You know the drill – you’ve been doing it from the start.
You’re born into a family that only wants the best for you, so they take you to school to get educated on the basics of life and society – so that you can fit in.
After a while, you may begin to wonder why you need to memorise quotes from a Shakespeare play from the 1600’s and how that’s going to make your life any better. “It’s culture”, they’ll say. Although they may be right, thus begins a ritualistic rite of passage in which you have to consistently beat exams that’ll determine your worth for the rest of your life.
Here comes the kicker; once you graduate and get your college degree you’ll need to get a job. Preferably a stable, well-paid job in a field that has enough room for promotion – all the way to the top. You better get cosy – it’s what you’ll be doing for the next 40+ years!
Because that’s what you do.
If you deviate from this formulaic existence and “follow your dreams”, you’ll likely be branded as a failure, a weirdo, or just lazy. Who would want that?! Risk your comfortable and secure life and become a social pariah?!
Welcome to the 9-5…
When I got my first job straight after University I was ecstatic! It was a badly paid internship in a construction company, which was family-run (gah!) – but it was something. I felt like all my life had led to that – all the hurdles, failures, successes and long conversations with my parents about my future.
It was great. I got to wear a suit, use a computer with two monitors, and get a paycheck at the end of every month! Success, right?!
Well, that feeling lasted about two weeks.
Once the initial “thrill of the new” wore off I started to see the cracks in this concept that we call “a job”.
During the next 5 years of my office-based career, I discovered other “gems” about the ridiculousness of working a 9-5 job in an office. I’m sure you’ll be able to relate.
The most obvious and difficult to come to terms with – at least for me – was the fact that, when you work in an office, you’re stuck in a place where you don’t wanna be. You’re forced to spend most of your waking life in that one place – like it or not.
You may not even have windows nearby to see the outside. They wouldn’t want you thinking about life outside of work (also known as, you know, life) when you should be focussing on filling out that urgent yet completely inconsequential spreadsheet!
No, I do not miss it one bit.
The two defining moments
I want to share two different defining points of my short-lived engineering career. Each of those planted a little seed of doubt in my head, which ended up blossoming into a full-grown entrepreneurship tree.
If you’re working an office-based 9-5 job I’m sure you’ve experienced similar moments. I feel you.
“Look like you’re working”
One afternoon at work I found myself bored and with little to do in the office. It was a particularly quiet afternoon and the office was pretty empty.
I did what any bored 20-something with access to the internet would do; I browsed the internet. I remember I was looking at second-hand cars as I wanted to replace my first car (a trusty Vauxhal Corsa – that car took good care of me!).
Of course, my boss caught me red-handed and asked me to follow him into a private office. Oops!
After the brief telling off about browsing the internet when I should have been doing work, he gave me a piece of advice – the master-to-student type of advice.
He told me that what matters the most at work is what people think you’re doing.
He said that peoples’ opinions of you and how hard-working you appear to them are much more important than the actual quality of your work…
Consequently, I later caught myself pretending to be busy with work (switching between spreadsheets and design software, idly scrolling through windows without actually doing anything…) while my mind was elsewhere. It was ridiculous.
It was ridiculous.
The worst part was that I realised others were also doing this. Keeping up the appearance so that the bosses realised how busy and valuable they were. Such a ridiculous concept was made worse by how widespread it was – not only inside the company I worked for.
“Be the first to come in. Be the last to leave”
Fast forward a few years, to November 2015, and I was starting my new job near Barcel0na. Now, at this point, I already knew that I wanted to pursue financial independence, but I hadn’t decided that I wanted to start my own business yet. I came in with the idea that I would be able to gain promotions rather quickly, doing a similar job to the one back in England.
On my very first day, I came in at 8:00 am, ready to give it my all, knowing that I’d be able to leave at 5:15 pm. They worked longer Monday – Thursday so that they could leave earlier on Fridays.
5:15 came around and I was exhausted. All I wanted to do was go back home to tell Harriet and my parents all about my first day – and to pass out on my bed. I admit I was looking at the clock, expecting everyone to drop their pencils as soon as the clock marked quarter past.
But nothing happened. People kept working!
Before long it was 6 pm. Then, at 6:30 pm people started to leave, and so did I.
A few days later, when I asked a colleague about working times he told me that, if I wanted to get anywhere in the company, I’d have to be the first to come in the mornings and one of the last to leave in the evenings.
Once again, I found myself in a work culture that demands hours instead of actual work. Efficiency wasn’t valued as much as “perceived effort”.
This came to mind:
Needless to say, it didn’t take long until I decided I was not going to stay in that company for much longer. I then started to hatch my escape plan to leave the 9-5 altogether (by saving $20,000 in a year) and start my own business.
You can say “No!”
I’d like more people to deviate from the norm and the apparent stability of a 9-5 lifestyle. Nowadays all you need is a laptop and a bit of bravery to take the jump and use your time for something else that you feel passionate about.
That’s what I did, and I love it.
Life isn’t all about work – if it is, you might be doing something wrong… We all need time to play, socialise, exercise and relax. These are all necessary for a healthy mind and body.
We are slowly finding out that people who work less are often happier, which also improves productivity. That’s what some companies in Sweden have been testing lately; shorter workdays of 30 hours per week as well as a maximum of 6 hours a day.
The results? Happier employees who are better rested and are actually more productive.
I can’t say it’s surprising. If companies focused on results rather than overall time spent in the office, productivity would increase. I can’t think of a better reward to completing your tasks for the day quicker and better than getting to leave earlier! Can you?
