Leadership

The 9 to 5 is Dead

By Debi Yadegari, the Founder & CEO of Villyge

Recently, our Director of Leadership asked to skip an upcoming Friday meeting. It was a request I’d certainly received from employees before, but the reason behind it was not. Sure, my team has asked for flexibility in the past – to go to a doctor’s appointment, to attend a teacher conference – and it is something I not only accommodate, but believe is essential to supporting our working parents, and all employees. What made this request so different was that our Director of Leadership was asking to miss our upcoming meeting…to celebrate her anniversary! She explained it was the only time their schedules could work together, and well, it’s been a year to remember!

At that moment, it hit me. Flexible work schedules are more than just a fad of the moment, as working parents still attempt to manage the challenges presented by school closures and remote work. Flexible schedules are here to stay: the 9-5 is dead. 

Of course, I agreed to give her the time to be with her husband, and she really didn’t even have to ask. She’s a stellar employee who doesn’t need an artificially designated window of time that starts at 9 and ends at 5 to get her work done. Her request was more about communication with the team, to keep expectations in order, timelines clear, and dialogue open. 

COVID’s silver lining is that we’ve learned what many of us have always known in our gut - employees can be trusted to work, even when they are remote. A Stanford study found that productivity increased by 13% when employees work from home. For that, employees will rightfully demand trust and confidence in their ability to do the jobs they were paid to do in a unique way that each individual can deliver results. One study found 43% of employees won’t want to return to work after the pandemic, adding to the idea that remote work is here to stay. Of course, there are industries this will not apply to due to the nature of the work, mostly those in the service industry, but for many the demands from employees for flexibility are just getting started.

There’s been a great deal of discussion during COVID about the need for flexibility for working mothers, but I want to be very clear here. The 9-5 is not just obsolete for working moms. It is obsolete for all of us. 

Working mothers might have been the first to champion the idea of needing a flexible workday, but we must expand the conversation beyond mothers. If we do not, implicit bias will continue to reign supreme over working mothers and prohibit their advancement in the workplace. It’s why the Marshall Plan for Moms, however well intentioned, is hardly empowering. In fact, it is the antithesis of what women and working moms need right now. It simply gives those who believe mothers should be the default caretaker and housekeeper a reason to let them continue to do so, decreasing any incentive to share the workload and provide real solutions to ease the burden of how much so many working mothers currently manage. We need to start embracing the fact that solutions, in terms of flexibility, remote work, and parent support, cannot simply address motherhood, or they will miss the mark and stop progress.

As vaccines roll out, and regions slowly begin to open up, we cannot assume our lives will return to the way they were before COVID. The traditional workday is no doubt a casualty of the pandemic, that has the potential to give working mothers the flexibility they need without highlighting so significantly that only they benefit from a change in work schedule rigidity. 

If working mothers are to truly be treated as equals, we need employers to foster an environment where they can trust a team member enough to let them miss that Friday meeting, whatever the reason may be. Not because an employee is being lazy or doesn’t care about their job, but because the 9-5 is dead and good employees are always going to get the work that needs to be done, done. It’s time other aspects of our lives are given access to that arbitrary window of time without apology and without issue, because work has certainly done the same to our nights and weekends.

About the author:

Debi Yadegari is the Founder & CEO of Villyge, an employer-paid benefit that sets families up for success and helps employees to thrive. She is a former BigLaw attorney and mother of five.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.