March 30, 2016
The clocks went forward on 27th March meaning darker mornings and lighter evenings – at least for a time. But the standard working day doesn’t reflect such changes, with commuters setting out in darkness to make a fixed 9am start. The changing of the clocks raises interesting questions about the UK work model. Why does UK business persist with the 9-5? We know that commuting in and out can be stressful and detrimental to productivity – not to mention expensive. So why do we continue to do it? Why is the UK’s workforce all boarding the same trains to arrive at the office at the same time? Today, the very notion of the 9am start to the working day should seem archaic. Sweden – often a forerunner of best practice when it comes to wellbeing – recently introduced a 6-hour working day in a bid to reduce sick leave and make staff happier. To date, there has been no hard analysis of results, but anecdotal evidence suggests a healthier, more engaged workforce.
Of course, not everybody working in the UK can choose their working hours. But there are enough businesses in the country that can adopt a more flexible approach when it comes to the working day. And there are enough flexible workspaces across the UK to host this travel-weary workforce and enable them to work nearer to home and to vary their hours.
Remote working is on the rise – with recent reports stating that 45% of UK workers are now based outside of their main office for more than half the week. But with this change must come a shift in management mindset. Too often, hard-work is equated with ‘presenteeism’ – as if turning up on time and being seen in the office every day is a guarantee of productivity. Rather, managers must get used to the idea of assessing performance on results rather than hours spent at the desk.
Certainly, the new generation of millennial workers are already questioning the norms. To these employees – raised on mobile technology and used to the idea of anytime/anywhere interaction – the idea of fixed hours in a fixed office seems impossibly limiting. For them, the option to work flexibly and remotely is expected rather than being seen as an occasional perk. Indeed, the most forward-thinking businesses are adopting the use of co-working spaces, whereby employees from different companies share workspace and are encouraged to interact and be innovative.
As long as we persist with the 9-5 mantra, our train stations and motorways will continue to be bottlenecks and our productivity will be hampered. Let’s re-think the working day and this notion that being productive means sitting at the same desk, at the same office during the same hours.