The End of 9-to-5 and 5/7

The End of 9-to-5 and 5/7

Business operations have reached a watershed moment and some time-honoured practices might end to best support a more heterogenous and agile workforce

Some years ago, a clothing brand used to advertise nine-to-five shirts for men, and a jewellery chain had introduced a range of aesthetically designed jewellery for working women that went well with their office dress. In the last two years, both these ads became redundant, and garment brands sold more Bermuda shorts than suits, as Work-From-Anywhere became the norm. Business leaders are continually brainstorming on what the future of work will look like, as the pandemic-induced disruptions transformed work. Looks like the world will never return to the nine-to-five five-day workday!

A watershed moment has been reached in how we define business operations, as business leaders consider how best to support a more heterogenous and agile set of workforce practices, such as remote and hybrid work models, agile planning, continuous performance management, and the end of the 9–5 workday. Some of these changes will be driven by employee demand to support broader talent management strategies, while others will evolve as a necessity for business leaders looking to keep up with their peers, or to get ahead of their competition.

In a recent survey conducted by analyst firm 451 Research, respondents were asked what they believed their organisation should prioritise improving over the next two years. Workforce productivity technologies (41%), employee development (37%), and employee recruitment and retention (34%) were in the top three spots, ahead of improvements in overall vision and strategy (28%). This is not an either/or situation. The survey revealed some key trends for the future of work:

  • Annual planning cycles will shorten

In the early days of the pandemic, many organisations were essentially trying to keep their head above water in terms of their response plan. The initial goal was just to get to a minimally viable way of supporting remote and hybrid work while keeping employees safe. As people began returning to work, new variables popped up, logistics challenges emerged, and the talent supply depleted.

The impacts of COVID-related challenges are still being felt, and likely will be for some time. For planners, this means we no longer have the luxury of annual planning cycles. There are too many variables at play for organizations to plan that far into the future with any degree of certainty. Organisational agility is paramount –which, in part, depends on a more agile and fluid planning cycle. For some businesses, a quarterly plan is sufficient, but others may need to plan month-to-month.

Those looking to shrink their planning cycles must examine their corporate performance management for the technical prowess to do so. For starters, scenariomodelling and analysis will be critical for providing the requisite visibility needed to build a plan that accounts for all the variables in play.It must also showcaseall possible scenarios and the spectrum of outcomes that can be expected or planned for.

  • Performance reviews will become continuous

Another casualty of increased organisational agility and responsiveness will be the annual performance review. As planning cycles shrink, employee performance, skills and engagement must be evaluated and accounted for in a shorter, and hence faster,loop. This is primarily to meet the priority goals of employee development and employee retention, but it also helps business leaders visualise how their employees can be utilised to drive value – using additional clarity around skills and experience to form stronger teams, and improve efficiency and productivity. A more continuous approach to performance management provides additional visibility into those skills and their maturity, and, with the right organizational structure, can help the LOB manager connect skills to broader goals. Streamlining performance management and its metrics helps facilitate and ease this change.

  • Hybrid and remote work live on forever

Where possible – depending on industry and work type –it is expected that remote and hybrid work models will remain in place permanently for many businesses. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, about 49% of survey respondents said they worked from home or remotely from another fixed location that wasn’t their company’s office for at least some part of their week. However, when asked how much of their workweek they would prefer to spend working remotely when business returns to normal, 77% said at least some of their week.

Employees want to work remotely. This change in scenery is also driving employee satisfaction and engagement. When asked which workplace shift in response to COVID-19 had the most positive impact on them, 45% (the top response) of respondents said, ‘the ability to work remotely’.

  • The death of 9-5 and the five-day workweek

Second only to remote work, the ability to work flexible hours was listed by 19% of respondents as being the workplace shift in response to COVID-19 that had the most positive impact on them as an employee, according to the Employee Lifecycle and HR 2021 survey. With the decentralisation of employee groups thanks to digital transformation and remote work, there are many cases where the 9–5 workday will go extinct. The technology exists to support better asynchronous communication, employees list it as a benefit, and it also opens opportunities for HR to better support working parents, caregivers, and employees with other obligations. Beyond that, it’s probable that the five-day workweek will also crumble – especially for knowledge workers. France famously mandated a 35-hour workweek more than two decades ago, and some citizens are even arguing the case for a 32-hour week. Iceland recently completed a five-year study concluding that there is “a strong correlation between shorter working hours and increased productivity among wealthy nations.” In early 2022, a UK trial is set to kick off with 30 companies testing out the four-day week. The idea of a truncated workweek is certainly gaining traction, and we could soon see the five-day workweek as a relic of the recent past.

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