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Why 9 to 5?

Updated on November 29, 2012

Is 9 to 5 really the answer?

The last few days, I've asked myself this question a lot. During the previous four weeks, I've been working very long hours, not getting enough sleep, and I have inadvertently neglected my family life.

I had to. I was told when to come in in the morning, and I was told when to leave work in the evening. Not the best deal, right?

Well, here I'm trying to figure out if 9 to 5 is really the only option for me. I hope you'll find it useful too.

Time Vs. Value

The first thing that is wrong with the 9 to 5 arrangement is the conflict between time and value. You "rent" your 8 hours every day, and your boss pays you for it. You must stay at work the full hours, to be paid fully. Although there are companies in which this is not the case, in most companies, this is still the golden rule.

The absurdity of this arrangement is in the fact that you do not get paid for the value you bring in, but for the hours. And the really funny part is, in many companies, especially the large ones, you could get by without bringing in any real value, as long as you put in your 8 hours every day.

To give you an example of the time vs. value concept, let me ask you something:

Do you care how long it took me to write this lens?

Or do you care if this lens is worth reading?

Even if you were not consciously aware of it, when you chose to read this lens, you first decided that it has value. And even as you are reading this, you are re-evaluating its worth. But you don't either think about, or care about, how long it took me to write it.

When You Work, You Get Paid, or Do You?

When you work, you get paid, and when you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Sounds logical.

But, wouldn’t it be better to get paid even when you’re not working? When you are sleeping, eating, reading a good book, or doing anything that really inspires you? Does it really have to be a trade-off?

Or, phrased differently, could I come in to work on Monday, and be paid for it for the rest of the week, without showing up?

Of course I could. And I should. You see, once I write this lens, I’m done with it. You might be the 5th, the 100th or the 1000th person reading it, it will still give value to every new reader (hopefully).

Do You Have Work Experience?

Of all the job interview questions, this one is one of my favorites. It’s a real hoot, because as you probably know (if you’ve ever worked in a large company), the term “work experience” can be equal to “experience in trying to completely blend in with the beige office walls and be invisible”.

What does work experience have to do with anything? For a number of people, “work experience” can mean a number of things, and it can still have very little to do with value.

The problem of experience at work is that you will learn how to do a limited number of things. Once you learn the bare minimum that will keep you under the radar, you don’t have to learn more, and a lot of times, the “vibe” in a given corporation actually condones it, or it is obvious that learning anything but the bare minimum would be outright outrageous.

After you gain the little knowledge and skills you had to acquire, you don’t learn anything new.

And by staying in the same job, you miss out on real experiences that would be unproportionately more valuable to you.

Loss of Freedom

Try calling your boss and telling him that today you won’t come to work, but you will do all your tasks from home. It might work. It works like a charm in many companies these days.

But chances are, it you work in a more conservative setting, that telling such a thing to your boss would mean gambling with your job.

So, it is not only your time you are “renting”. You are renting your freedom too. You are willingly waiving all your rights as a human being for that paycheck. You are choosing to let your boss choose when you will take a break, when you will leave work, even when you will do what, and in what order.

If by now you are thinking that I’m exaggerating, consider yourself lucky. You’d be surprised how many people have to go through this every day at work.

The Stability Illusion

"Well, at least I have a regular job, something I can count on, and stability is important to me. I need that paycheck coming in every month".

I have got to be fair here. Even though I dislike the 9 to 5, there is some truth in the above statement. If there wasn't, people left and right would be quitting their jobs with a grin on their faces.

However, the real stability is the one that comes from within. Being in a situation where another person can decide you don't need to come to work tomorrow, is not a very stable situation in my opinion. And although you probably won't really get fired tomorrow, the real question is: How sure are you?

The problem with job stability stems from the fact that for many people, their job is their only source of income.

Let's imagine an absurd situation, but nevertheless useful (for it will expand our vision): Instead of working 8 hours a day at a single job, wouldn't it be better to work 1 hour a day at 8 different jobs? Wouldn't that be a lot more stable? And, wouldn't that take the power away from your boss and give it to you? If one of your 8 bosses makes an unreasonable demand, like asking you, or better yet, demanding that you work overtime, what would you then tell him? Wouldn't that feel great?

The Qualities of an Ideal Job

Keeping in mind the above, what would then be the qualities of a good job? Here's what I came up with:

1. You don't get paid for the time you put in, you get paid for the value you bring

2. If you finish your tasks for today, and it's noon, you can choose to stay at work or not

3. You get paid even if you don't show up

4. You can work from home, at least some of the time

5. You will not be asked to do overtime, ever (but you can do it if you choose so)

6. You will not work on holidays

7. You can't get fired just like that, but you can quit whenever you like

8. Your job allows you to balance work and family, meaning, being value-based, and not time-based, you can arrange it so you can dedicate more time to your family when they need you, and thus work, say, 20 hours a week for half the pay

9. If you come in late, you don't have to justify it, as long as you are there for the important meetings. Wouldn't it be great to come in late on a Wednesday, because you felt like you wanted to sleep till later in the morning, instead of getting stuck in traffic again?

This is where I end this lens. I might expand on it later, but I would really like to see what you think. I'm not giving my suggestions for solving the 9 to 5 problem here, because I believe in the strength of the community and I hope to see how some people here on Squidoo got out of the 9 to 5 rut. So please, comment and give us your story! Thanks.

