The most persistent myth of corporate culture today is the nine to five job. Here’s how the pattern is supposed to go:
Work your nine to five job. Show up on time. Don’t make waves. Listen to your boss. Day-in, day-out.
The reward for obedience is supposed to be a standard three to four percent raise each year, and maybe a change to your title every few years. Do this over the span of a forty year career and you can look forward to a retirement free from abject poverty.
This is a myth. No one works a nine to five anymore.
Welcome to Salary Slavery
Ask any white collar professional how many real hours a week she works. The hours are more likely to be ten, eleven, or twelve hours a day. Including many weekends.
Mind you, the actual salary that is paid is based on the forty hour a week myth. So all this surplus value that she adds to the company is completely uncompensated for.
This is the essence of salary slavery. All that time you work in excess of your job description is free labor to the company. The company did not ask for you to put in that extra time (at least, not in so many words). But if you do not work it, you better be ready for the consequences. Getting passed over for that promotion. Getting less prestigious projects. Or maybe even getting disciplined and fired.
You Don’t Get Paid for the Crap You Wouldn’t Do Otherwise
The myth of the nine to five also does not account for all the time you spend in the morning getting ready. Or the commute you have to take both to and from work. Or the energy you have to spend to switch gears when you get home. Or the time you spend taking the day’s frustrations out on your family and the people you love. Or the heart attack that is patiently waiting to rob you of an extra two to five years of your life.
When I was working a “nine to five” my day really looked like this:
Get up at 7:30 AM. Get dressed in uncomfortable clothes and shoes I wouldn’t choose to wear if it were up to me. Drive thirty minutes to work, sometimes in death-defying weather conditions. Badge in at nine exactly. If I do not, an alert goes to my boss who will discipline me. (How is this different from being under house arrest?) Work until seven chained to my desk taking abuse from people who are leading equally depressing lives of quiet desperation. Another thirty minute commute where I struggle not to pass out on the road and kill myself and others.
In reality, that’s a twelve hour day, assuming I don’t get held late or have to put in a few more hours from home.
This is not even the toughest schedule among my peers. I have friends who regularly work eighty or ninety hour weeks, only counting in-the-office time.
The 9 to 5 Job is Dead
The world is splitting into two tribes of workers.
On the one side, the salary slaves are having to go far beyond their forty hour work weeks just to keep treading water. The dinosaurs of the 20th century squeeze as much productivity out of these workers as possible, with the promise of promotions (more work) and raises (that barely keep ahead of inflation).
On the other side, agile workers are using technology to take control of their time, work from anywhere, and choose who they get to work with.
If you had a choice, you would not design your lifestyle the old way. Or at least I hope you wouldn’t. So one way to fight against the tide of conventional thinking and status quo defenders is to explode this myth of the nine to five.
It simply no longer exists.
Image by Ktr101.