You manage to make out remnants of former human beings attempting to muster a hard night's work after a day of grueling labor.
You think to yourself “It’s the 1920s, how are they expected to perform without any rest?”
You wouldn't be alone in thinking that.
After hours of contemplation(and months of protesting from factory workers) automobile titan and businessman Henry Ford ‘organically’ came to that conclusion as well.
And so the 8-hour day was born.
Although only cemented into law in 1938 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the concept of working a 9-5 really started picking up traction in the early 1920s, with many adopting the idea years before Ford. It wasn’t until Ford adopted the idea himself that real change began to occur.
With the move from factory to office and from office to home, the landscape that defines the working day is almost unrecognizable when compared to 100 years ago. The only remaining feature that still stands out, however, is the 9-5. Is this age-old idea not yet a little grey?
100 years ago, we stood at the summit of the era of factories and long working hours and we laughed as we transitioned into our 9-5 air-conditioned offices and safety-regulated industrial areas. We knew the change was good because the feeling was tangible.
Fast forward a few decades and we arrive at the inception of the major companies we know today - Apple, Microsoft, Amazon etc.
These companies were conceptualized within the 4 corners of a home office. They matured in the dumping ground of an old garage. They took old scraps and molded them together to create something of value. They were simple and beautiful. It was the journey to something good.
But to really reach their full potential, they had to move out.
They were no longer conducting 14-hour days behind an old Buick. They were forced to adopt the 8-hour workday in order to fit in and be seen as respectable businesses. It was time to move into adulthood.
As dull as that sounds, they knew the value of establishing the structure of an office with appropriate operating times - A trade occurred. They swapped short bursts of energy for consistency.
Fast forward another few decades and we find ourselves in a position very similar to once before, standing on the precipice of our old ways. We’ve tasted the work-from-home life, and we liked it. It’s comfortable and convenient to work from home - companies are also reporting substantial increases in productivity and employee happiness.
But we have to ask, at what cost?
Work is no longer being left at the front door - This was a common standard among working partners in the past. No work may be brought home due to the stress and strain it can put on your home life - this has been scrapped for increased productivity and convenience.
Do the benefits outweigh the losses?
Maybe, but the truth is - the 9-5 built the world we know today, the good and the bad. The social constructs we now know as freedom - freedom to build, to think, to write, were all built on the backbone of the 9-5.
Who’s to say it SHOULD change? More importantly, who will pick up the mantle left behind by Henry Ford and carry it forward to infinity and beyond? Who will brave beyond the limits of the 21st century, so that in 100 years time a new discussion can occur? We are yet to find out.