A List of Books on 9-to-5

Here's a list of books that I've come across and read in the recent years, regarding the subject of working 9 to 5.

The last book in the list actually looks at how you can use the spare time (after your regular work hours). I think this book is very important because it helps you to prepare to actually do this.

Food For Thought

Every major change in life is scary. The problem is the unknown, what we don't know scares us.

I like this book because it showed me that you can experiment without taking huge risks, and if you're thinking about quitting your job this one is good food for thought.

What Are Your Experiences Escaping 9 to 5?

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    • CoolFool83 profile image

      CoolFool83 5 years ago

      Really cool lense!

    • AJ2012 profile image

      AJ2012 5 years ago

      @xuzhimol: Yes, it seems that people are working hours even longer than 9 to 5, worldwide. I used to work over 8 hours daily, sometimes up to 12. At many jobs, it was almost company policy to "steal" money from my overtime hours. Sometimes my supervisor would even cut my compensatory time.

      They almost make it seem like you are expected to do overtime and ask for nothing in return.

    • profile image

      xuzhimol 5 years ago

      In china 9 to 5 is expanded to 9 to 6,because the breakfast time.Though you also worked for the boring boss and the heavy task hung on your shoulder.

    • AJ2012 profile image

      AJ2012 5 years ago

      @anonymous: You are my new rolemodel. Thanks for showing us it can be done!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      I love working from home online on Squidoo. But, I put in a lot more hours than a 9 to 5 job. I love it, and am living on my Squidoo income. :)

    • AJ2012 profile image

      AJ2012 5 years ago

      @Projectlazy: Well, it is an adventure :) Thanks for stopping by. I checked out your Lens of the day lens, it's a great idea! Keep it up.

    • Projectlazy profile image

      Projectlazy 5 years ago

      We're on the same path my friend. I'm done with 9-5. Now I just have to make rent work.

    • AJ2012 profile image

      AJ2012 5 years ago

      @anonymous: There are good reasons why most people think like this. It's just that I've asked myself a "What if", and I'm trying to find an alternative.

      I can not know if I'll succeed. But I'll try it, at least out of curiosity.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Sounds rather utopian. I think most of us work hard, 9-5, so we can reach the level of freedom you describe. It's called retirement.

    • AJ2012 profile image

      AJ2012 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thanks, I'm also just starting out this adventure. I'm soooo excited about it. I can see myself succeeding :)

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Just started working on replacing 9-5, I don't know yet how or when, all I know is that I will get there. All the best.

    • AJ2012 profile image

      AJ2012 5 years ago

      @jadapotata: I've decided to quit too, in a few days time. I just need to tie up some loose ends. Good luck to you with your freelancing efforts.

    • AJ2012 profile image

      AJ2012 5 years ago

      @anonymous: Thank you very much.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago


    • jadapotata profile image

      jadapotata 5 years ago

      I recently quit my 9-5 job due to my husband's health concerns (he's fine now, thank goodness!) but am trying to get up & running as a freelance writer.

    • AJ2012 profile image

      AJ2012 5 years ago

      @liza-mcfarland: You are welcome :)

      I'm glad you find the lens useful :D

    • liza-mcfarland profile image

      liza-mcfarland 5 years ago

      So true. Thanks for the like!

    • AJ2012 profile image

      AJ2012 5 years ago

      @reginaaj2gerica: I'm in exactly the same situation, so I know how you feel. Don't give up. If we only worked as hard on our own projects as we do working 9 to 5... :)

      Thank you for the thumbs up :D

    • reginaaj2gerica profile image

      reginaaj2gerica 5 years ago

      This lens is definitely right on the money. I work am 8 to 5, which in my opinion is worse than the 9 to 5 per say. I have been searching high and low to find the perfect opportunity to become my own boss to no avail. But, I haven't given up just yet. I am determined to say the least. Thanks!

    • AJ2012 profile image

      AJ2012 5 years ago

      @Bebopis: I couldn't agree with you more. Capitalism and its free enterprise is the best system devised.

    • Bebopis profile image

      Bebopis 5 years ago

      AJ2012, good lens, we all have choices in life we can find a nich, and become the man instead of working for him or we get stuck working daily for someone elses better interest at the expense of our time and family just to pay our bills. We are capitalist so we either create or work for someone else who does the creating. That's just the way it is remember there is nothing wrong with being a capitalist, America became the strongest and best place to be in the whole world cause of it. We would not be the nation we are with out it.

    • AJ2012 profile image

      AJ2012 5 years ago

      @newmorningdews: Thanks :) Now let me check what your lenses are about :)

    • newmorningdews profile image

      newmorningdews 5 years ago

      Nice read...

      I am a freelancer too. :)

    • AJ2012 profile image

      AJ2012 5 years ago

      @Whitman007: Thank you, I really appreciate it.

      Do you have any suggestions how to improve it?

      My #1 concern is that the lens might be a bit too serious. Quitting the rat race should be fun :)

    • Whitman007 profile image

      Whitman007 5 years ago

      Very interesting. I have worked 9 to 5 (but I rarely finished as early as 5). For a little over a month, I worked exclusively as a freelancer. I was happier as a freelancer, but I lost a lot of weight. I now work shifts, but I'm hoping to get back to freelancing in the future. Good luck with your own great escape!


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