Forget the 9-to-5—Get Ready for the 3-2-2…or Something Even Better

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Posted by The Savvy Retiree on January 11, 2021 in Freelancing

Harvard thinks that the 9-to-5 is dead—that we’re heading for a 3-2-2 world.

I think Harvard’s on the right track, just a bit off with the math. The way I see it, we’re heading for 24-7.

Some of us, in fact, are already there. And I can tell you from experience, it’s a good place to be.

Based on the 9-to-5, you know I’m talking about the typical workday that we’ve all known for the entirety of our working lives. And, as you know, the pandemic has quashed that norm over the past year as companies and governments mandated that people work from home. As part of a 2020 year-end look ahead to trends that will likely define 2021, a Harvard Business School professor sees that as a quasi-permanent shift, with workers soon to migrate to a work-life defined by three days at the office, two days at home, and then the two-day weekend—the 3-2-2.

It certainly makes sense. As I began writing in the early days after coronavirus emerged last year, the traditional cubicle farm is not long for this world. Companies and workers have come to realize that a great many job functions can happen from pretty much anywhere—be that a kitchen table in Peoria, or, as in my case, a pub in Prague. So long as the work is completed satisfactorily, who cares, really, where it happens?

But there’s more going on here.

As the workaday world changes, other structural shifts are occurring that overlay atop that working trend. Namely, people are leaving bigger cities for smaller cities so that they can pursue a happier work-life balance; the U.S. economy is fundamentally flawed at its core in terms of traditional job creation; and many older workers are finding that the quickly reshaping business world no longer has space for them, at least not in the traditional sense.

Amid that, however—underscoring it actually—are beaucoup opportunities for workers to earn an income online, especially older workers. Indeed, businesses want us. They crave the institutional knowledge and work ethic that older workers possess. It’s just that businesses and individuals with specific jobs want us in a different setting—online, as temporary or quasi-permanent employees.

I get into discussions about this all the time with people who refuse to open their mind to what is transpiring in front of our collective eyes. Some dismiss me, insisting that older workers are too scared of technology to pursue this lifestyle, as though older workers haven’t seen and adapted to dramatic upheavals across the last 30 years of Corporate America. Others insist this is a bad precedent—that this kind of online, piecemeal work is demeaning to someone who spent a career earning a corporate paycheck.

I disagree with all of that. It’s a myopic way of titling against an unstoppable future.

The way I see the world emerging, those of us who embrace online income earning opportunities are the vanguard. We’re exploiting a global marketplace that we could never access from a corporate cubicle tying us to a single employer who kept us busy for that 9-to-5 shift.

Now, the world really is our oyster, to fall back on an overused cliché.

Which gets me to my 24-7 prediction…

At one point during the holidays, I was working for a writer in the Netherlands, one in India, one in Los Angeles, one in upstate New York, and trying to sort the details for a potential project in Jordan. I was working across 17 times zones. One night, I was up at 1:30 in the morning on a conference call with a VIP at a Hollywood production company to discuss a romantic-comedy I wrote. On New Year’s Day (a holiday in which I personally find little interest), I was wrapping up an editing project for a Canadian.

Some people will look at that and think, “How is that better than 9-to-5, Jeff? You’re working around the clock!”

Actually, the thing is…I don’t work around the clock—I work when I want.

I am, however, available around the clock because my online profile allows clients across the world to buy my services 24-7, which means that I’m a mini multinational. I never had that possibility before. Now, it’s my daily existence. And, frankly, it’s exhilarating.

This is the world I think older workers will increasingly migrate toward. Whether you’re a writer, like me, or you’re a graphic designer, an artisan, a lawyer, a computer coder, or whatever, this is our 24-7 opportunity. We don’t have to work 9-to-5. We don’t have to work 3-2-2. We can be available 24-7, and then work whenever we want.

Yes, I was up at 1:30 a.m. to deal with a conference call. But after sleeping, I had a lazy morning and returned to writing sometime after 10 a.m. I knocked off for a bit just after noon to wander to a nearby grocery store because I had a hankering for gnocchi with a Bolognese sauce I wanted to cook for dinner that night. And then it was back to writing from 3 p.m. until about 7 p.m. With all my work done, I stretched out to watch a bit of Netflix…and then communicated with another potential buyer of my services in Chicago just after 11 p.m., before going to bed.

That’s a fairly typical workday. And, increasingly, I think this will become the modern workday. We will be available around the clock. That doesn’t mean we will work around the clock—just that the world will have access to our skills 24-7.

And we will get to shape how our days look.

By Jeff D. Opdyke