Give Me My Time Back!

One of the more interesting posts I read today was from David Spinks and the debate of why 9-5 should be eliminated. It took on the idea that the 9-5 should be set aside for the sake of personal lives/lifestyles, work preferences, and getting-things-done how the employee feels comfortable.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m currently not a 9-5er and love workshifting on days I feel the need. Doing work in the digital space gives me the freedom and flexibility to do so. It’s how I stay connected with my community, how I continue to learn and grow, and how I’m able to get closer to that next opportunity. Most would probably think that I’m an advocate of this lifestyle – but I’m not all for it, as I question this logic with this piece of my comment:

We work at all times of the day because weโ€™re able to. But does that mean we have to?

We’re wanting and given this flexibility so that we can adhere to different work and life styles, but when do we realize that it may be having an adverse effect on our personal lives than actually helping our schedule? This is a thought that I’ve gotten into deep discussions about recently with Teresa Basich. Talking shop on work methods and how we can better manage and create efficiency in our everyday and professional lives.

Don’t get me wrong – I love that I can work on projects throughout the day, while creating blog posts and connecting with folks on Twitter and other networks – but the deeper I get into this space that I love, the more I realize that the line is becoming blurred to the point that people can’t pull themselves away and disconnect online, and reconnect offline.

I’m conflicted and wonder where we draw the line and get back the time that the non 9-5 life has taken away? Are we spending these newly found working hours inefficiently, or is it the desired course of the digital space, giving us the responsibility to utilize it efficiently?

I’d love to hear your side of it.

14 comments On Give Me My Time Back!

  • Oh, the thoughts in my head! This is a great retort and really brings up issues our society faces in trying to get back to actually enjoying and LIVING life. The funny thing is I think the move away from 9-5 was initially started to gain some of that life back.

    Like I mentioned to you, removing yourself from the regular 9-5 takes a certain amount of discipline to set your own hours and stand up for yourself when you need to walk away from work for a bit. When you set your own hours are you silently telling people that you’ll work both their and your hours? Do we see the open schedules of our employees and clients as an opportunity to make requests at any time?

    Even if people don’t have that view, those of us that workshift (as I am right now!) do run into problems disconnecting. If I give myself all day to work on a project, there’s a good chance I’ll blow some of my day THINKING about working on the project. Then, I’ve wasted my time thinking about it and I still have to actually work on it at the end of the day.

    A set schedule for anything commits us to actually DOING something. Then, we do what we need to in that timeframe and move on to life after. I think the real problem in setting our own hours is that often we take the freedom too far and don’t set any consistent hours, which leaves us too much time in the end. Too much time = wasting time.

    If we’re going to give up the 9-5, we need to set consistent hours outside of them. Work 8-noon and then 4-8, or something similar. But, we lose control when we thwart boundaries and restraint. And when we tell others we’re saying no to pre-set boundaries, unless we establish new ones and enforce them, we’ll get mowed over.

    This was long. And maybe all over the place. But I think I hit a couple good points in there.

  • @Teresa – as expected, really great points T! I love your thought on breaking through boundaries but being able to establish new ones and enforcing them to where we’re not seen as workshifters who work at all times of the day, morning to night. It’s easy for us to get caught up in the concept of being ‘9-5 rebels’ – but without that structure (yes, there’s still structure with wanting to be flexible) and discipline, we’re just going to increase the amount of work we’d normally have and the amount of time we’re wasting each day.

    Thanks for the always insightful comment!

  • Hi Sonny,

    As someone who was only very briefly a 9-5er in my career, I’m fond of both the freedom & flexibility. But I think the trick is understanding your work style and to best optimize your day (and this is different for different people)–and then having the discipline to work when you need to as well as to know when to say no.

    And workshifting certainly shouldn’t mean substituting 24/7 for the old 9-5. ๐Ÿ™‚


  • Sonny,
    Great “think piece.” And by that I mean, I think this post stimulates a lot of thought amongst work-shifters. With two years experience in PR, I’ve never had a 9-5 gig, instead bouncing between paid internships, freelance jobs and other temporary positions. Between work and graduate school, the traditional work day really isn’t an option for me. Instead its somewhat of a “unicorn” for me.

    I see my roommate come home at 5:30, kick his feet up and enjoy life. The view from behind my laptop is a jealous one, and I’ve longed for the day that I can enjoy a more defined schedule. But I’ve started to realize that I may never find my unicorn. In PR (or MarComm, Ad, etc.) I’m not sure you can ever unplug at 5 and be free till 9.

    Though it’s still important to take time for yourself, I think this comes in smaller increments throughout the day (twitter, blog reading, etc.) rather than in large blocks (i.e. 5 p.m. – 9 a.m.). But maybe it’s just me.

  • Personally, I’ve always had a traditional PR job. Even so, the work often spilled over to evenings, weekends, etc. That said, the blurring between personal and professional is happening more frequently, thanks to social media. (As I sit on my couch at 8 p.m. finally having time to catch up on blog posts that I missed during the day!)

    In December, I’ll officially be a “workshifter” for the first time, and I know that it’s going to require a lot of self-discipline to avoid working ALL the time. Picking up on Teresa’s point, I think I (and probably many people like me) need to do a better job setting boundaries. I want my clients and bosses to be happy, so I respond to emails after-hours, answer the phone on the weekends, etc. To some extent, that’s good, because i know I’m providing good client service — key to a successful PR career. But it’s up to me to set limits. If I’m not going to work on Sundays, I need to stick to that. No answering emails. Otherwise, clients and bosses will think I actually am available 24/7. It’s a problem that I know a lot of us in the PR/SM circles are facing. If someone comes up with a good solution, PLEASE let me know! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Heather (@prtini)

  • @Daria – exactly what Teresa and I have talked about. Our styles and what works best and most efficient for us. It’s very interesting when you get down to the nitty gritty of how you work and requires much effort to change it to where it best suits you.