There’s even evidence suggesting that, before the industrial revolution happened, and more productivity was demanded, people’s working weeks were pretty darn short.
This is your life – spend it wisely
At the end of the day, a job is a means to make money. You need money to survive, and you need some more to feel secure. Anything on top of that is just waste.
Would you go to work for free? Some people would do it because they are getting more from their jobs than money – camaraderie, purpose, power, recognition…this would be a long list.
But those aren’t exclusive of jobs. Once you realise that you can make money in so many other ways and that you can get the positive parts of a job elsewhere, the idea of a 9-5 office job seems obsolete and pretty inefficient.
And if you’ve decided to work towards financial independence like I am, you soon won’t even need to make money. Then you can choose to do anything with your time. Like making the world a better place!
Isn’t that a better way to spend your life?
Ok, now it’s your turn. What do you think about the concept of a 9-5 job? I’d love to hear your views – make sure to share them in the comments below!
David Mitran says
Your article is interesting, Ricard. It’s good that you realized what you were going through.
I’ve had the same problem regarding employees productivity when I was hired by a user experience agency. Most of the colleagues were gossiping and wasting time doing nothing, and that was frustrating for me.
When I was hired, I expected to have people around me that could teach me more than I knew. But it didn’t happen.
I quit after 4 months and that was and will be my only ‘job’.
Ricard Torres says
It’s true David, so many people get paid for just “being there” rather than completing a specific task. Productivity isn’t incentivised enough, so they get the equivalent reaction from employees! It can also be so frustrating when you’re surrounded by the wrong people, so you did well to quit while you were ahead!
I’m glad that you’ve found a way to be happy, but to play devil’s advocate I have a 9-5 that I quite enjoy. I have the option of working from home, which does wonders when the office environment feels stale. That same environment doesn’t get that feeling all too often, though.
My former job did have me working in a drab cubicle, but my current employer’s office (and many other offices are following suite) have created a more open and colorful work space.
I work as a software developer, which is what I wanted to do since high school. It is constant problem solving, and seeing a (mostly) finished produced and get recognition for the work I do goes a long way to making my position feel that much more rewarding.
The 9-5 schedule has been proven to not be the most efficient way to split up work hours, but it does provide long periods of work. For many office positions you might not want this and I could see how trying to break up the work day would help people not feel so worn-out from the office. Conversely, in the realm of software development at least (can’t speak for any other area, of course) you NEED large amounts of uninterrupted time. In fact the worst thing you can do to someone in this type of job is interrupt them. The need to hold information in one’s head to troubleshoot or develop functions and features that go into programming is almost impossible if you have interruptions. So an office environment with as few distractions as possible let’s me get as much done as possible.
The fundamental reason I enjoy software development is another topic entirely, but perhaps I’m the odd man out. Just wanted to pitch in that as much as 9-5 isn’t for everyone, equally it is just right for others. 🙂
Ricard Torres says
Thanks so much for this comment, Patrick! I was hoping somebody would play the devil’s advocate as this is quite a divisive subject and I have quite an extreme view of it. 🙂 There are many jobs that are incredible, especially those that provide flexible working arrangements.
I always wondered if there was a 9-5 job that would suit me – keep me motivated enough and provide a creative outlet like this website is providing. Maybe I didn’t look hard enough haha, but I ended up creating the job that I dreamed!
I’d say most people are better suited to the consistency and slightly higher security of a 9-5 job (although it’s easy to overestimate job security!!). At the same time, I know there are many potential entrepreneurs who are working for others because it’s “the done thing”. I hope that, by sharing my story, I can help them to break free!
Congrats on your business. I myself have a 8-4 job. Currently following the work hard/play hard lifestyle which is pretty cool. When I get a bit older and run out of testosterone I hope to be able to join you in the retired blogging/side gig realm.
A separate topic – do you use twitter ads and if so, have they delivered more than you expected or less? I have been considering them but there are other opportunities available in the ad realm.
Ricard Torres says
I definitely enjoyed the work hard/play hard lifestyle at first! Some people never get bored of it, and that’s fine as long as they sort out their financial future. For me, it got to a point where the 9-5 just didn’t make sense (besides, you know, earning money!) so I started my own thing 🙂
I have not tried Twitter ads. I haven’t found it to be that great for traffic generation, so I think my money would be better invested somewhere else – like Facebook. I hear FB ads are THE BOMB. I’ll do a few experiments and probably write a blog post about it – stay tuned!
At the last place I worked, 1 woman was out at least 1x a week with sick kids and we were told she was working from home. I found myself in by a certain time in the morning but staying late to get things done once others left because of all the interruptions. Once I realized why, I asked management if I could work from home 1 afternoon (aka 4 hours) a month. I even suggested a Tuesday or Thursday so it’s not like I was leaving early on a Friday to goof off, and I would of course make sure it didn’t interfere with meetings etc. I was told no, ‘we are a laboratory based group and expected to be in the office every day’. The guy who was a manager but his family was in a different state got to leave early Thursday to drive there and was supposedly working from home, but took hours to respond to emails.
For my manager it was about appearances of being in the office on time.
My current managers urge me to leave on time / a little early on Friday. I got all my paperwork done once and asked my boss for something else to do and she told me to just go home. 🙂 My managers do this, because I have completed my work, why force me to stare at the computer screen looking busy?
I’m glad you got out of those situations.