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The end of nine to five

Date
The concept of nine to five is fading with more employees finishing off work on computers at home or while travelling or fitting it around family commitments. Welcome to the fragmented workforce.

The concept of nine to five is fading with more employees finishing off work on computers at home or while travelling or fitting it around family commitments. Welcome to the fragmented workforce.

Thanks to technology and changes in society, the nature of work has been transformed as people lead fragmented life styles where the boundaries between work and personal time often blur.

Witness the growing number of people working from cafes, or checking their smart phones at night and on weekends for messages from work. This trend is only likely to accelerate over the next few years as technology gets ever more portable - so is the concept of nine to five now dead and buried?

According to a new report from KPMG, this kind of fragmentation is now affecting one in five Australian employees. These are the workers who use a computer on weekends to finish off work.

They complete work while travelling and fit work around family commitments and they come from all sectors; education and training, health care, financial services, utilities, manufacturing and the public service. It seems no one is safe.

The report warns that companies need to monitor the amount of time workers use to complete jobs outside business hours. If they don’t, employees will become stressed and dissatisfied.

Examples of the fragmentation include using personal technologies, like a home computer, to complete work outside standard working hours, completing work while travelling using devices like a notebook or mobile phone, and fitting work around family commitments so you wake up at 5am to get things done when everyone is still asleep - or work past midnight when the rest of the house has gone to bed.

The study found that most employees, or 80 per cent, have minimal fragmentation. They work a standard number of hours and rarely work outside them. But 20 per cent are experiencing some sort of fragmentation and out of every 100 workers, eight of them say they work long hours and have absolutely no division between work and personal time. Most of them are males and they tend to work in areas like transport, postal and warehousing, construction and mining.

While most of the blended workers say they have no problem with work life balance and can stay healthy, the report warns that “organisations may also reap unintended negative consequences including costs to employee health, stress, longer hours of work, and greater intrusion of work into personal time.” They need to monitor it carefully, otherwise it will result in more stress and dissatisfaction.

Work life balance is still a raging issue and studies in England have found that a poor balance is now affecting one in three relationships.

During the global financial crisis, work life balance was less of an issue. People were more concerned about keeping their jobs. But with signs that things are picking up, it’s become an important issue again with a new survey showing that 83 per cent of Australians want to restore it in 2011, after focusing so much on their jobs in 2010.

Indeed, another study shows that seven out of 10 Sydneysiders have considered moving out of the city to get a better life style and work life balance. Many in other states would be considering the same sort of move.

Still, that’s ducking the problem. Fragmented work lifestyles will become more prevalent so the issue for many of us is how to deal with it. We all have different strategies.

The Australian Women Online site has some obvious suggestions: like give yourself a reason to leave work at the end of the day, try single tasking, learn to say no, don’t sweat the small stuff and switch channels to do something completely different. That might help, but the lines between work and personal life are going to keep blurring.


Has fragmentation affected your life? And how much of your spare time do you find getting taken up by work?

9 comments so far

  • Even before the days of computers this was happening. Teachers were up past midnight marking exercise books. Architects were sweating over plans in the early hours of the morning. Even those poor darlings in the advertising trade would be brainstorming as they put together brilliant campaigns in the early hours of the morning.
    I suspect nothing has changed -- except that this sort of culture has spread into "do-nothing" jobs as a kind of status symbol. An example I hear on trains almost daily, on mobile phones (please guys, if you have work to do, stay at work and do it, don't inflict it on your fellow-passengers): "Have you asked Bill? Bill. No, Bill. Yeah, Bill. He's not there? Was it working this morning? No, this morning. Is it plugged in? Hmm. When is Bill coming back. Look, check the settings at the top of the screen. The little line at the top. No, the green one. That's it. Hmm. Have you turned it off and on? I'll have a look in the morning." This is the kind of person who would feature in the 20%, as well as a lot of nincompoops who use the elastic day to hide the fact that they can't organise their work in the time allotted.