    Appreciate your perspective, Daria.

    @Chris – it’s refreshing to hear someone open up and admit that they WANT that 9-5 lifestyle. As technologies and workshifting continue to evolve, many of us will probably be less likely to unplug come week nights. But this issue is very subjective as well and depends on the type of roll you have. If you’re a community manager and acting as a support system via online tools for your customers, then there is an increased need to be constantly plugged in. Whereas agency or corporate types have set goals that they need to accomplish – what they do after 5pm (blogging, twitter, etc.) is up to them. Though disconnecting from that part of the digital world is another story!

  • Sonny – interesting post, and I’m going to go back and read David’s after I read this comment. I’m probably doing that backwards, but what the heck.

    Agency types (and probably many corporate ones as well) will probably tell you that the 9-5 work schedule is a complete myth. While you’re physically in the office during those hours, you’re actually “on call” well beyond 5:00p.m. That’s a working relationship that’s fine with me because I’m interested in serving clients, both internal and external, first.

    It’s a similar story with online communities. It might be a cold way of talking about people, but they are clients in a way, right? Their “thirst” for knowledge and information doesn’t stop at 5 does it?

    As you know, over the Labor Day weekend I tried the social disconnect experiment. I’ll admit, I had one lapse late Friday afternoon, but overall it was a difficult experience. I was constantly wondering what people were talking about, and if there was some level of insight that I could offer to add to the discussion.

    Does any of this make me a workaholic? Or just dedicated to my “community?” Interested to hear your answer.

  • @Heather – I hear ya on staying connected on evenings/weekends, even outside of actual ‘work’ and digging into blog posts, commenting, tweeting – that all falls under our career development though, so another blurry line (damn them!)

    Those limits, like you said, are going to be most important for us in workshifting situations like yours. It’s definitely not easy, but with guidelines AND willpower, it is possible – and I know you can do it too!

    Best of luck in your transition, Heather ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Sonny,
    This post and David Spinks both raise some great issues. I love the freedom to make my own schedule and get work done on my own schedule but when I was earlier in my career I also relished the time in the office with others who could guide and teach me about public relations (or whatever one’s career is). I think it’s really important to have both depending on where you are in your life and what your needs are. The biggest issue with workshifting is our ability to turn off the computer/iphone or whatever and concentrate on something other than our work. It’s important to our overall health and well-being, and often hard for us type A personality types to do. The structure of 9-5 can force that on us and there’s a good side to that as well. Thanks for getting everyone thinking.

  • @Chuck – interesting thoughts, Chuck. I agree with your point that working after 5pm and continuing to serve your clients and stay abreast of happenings is going ‘above & beyond’ vs. being an actual workaholic. It’s something that’s actually respected in our industry, and maybe a bit expected as well?

    As far as a social disconnect from communities that we connect with on a daily basis, I make sure I give myself my own time in the evenings and especially the weekends. It’s a personal choice that gives me some of that time back and sets a bit of a boundary for myself. And that’s what it comes down to – personal choice and what boundaries each of us are comfortable with.

    @Mary – having a balance between in office (if applicable) and workshifting is a great way to get the ‘best of both worlds’. Giving us the ability to turn off whenever we like; though, I only question if people in the digital space are losing that ability to pull themselves away.

    Thanks for the additional thoughts!

  • Hello Sonny, very interesting discussion. This is a constant battle for me as well. I’m going to try to come at this a different way.

    Although it is “expected” (I use that loosely) of me to be in my chair from 9-5 we do have some freedom to work from home, coffee shop, car or beach. Do people ever take advantage of this? Not really. And those that do often get crap from fellow staff members because in their eyes it is perceived as slacking.

    That being said, there are people out there that don’t understand the value of setting your own schedule and beat up those that do for not always being “live and in person”. In some cases it is important for those that take advantage of the flexibility to make themselves available to talk if needed. With that comes a self-imposed perception that they need to over achieve to squash the “you’re a slacker” mentality that others may have of them. This makes it very difficult at times to unplug.

    So, not only do we need to figure out what may work best for us we need to be aware of how our work habit may impact others that work directly with us.

    On a side note… I am with Chris.

  • @John – I couldn’t have said it better myself. You’ve summed up two important sides of the story – the battle with ourselves and the how our work methods impact others around us. Appreciate the thoughtful comment, John!

  • I work 9-5 Mon to Fri officially. Unofficially what happens though is the ever present Creative Binge late nights, early mornings etc.. It’s whenever creativity and inspiration hit me. It’s when I can focus on one particular task. Business is what happens on the next business day at 0900.

    What I found also happens is that I won’t be disturbed at 2am by a phone call asking me to adjust some element of a project. (I had that happen to me ONCE.)

    I can spend time at the dinner table with my family, enjoy a bit of television, games night and such. The boundaries are set for me.

    Creativity happens any 24-7. Business happens 9-5.

    • I love your last line, Ian! That’s so true, for you as a graphic designer, but for us in varying industries as well. You’ve set boundaries but still allow your mind to think and create after 5pm – awesome.

      Thanks for your experience!

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