Was Dolly Parton right?


Today, the median office worker probably works an eight hour day, with a lunch break in the middle, and takes two days off at the weekend.

This is much more civilised than, say, the industrial revolution when an act of parliament was required to limit the working day of children to a maximum of twelve hours – but is it the optimum working time? When Dolly Parton dismissively sang “Working 9 to 5, what a way to make a living”, was she right?

There are several people who believe there is a better alternative.

In 2004, a Metropolitan Police constable called Chris McKee made the national news after it transpired he had cunningly exploited the Met’s flexible working scheme to allow him to commute from New Zealand. For six months of the year he worked in an inner city borough in London; the other six months he spent with his wife and three children in the city of Dunedin, 12,000 miles away.

He told The Sun: “It works very well for me. It is actually easier for me to do my job than it was when I lived in England. I used to take all the stress of my job home with me and it was hard to relax. Now I’m a lot more fun with the kids when I am in New Zealand and I can be totally focused on what I am doing at work.”

Likewise, in May 2013 it transpired that Nicola Mendelsohn, the new head of Facebook in Europe, would work a four-day week.

She said: “The industry has to more readily welcome back its best women and that means offering more flexible working. I would much rather hire a talented woman on four days a week than lose her forever.”

These are two isolated cases – but they highlight the fact that the 9-5, 5-days-a-week model should not necessarily be taken as gospel for all office jobs. Some people may find themselves more motivated, or more productive in terms of output per hours worked, if they work less, or different, hours.

This means going beyond the traditional flexible working ideas of letting people start slightly late and finish slightly late, or to bank time off in lieu. Employers could consider allowing people to work much later or much earlier – even if this means working into the night. More experimental employers could also consider recruiting “portfolio” workers – employing people on a full-time basis but for only six months of the year, allowing them to fill their remaining time with a radically different role, thus preventing them from going stale.

Whatever method is chosen, the message is to not be afraid to think broadly, and not necessarily be tied to 9-5.

Posted by the Secret Businessman