Working 9 to 5 Is Antithetical to Being Human

Work is good. It adds meaning to our lives. But work that is time-based instead of results-based is antithetical to the true nature of work, and to being human.

Dear Father,
I received your letter on Thursday the 14th with much pleasure. I am well, which is one comfort. My life and health are spared while others are cut off. Last Thursday one girl fell down and broke her neck, which caused instant death. She was going in to the mill and slipped down, it being very icy. The same day a man was killed by the railroad cars. Another had nearly all of his ribs broken. Another was nearly killed by having a bale of cotton fall on him.
Last Tuesday we were paid. In all I had six dollars and sixty cents. I paid $4.68 of it for board. With the rest I got me a pair of rubbers and a pair of 50 cent shoes. Next payment I am to have a dollar a week beside my board.
I think that the factory is the best place for me and if any girl wants employment, I advise them to come to Lowell.
Letter by Mary Paul, Lowell, Massachusetts, “mill girl,” age 16, December 21, 1845


9 to 5: A Business Disease of The Industrial Age

Working with ceaseless regularity and rigid hours is a very new thing in the history of man. It is a business disease first spread during the Industrial Age that became normalized in textile mills in the 1790s.

In 1845, Mary Paul had to report at 5 a.m., got thirty minutes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and got off at 7 p.m. She didn’t have to work Sundays. As a U.S. resident, she had the better deal—the English textile mills indentured thousands of orphan children for no pay, from 1784 through 1847.

Work Less, Accomplish More

In a survey called “Wasting Time at Work,” shows the average employee spends more than 25 percent of his or her workday, or 2.09 hours, excluding lunch and scheduled breaks, doing nothing. Much more time is wasted in meetings and “managing up” (brown-nosing). Why? Because most companies are running on an Industrial Age factory system that grades them on time spent in the office, not on productivity. It’s a system of mistrust based on management’s belief that employees are lazy. And this research shows people are living up to our worst expectations of them.

Management Is The Problem

Management makes people lazy. Expect more of them as stakeholders and they will raise their game or leave. The 9 to 5 “car in the parking lot” mindset is the root of many of the dumbest practices in business. But a tidal wave of companies are rejecting it and adopting results-based workplaces, including Project eMT, our company Crankset Group, large companies like Semco, and thousands of others.

Time Is The New Money

The lesson here is simple—give people clear deadlines for when things should be done, with the incentive that if they can get it done without you looking over their shoulder, they can have a much more flexible work life for achieving it. If someone gets their work done by 2 p.m., they should go home and play with their kids. If they are stakeholders, they will be even more productive going forward. If they are employees, they will abuse this a couple of times and you will move them along to find an office day care center where they can be children. And doing so will ensure that everyone gets the message they have to be self-managed adults.

“Where?” and “When?” Are the Wrong Questions

In the traditional time-based culture, the focus is on “where” you are (at the office) and “when” you are (specific, regular work hours). In a results-based culture, the focus is on quality results, and if you get the right results, we don’t care where you are or when you are.

The Industrial Age was an interruption in our age-old commitment to accomplish the task in the shortest time possible, and instead promoted the idea that people are inherently lazy and need to be clocked. The faster we get back to our preindustrial results-based system of work, the more productive we will be as a society.
Get your work done and go home. And be human in both places.

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