Why working 9-5 is outdated – and the future is flexible

Published on: Mon, 14 Nov 2022
By: Claire, redwigwam

The 9-5 (or 40-hour) work week was first introduced by Henry Ford at his car factory in 1926.

At the time, people were used to working 12-hour shifts and working up to 100 hours a week. Henry Ford believed that by reducing the working week he would see an increase in productivity – because people would be more motivated – and better rested when they were in work.

Every man needs more than one day a week for rest and recreation…. The Ford Company always has sought to promote [an] ideal home life for its employees. We believe that to live properly every man should have more time to spend with his family, ”

Edsel Ford

The rest of the world soon followed, and the Monday-Friday work week became standard practise.

(As an aside, Ford was also one of the first to introduce a minimum wage in his factories in 1914, when he doubled pay for his workers amidst a background of widespread unemployment and labour unrest. At the time, this shocked the industry, but it turned out to be a stroke of genius as Ford saw an uplift in productivity and built a sense of loyalty and pride amongst the workers).

But while 9-5 might be the traditional working day, let’s face it, it it’s not for everyone. Just because working 9-5 is the norm, it doesn’t mean it’s a guarantee of happiness, well-being, or productivity.

But what has changed?

Looking for a more flexible way to work?

Nine to five doesn't exist in our world. Join redwigwam and find work that fits in around your lifestyle.

Presenteeism doesn’t equate to productivity

Looking back in the 1920’s, maximum output was the key to a business’s success. Machines did not exist in the capacity they do now – so in Ford’s case, the more cars you built in a shift, the more successful you were.

But machines have taken over much of the physical production. And we know exactly what they are capable of in a set period. Human jobs are not so measurable. Even if two people put the same hours in, the output would not be the same. It’s just not measurable like that.

And let’s not forget, 9-5 hours don’t suit everyone. It’s important to allow workers to harness their own natural rhythm. Take me for example. I am WAY more productive early mornings but hate working in an evening. Others in the redwigwam team are the opposite. Yes, we need core hours where we can meet as a team and collaborate, but doesn’t it make sense to let people work at the time they produce their best output as much as possible?

Forward thinking employers understand that hours spent at a desk do not equal hours of productivity. By allowing flexibility in the workplace, you really start to get the best out of your people.

Technology has changed in other ways too…

In the past – even recently – we simply didn’t have the technology to keep us together even if we weren’t physically in the same room. But imagine work life now without Teams, Zoom, cloud storage and all the other apps we use daily.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced many of us to work from home – and prove that it could be done successfully. And while most people recognise some face-to-face time is essential for building a business, tech has enabled more work-life freedom.

Many jobs can be done from wherever, whenever, if you have a laptop and internet connection.

And we have changed

Families where both parents work never used to be the norm. One parent (usually the mum) would stay at home to look after the house, the children and older family members.

But now? Two working parents and the juggle of childcare is common.

A progressive workplace will take the needs of individuals into account and allow flexibility to suit all their employees.

It is proven that people work best when they have control over their time, and with it a work life balance which works for them.

But I have to work set hours in my job…

I can do my job from home – and do, 3 or 4 days a week. Naturally this leads to a little more flexibility, it’s much easier to start work early in the morning for example – or indeed to work later into the evenings for those who prefer it.

But what if your employer requires you to physically be in the workplace at a set time? How do you avoid the 9-5 if it isn’t right for you?

Firstly – flexible working doesn’t just mean working from home. Have a look at this blog post about flexible working with some different ways it can be applied to almost any business.

And even if you have to physically be in the workplace to do your job, there are ways you can adapt your working hours to a schedule which really suits you.

Can any of these be applied to you? If so, speak to your HR team about a flexible working request – you are legally allowed to do this once in every 12-month period if you have worked for the business for 26 weeks and are legally classed as an employee.

If it’s a flat no, then perhaps it is time to evaluate your workplace and what is important to you – and make flexibility the number one priority in your job search!


We’ve also put together this blog post with some jobs that escape the 9-5 hours which you can book through redwigwam right now! Read it here – or check out our latest jobs here.


Looking for a more flexible way to work?

Nine to five doesn't exist in our world. Join redwigwam and find work that fits in around your lifestyle.