The vicious cycle of 9-5 ‘open’ offices

CC0 Davide Cantelli (via Unsplash)

I couldn’t agree more with an article I read today entitled If you don’t trust your employees to work remotely, you shouldn’t have hired them in the first place. In it, Yan Lhert, a software developer, lets rip at employers who favour open offices and a 9-5 culture:

I am a night owl. You can tell me I have to have my butt in a chair within your line of sight at 8 or 9am, but that is very wasteful. You are wasting my time and yours. I am not a morning person. I will start being very effective around 11am and I really get going in the afternoon/evening. If you force your preferred hours onto me, both employer and employee lose. You get less output out of me! Here’s the cycle when I’m forced to be in a chair in your office at 9am:

  • I force myself to be up early and rush to work, feeling ill prepared
  • I try to focus and be effective in the morning, but struggle and the day is off to a bad start, killing my mood and momentum
  • I’m tired in the afternoon and cannot work effectively at my peak work time. I drink tons of coffee trying to kickstart my productivity
  • I go home when I’m finally starting to get going
  • I am restless in bed and can’t sleep because I drank too much coffee and I’m worried about getting up early
  • By the end of the week I am tired, frustrated, angry, and disappointed with my performance

It̢۪s a vicious cycle which has been hugely detrimental to my mental health and well being. This is another area where the science is very clear: there are morning people and there are night owls. You should accept your employees for who they are and optimize for their abilities. I am a night owl, always have been, always will be. I am done trying to work in the mornings Рit is a waste of time as I am not effective and make more mistakes when I try to work at this time. I will only consider arrangements where I can control my work hours. This does not mean that I am lazy or a slacker. Far from it РI am frustrated that I cannot work at my peak productivity and I will not accept anything less than that from now on.

I can’t actually believe that articles like this have to be written in 2017. We know what works, that rewarding people for results rather than following process works best, yet we carry on regardless.

I spent three years working remotely for Mozilla (with plenty of travel) and now, as I’m self-employed, I do something pretty similar. Offices, and in particular open offices, don’t work.