9–5: is this working pattern actually still relevant?

I’ve had countless (and sometimes heated) debates in the pub about this. And I still stand by that I can’t help but think it isn’t. Well, my opinion is somewhat limited to my own profession, of course.

So to start my debate; in the digital space certainly, I can’t see how it can be relevant anymore. I’ve worked for sometime in digital, albeit I like to think I’m still young, I’ve been in it for 10 years as of this year. And in all my working life I’ve done nothing but encounter late nights. Whether this has been working with a small family run business, a large agency or as self-employed. The matter of the fact remains, that late nights just seems to be one of things that are almost considered to be ‘normal’.

I actually like it, I welcome long days...

Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not debating whether this is something that shouldn’t happen. In fact, quite the opposite. I actually like it, I welcome long days. I like the opportunity of having a long run at developing something. At the end of it, I get a true feel-good high about having just developed so much and all at once.

To try and give some scale to what I’m saying; imagine a decorator only being able to spend 2 hours a day decorating your whole home. A resentful feeling about how long it takes them to finish, would exist I’m sure. This is exactly how I feel about being a developer sometimes. That ridiculous 9–5 convention of working life. It just gets in the way and hinders my productivity sometimes.

This leads me nicely onto why I both question and get hugely frustrated about why more companies in the digital sector don’t embrace the use of flexitime.

Apart from one place that I have worked for; I have been and seen countless others be a victim time and time again of this situation: we won’t offer or authorise any overtime (taken from employee contracts), equally we won’t actively stop you either (here’s the office key to lock up) — see you tomorrow at 8.50am!

In short there’s no reward to me for being more productive for my employer. As sometimes when developing, you just need longer than the average 6 hours you get in a 9–5 operated office. You just do; and so for your own sanity, you work late to get something worthwhile done. So why can’t I work less hours the next day as a reward?

And as long as a project has a thorough enough development plan with a clear overview of tasks and time against these tasks. Together with the total number of hours a week against a developer taken into timeline consideration. Delivery points of the project life-cycle — will surely have the same outcome if it had been developed in either flexitime or not? If at the point of each delivery the work outlined is done; what does it actually matter if the developer worked 10 hours on a Tuesday, 4 hours on Wednesday and 7 hours Monday, Thursday and Friday?

If the concept of managing a project, it’s tasks and time against the development team are done well — then what harm does flexitime do?

A few opposing thoughts I have had about this debate are:

It helps to know at all times where project members are, 9–5 gives you this

You need to operate within times that the company using your services do

Timelines would surely be longer than they could be

All valid points I think — though the last point makes me a little bitter. The last point for me takes us back to the situation I described earlier. Nice to see I’m consider a number and not a human being, who will eventually get tired of no rewards for being a better developer for you.

I’m sure there are loads of other factors to both support and not support the use of flexitime. Though surely with the natural & obvious flexibility that the digital scene gives us in everyday life, this same flexibility can also apply to the people who work in digital service companies?

For me, here are some huge obvious benefits with flexitime:

a) Less time travelling in ‘rush hour’ — reduce wasted time both personally and professionally. Especially for commuters travelling by car. I know I would be calmer in life if getting stuck whilst commuting (due to road accidents, roadworks, delayed trains etc), whilst aiming for an exact 9am start just didn’t matter! It stresses me so much having to apologise being late for something way beyond my control, and then having to deal with that unspoken disappointment from your boss all day. Urgh.

b) Depending on how generous the flexitime is, perhaps cheaper travelling costs. Train tickets if bought daily have two price levels — peak & off-peak. Saving money when travelling off-peak.

c) Sometimes in life you just need longer than an hour at lunch to get certain things done, that either just can’t wait until weekend or you can’t do at weekend. Flat hunting as a tenant or buying a house are good examples. Sometimes you just can’t plan these events into booked off holiday times. So you could do these things before you start work or after finishing early by starting work early or by working more hours on other days across the week.

d) I don’t have children of my own, though I can see huge benefits of working flexitime hours for those with children.

I’d be interested to hear more views on this debate — but for me I will continue to question it and I’m totally for the use of ‘real’ flexitime. Overall I just believe it’s healthier for both employees, employers and clients.

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