. The ‘late’ start was so we trainees didn’t have to be paid enough to travel peak. It suited me too as I don’t approve of waking up already under pressure about the imminent need to leave the house. I also don’t approve of rush hour. It seems perverse and deeply inefficient to have us all try to use the transport network at the same time. That same job also involved weekend shifts, sometimes for overtime, sometimes for weekdays off. The weekdays off were incredibly useful, not least because parcel delivery services don’t seem to have noticed that houses haven’t come with built-in housewives for about 50 years.

My next job was 8pm to 2am (yes 8pm at night), up to four nights a week. People generally seem horrifed at the prospect of night shifts but I quite enjoyed it. I commuted in the opposite direction to everyone else and we got sent home in taxis (an amazingly quick and uplifting journey, along the Thames in the middle of the night). We went home when the job was done so everyone in the team mucked in to get it finished, skipping breaks and damaging my eyesight.

As this was technically an evening rather than a full-on night shift it was surprisingly undisruptive.  I kept student hours, in bed at 2.30, up at midday and with the afternoons to do as I pleased. I was also in-sync with my family on the east coast of the US. It wasn’t great for my social life but that saved me money. And the need to crash out when I got home meant that I ditched the caffeine habit.

Since then I’ve had a decade of proper grown-up jobs, always loosely based on 9-5, 5 days a week with occasional time off for good behaviour. I’ve settled into a habit of spreading my annual leave throughout the year rather than taking it in chunks of a week or so, in an attempt to replicate the useful daytimes at home. But I’ve not been able to do much about the 9-5, especially with the current popularity of agile.

This isn’t a straightforward matter of larks and owls. Homeworkers tend to report unusual working patterns. I find when I work from home I tend to work in two chunks, one starting early morning and one starting late afternoon with a long break in the middle.

Even in flexi-time environments, 9-5 remains the norm, with small deviations from this accepted but still very much considered deviations. And flexi-time is generally considered an employee perk not a business benefit.

Managers generally believe in the 9-5 because their lives are so meeting heavy, it is necessary for them to be present in the same time slots as most other people are. The constant challenge of finding times when people are available to talk can make it seem that this is a) a universal problem and b) an important problem. It isn’t really either.


Written by Karen

April 18th, 2012 at 6:02 am

Posted in work