Nine to Five – The myth of the working day

Nine to Five - The myth of the working day

Once upon a time people did work from nine to five. It was considered workaday drudgery. How people complained about the punishing hours. A popular song by US country singer Dolly Parton goes:

Working nine to five
What a way to make a livin’
Barely getting by
It’s all takin’ and no givin’

Nine to Five’ became a heavily used expression to talk about the daily grind at work and about feeling exploited. The 40-hour week was considered an imposition and to continue the Dolly Parton song, “it’s enough to drive you crazy if you let it.”

Go fast forward a few years and the situation reverses completely. No longer do people firmly believe in “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for what we will.” That kind of schedule may be what nature intended but who has that kind of luxury?

Nine to Five does not describe the normal work schedule for most jobs any more. What about the time spent sending late night emails from home, typing on laptops on the way to work? What about working through coffee breaks? What about eating at your desk and foregoing your lunch hour? And what about working on weekends as a rule not an exception?

It all comes down to the vast changes taking place in the economy. Very simply, a question of demand and supply. Clockwatchers, be wary. Leaving on the dot of five, or at five-thirty as the case may be, could be frowned upon and taken note of come increment time. A lot more dedication is called for, the boss’ eye suggests as you guiltily pick up your bag to leave, and it’s made clear that there are enough people waiting in the wings to grab the job without counting the hours. People need to hold on to their jobs in a tight economy and eight to eight may be a better way to describe the hours now routinely spent at work.

There’s a more realistic version of the ‘Nine to Five’ song in today’s context, which goes:

Working eight to eight
Eating lunch while I’m typin’
Let me demonstrate
That you’ll never hear me gripin’
Might take my iPad
Along with me in the shower
I’ll skip my son’s birthday
Working extra hours

There’s work overload, people are putting in more hours than before thanks also to the Internet, laptops and mobile phones. Your boss can get you at any time, anywhere and you can be sure he will. You may be married but you are wedded to your work.

Ambition, modern day management, a flood of anxieties and sheer insecurity have made overwork one of today’s addictions. A new generation of workaholics has emerged who like working. Give them time to just stand and stare and they’ll begin to wonder if they are as indispensable as they thought.

So it’s goodbye Nine to Five and hello work work work you can’t shirk shirk shirk. Just sit back and enjoy it.

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