Over the past couple of years, I’ve observed a number of situations where past generations viewed the working habits of current generations (Gen Y and Z) with a level of angst, dare I say spite, specifically when considering “hours spent in the office”. This isn’t new, in fact there is almost a comedic undertone to the inherent daily misunderstandings resulting from the coexistence of Baby Boomers, Gen X, Y, and Z all working together in the same place.
I feel this specific case boils down to a noticeable disconnect in how Gen Z and many millennial’s “work for the weekend” compared to the generations that have preceded them.
To Baby Boomers and Gen X (probably some of you in Gen Y too) — there was a time when 9am – 5pm mattered. Coming in early and working late certainly got you further ahead than punching a time clock piously, but a standardization of the work day mattered. There was a time when clocking out at 5pm meant that you were unplugged. Each day was one day closer to Friday night and a few days of mostly uninterrupted freedom.
Then email arrived and cell phones became more prominent… you can see where this is going.
It’s not that a standardized work day doesn’t matter now, it just matters less. It matters less because the weekend matters less. It matters less because time has changed. Information is processed and transmitted quicker, tasks get accomplished quicker, conversations are completed through different mediums, and being present can get you further.
Check this out:
I can wake up and have a quick discussion at 7am with a colleague via text, phone, slack, or a number of other platforms. Then, I can work out, take some spiritual time, eat breakfast, and be ready to go for my 9am (did I mention that I used a 7 minute workout app?).
I can be present in meetings and play catch up all morning while also quickly staying on top of my social feeds. I go out for lunch around noon simply because I have the time to do so. I jump back in around 1pm, catch up on more tasks and handle my meetings until around 4pm.
Feeling tired, I swing through a coffee shop. I decide to read a few books for the next hour or so.
I swing home to take care of my dog and while he’s eating I realize it’s probably a good time to eat my dinner too. I’m done with dinner around 7pm. For the next hour or so I catch up on a few outstanding work items, of which I’m not the least bit concerned on timeline because I forgot to mention, I was keeping tabs and taking care of “quick hit” items from my phone while reading at the coffee shop.
From 8pm – 10pm I exclusively work on my stuff. I’ve been getting into real estate investment on the side, so I need to plan out some next steps. I lazily watch TV until around 11pm and go to sleep. I wake up around 6:30am the next day to do something similar. I get 7 hours of sleep (variably), and I am getting just as much, arguably more, completed as the 9-5er.
This is a huge reality now.
Obviously not everyone’s day is like this. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that many of my current teammates, all of us which are in a rather progressive company, don’t necessarily have the freedom to be remote. It’s all in perspective, but adjustments can be made.
I feel that days like this are perpetuated by my generation’s ability to multitask and briskly cross back and forth on the line of personal and work time, not only as a result of technology, but an increased exposure and utilization of that technology.
I’m not damning the office environment and saying a total remote workforce is the future, but flexibility is, and it’s destroying 9am – 5pm.
It also isn’t completely accurate to say that the concept of the 9-5 work week and the weekend doesn’t matter at all. But now, there are so many ways to productively enjoy each day as much as professionals enjoy the weekend. Ultimately, we can plug in and answer a few emails on the weekend, but we can also take a few extra hours here and there during the 9-5 while also remaining plugged in.
Monday, Tuesday, Saturday… they’re all just another day.
Quintin Meek a talent consultant at Pillar Technology (part of Accenture Industry X.0). Also an active member of Detroit’s startup and tech community. Every day is something new and challenging, and I am learning more than ever before. I’m finding that I’ve become a lifelong student, and I’m excited to see how that continues to shape the road ahead.
I completely agree with your overall message about workplace flexibility. However, please do not recognize Gen X as a “past generation” while we’re still very much in the workplace and many years away from retirement. While you’re touting workplace flexibility (which GenX pioneered in the workplace), please also be flexible in your attitude towards generations that are not your own.