For a long time, teams of knowledge workers were defined by their proximity – the people with whom you sat were the people with whom you worked. If you got transferred to a different department or team, it meant packing up your things and moving to wherever that team was – the idea being that to work closely with people you need to be able to communicate with them. And the only way to ensure efficient, reliable communication was to put those people in close proximity.
This isn’t the case anymore. Starting with telegraphs and pneumatic tubes, and then evolving into telephones and faxes, technology has allowed teams to quickly communicate ideas – the building blocks of knowledge work — to places other than the adjacent desk. But it wasn’t until the internet revolution that people really had the idea “what if these team members didn’t sit next to each other?,” and put that into action on a grand scale.
The idea was revolutionary, but unlike other workplace revolutions, such as the birth of industry, or the personal computer, the way we work hasn’t kept pace. We still hold onto contrived limitations, formed when “work” meant sitting at a desk and handing reports to a typing pool, and information came via the mail cart. One of those limitations is the 9-5 (or more) workday. That somewhat arbitrary schedule was settled upon at some point, and many functions grew up around it and were affixed to it. Schools, stores, package delivery, all map themselves to the “workday.” But the “workday” isn’t the time work gets done anymore. And in truth, “9-5” is holding us back.
Peak energy, that time, or times, during the day when you feel at your most alert, is unique to everyone. And it does not fall neatly into that eight plus hour window. Working remotely is not about working 9-5, it’s about working when the work is needed, and/or explicitly agreed upon with teammates. Good ideas don’t happen on a schedule. They happen when you’re free to express yourself. You don’t need the typing pool, you have your laptop; and email is your mail cart. You can receive and send information everywhere and at any time, so make work match the schedule that works for you and your team.