Kill the 9 - 5

The 30-hour work week, the four-day work week, the six-hour day, Sweden is doing this, France is doing that, unlimited PTO is amazing, unlimited PTO doesn’t work, people who wake up early are more productive…I read blog upon blog from those who think they have it all figured out. They profess having dissected how to ensure your employees are at optimal efficiency at all times without the risk of burn out. I’m here with an unpopular opinion – it’s all noise.

 Last week I celebrated six years co-owning a search firm in Philadelphia. And in that six years I’ve had many many lessons – chief among them, what schedules make sense, what hours should we all work, and how to keep our team efficient, effective, and ecstatic (myself included). It’s not been an easy task but I’ve certainly learned some valuable lessons along the way…

The previous staffing firms I worked for all maintained very rigid schedules – frankly, I hated it. 8am – 6pm is a long day – it’s a long day because it becomes incredibly difficult to do much else during the work week. I’d leave at 7:15am, get home at 6:45pm (maybe later depending on traffic) and I’d be tired, frustrated, and hungry. By the time I’d get a bite to eat, I lost energy to work-out, I’d have very little quality time with friends and family, and after a few short hours it was time for bed to do it all over again. Home cooked meals were few and far between because…who has time for that when you are getting home at 7pm? My quality of life took a backseat to this schedule.

When we opened the Juno office, we determined a fair schedule was 8:30am – 5pm. And we did not create a culture that ridiculed you if you did in fact leave at 5pm – everyone left at 5pm. I quickly realized that after spending 18 months working from home, I was missing some of the work from home time. Don’t get me wrong, I was ready to go to an office – the collaboration, a place to go every day…I was ready for all of it…but five days a week felt like a bit too much. So, we added a work from home day. On this day, I could get a lot done, but also drop off dry-cleaning, catch a spin class at lunch, do some grocery shopping, get a crock-pot meal started, etc. And I saved time and money on the commute, could stay in my comfortable clothes, and still be incredibly productive. Also – I didn’t have to kill Saturday morning with the aforementioned mundane tasks…bonus!

Then I noticed something else about myself. At 3pm – I go off the rails. I’m done, I’m fried, and I begin to distract everyone around me. However; at 8pm I love to plug back in and often do that until 11pm or midnight. I enjoy putting my kids to bed, grabbing a glass of wine, and catching up on work. In our industry, the work is never done – if you are not sourcing and recruiting, you are prospecting and networking…there is always more to do. 

And here is something else I discovered, I’m shot out of a cannon on Mondays. I load up on all of my meetings, networking, and happy hours in the beginning of the week. By Friday, I’ve slowed down and look for extra time with my family. 

It’s no surprise that this what I’ve realized about my team – much like me, the peak and dip at different times throughout the day and the week. There is absolutely zero direct correlation between which hours people work as it pertains to their success. We have some folks who never work from home, they hate it. We have some folks who would never miss a chance to work from home. We have some who are always there early and some who like to stay later. Some like to work over lunch, while some need that break desperately. A few of our teammates take lots of vacations and others take very few – if any. It’s taken me years of watching this to come to this conclusion: it actually doesn’t matter.

Recruiting is a very measurable industry. We know who works because they are opening new accounts, have many contractors on payroll, and are always placing new candidates. They are creating opportunities for success everywhere they go. Success is not measured by punching the clock as you are coming and going. Success in recruiting is based on the relationships you make and being able to deliver on what you’ve promised.

Here is where we’ve officially landed. Like anything else at Juno, we (as owners) do not take any perks that we do not extend to our team – we are all equal and my family and time with my family is no more important than our team’s family and family time. I have a week full of hours that work for me – some days that’s 12 hours, some days that’s 6 hours – but I know where I have to be, what I have to do, and how I can be the most productive professional. And I have found balance (most weeks) between my work and my family. And this is what I challenge my team to do – find what works for you and be understanding that it’s not the same for everyone. Worry more about the quality of the work we do. You are not doing me any favors if you sit in the office from 4pm – 5pm looking at Facebook because you feel you can’t leave before 5. Go for a run, go be productive doing something else that will make you better later or the next day… 

As a Recruiter I have found that flexibility in the workplace is quickly becoming the largest negotiation point. It used to be money, benefits, and stability – but not anymore. Employees crave balance, they crave autonomy, and they really value being able to create a work week that works for them and their families.

My quick advice in a sentence – get on board with a flexible work environment or watch your employee retention dissipate…

Mikal Harden