    Commenter
    Professor Rosseforp
    Date and time
    March 04, 2011, 3:33AM
    • The 9-5 is not my preferred work style, however if I am forced to do it, then I will naturally save much of my pay, and contract for just part of the year. The more my freedoms are restricted by the system, the more I plan outside of it. If you have sufficient assets you do not need to work, and work becomes more of a game than a necessity. Whether it be a 9-5 game or otherwise, it is still a game.

      Commenter
      andrew
      Location
      melbourne
      Date and time
      March 04, 2011, 8:50AM
      • I think it is important to understand that not all of these 'blended workers' are unhappy with their jobs. I am about to move from the 9 to 5 to a job with more pressure, more hours and more travel. I am looking forward to it because employees also want challenge, a dynamic work environment, and interesting work.

        Commenter
        Orlando
        Date and time
        March 04, 2011, 12:21PM
        • Parkinson's Law was coined in the 1950's. So nothing new here. People make the time available to employers by allowing work to encroach into their private lives - well then the workload will become available to fill it.

          Amazing how many places DON'T grind to a halt when someone goes on leave for a month, or maternity leave for six, but all those people still somehow believe everything must be done TODAY.

          Commenter
          Kris
          Date and time
          March 04, 2011, 12:22PM
          • Nothing better than when the weekend comes. Come 5 O'Clock it's TGIF, punch that clock and break all the numbers cause it's time for some nightwork baby!

            Commenter
            Pete Berryman
            Location
            Bondi
            Date and time
            March 04, 2011, 1:58PM
            • Australia is one of the most relaxed work environments I've seen around the world. The weekend basically starts on Thursday with after work drinks and no one usually schedules anything significant on Fridays after lunch because it's time to head to the pub! Also, no one really minds when you're a few minutes late to a meeting.

              Commenter
              lm
              Location
              Melbourne CBD
              Date and time
              March 04, 2011, 2:21PM
              • I love my flexible working life. I have a senior leadership position within a company and still I can be there to drop off and pick up my kids from school, watch sports carnivals and all the Mummy things I want to do. So what if I need to spend an extra couple of hours either side of the 'normal' working day, it is worth it. I have a dream career and a beautifully happy and balanced family. In the end it's about having choices, for some it's great and for some it won't work.

                Commenter
                Vicki
                Date and time
                March 04, 2011, 2:42PM
                • Apart from the first few years of my working life, I've always worked shift work. The job I've had for the last few years see me working roughly every second weekend (extra $$$!) and having days off through the week instead. Good for doing those errands that can only be done on weekdays or going to catch a movie when there's hardly anyone else in the cinema.

                  I'm now working permanent afternoon shifts which is great, have a sleep in, do some things during the day and roll into work anywhere between 2-4pm depending on the roster. Fantastic, love it!

                  The other great thing about my job is that it starts only when I sign on and finishes when I sign off. No work to take home, no work emails or phone calls bothering me after hours. My time off is exclusively mine, no blurred boundaries between work and private life here.

                  I honestly couldn't think of anything worse than Mon-Fri 9-5, I think I would go crazy working hours that just suck up most of the daylight hours!

                  Commenter
                  Boo Boo
                  Date and time
                  March 04, 2011, 5:56PM
                  • It is nuts that we have an industrial age model of working leading to long commute times - with all the annoying side distractions of people working on buses and trains as mentioned above. Yes some customer facing businesses have defined hours but lets stagger them and even think about making them more dynamic using video and audio. You want a new shirt. Video the salesperon who shows you the shirts on your photo image. when you are close to deciding the sales person tell you how to make an appointment and where to go. It might even be a "hot-desk" type change room. I'm making this up as I go.

                    What I do know is that it is nuts to have people crowding into 7 expensive capital cities bursting at the seams when it no longer has to be like this.

                    Commenter
                    A Don
                    Location
                    sydney
                    Date and time
                    March 04, 2011, 7:30PM

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