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Dolly Parton's star | AccountingWEB | Working 9-5: Still a way to make a living?
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Working 9 to 5: Still the way to make a living?

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Is the typical office day still alive and kicking? Or is the working world leaving it behind? Jon Dudgeon of Blu Sky explains why the 9 to 5 just isn’t for him.

3rd May 2024
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The concept of the 9 to 5, while thrust into a more jovial tone by Dolly Parton in 1980, was introduced by Henry Ford 54 years earlier at a time when people were working much longer hours.

It was revolutionary, with the plan being that those in the car factory would be more productive over a shorter period of time.

The latest step-change to the working week came about during the pandemic, with the mass shift towards staying away from the office.

While some have since returned to their HQs and the daily commute, for others the changes have stuck.

Accelerating growth

In the case of Blu Sky, an accountancy firm in the North East, it only served to accelerate its existing hybrid model, which co-founder Jon Dudgeon believes has been an important factor in its growth.

“I think productivity-wise, the team works in a better way and I think clients are getting a better service,” he said, adding, “Technology really helps with that.”

“So we're having more frequent conversations with clients working in the way we are, rather than having a formal meeting in the office which needs to be between the hours of 9 to 5. Service levels have increased, productivity has increased and the team feel more empowered – from that comes accountability and responsibility of doing the best you can in your job.”

Dudgeon did note that improvements can still be made to the firm’s culture, noting that you've “got to work a little harder at it when you work remotely and in a flexible manner”.

“Getting people together in the same place at the same time is what’s different but it's not insurmountable and it’s a nice problem to talk about and to have.”

Becoming an expectation

With the accounting industry still plagued by the skills gap and recruitment woes, Dudgeon said the firm’s way of working has actually helped them in that respect.

“I think, certainly with junior or less experienced members of the team who’re in the early part of their career, it's more of an expectation, at least that's the way it's becoming.

“Alongside being remote, it allows you not to be governed by the geography of which good accountants live within a 20-minute drive of our office. You can go out and recruit further afield and, for those that want it, it makes you a good option.”

Of Blu Sky’s 30-strong team, about 50% are not within commuting distance of the office. While the other 50% are, Dudgeon stresses that there is never a push for them to be on the firm’s premises.

Each to their own

Away from Blu Sky, Dudgeon doesn’t believe the 9 to 5 is over.

“It's been ingrained within the working culture for so long. There's still those boundaries within society and the accounting profession, so I don't think it's completely gone.”

However, it’s very much not for him.

“Having started my career in that type of environment, it didn't personally work for me or anyone around me either. It just puts constraints on how you, as a human being, prefer to operate.

“I'm a believer that some people like getting up early, that's their time of day, and some people come to life in the evening. So that's always been our philosophy at Blu Sky.”

The need for flexibility

On the most recent episode of the No Accounting for Taste podcast (embedded below), Karen Kennedy of Kennedy Accountancy touched on the same subject.

 

“I have a young family, so the business has to be flexible and because I’ve chosen to train through apprenticeship schemes, I am fully aware that it means I can’t do what is cool these days and work four hours a week and remove myself completely from the business.

“Nor do I want to but there’s a lot of that on social media at the moment.

“That’s not what I’m aiming to do, it’s to build a sustainable business with client care at its heart but that’s not just taking on clients every single day without a chance to properly onboard the ones that we are taking on.”

Kennedy noted that while the firm has its growth targets, she wants to do it right.

“It’s about doing that in a sustainable manner where the client service doesn’t drop and where my life, and the lives of my staff – the quality of those lives doesn’t drop.

“So it’s a fine juggling act,” Kennedy concluded.

Always necessary

Ria Burridge, audit partner and I&D lead at Bishop Fleming, believes that for a client-serving profession, flexibility “has always been necessary”.

“In recent years, and especially considering the changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a noticeable shift in how and where we work.

“To adapt to these changes, we implemented a hybrid working policy to give our team members the flexibility to work in a manner that best serves our clients, our team, and themselves.”

People’s wellbeing naturally “plays a big part in our firm”, she said.

“Embracing hybrid working has allowed our people to find a balance that suits them both personally and professionally. While the collaborative atmosphere of the office and being surrounded by colleagues does have its benefits, getting your head down in a quieter environment can also be beneficial.”

Pivotal

Burridge added that hybrid working “gives the balance for productivity and satisfaction” and is also “hugely important” to the modern working environment.

“It not only caters to the diverse preferences of our people, but it also plays a pivotal role in attracting and retaining top talent.

“While it’s nice to have an office workplace that brings a greater sense of team, belonging and support, it is also important that we provide flexibility for our people that transcends the 9-to-5 mould, to enable them to have a better work-life balance and deliver their best work, regardless of the time or location.”

Replies (5)

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By JustAnotherUser
03rd May 2024 15:41

Any employee deserves the right to ask the following questions..

-is my performance based on time criteria

No, if you can get the job done 8 to 4 ... 7 to 3 ... 10 to 6 etc, lets get it done.

Yes, we run a shop, we have open times, you cannot turn up before we open and work.. we are closed.

-is my performance based on location

No, your team are spread about the country, we work online.
Yes, we run a bakery... you cannot bake bread remotely.

can I get the job done flexibly and regardless of where I do it, then let me get it done.

if you are a business owner or CEO and you want to create a "culture" that you believe in that is 9 to 5 and in the office, go ahead do it, you may put people off and people may leave, that's up to you, its your company.

These things are either very clear or are unique selling points to employees.

Thanks (7)
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By Self-Employed and Happy
07th May 2024 09:38

We used to not really have open / close times when working from home, responding to emails at 8pm taking calls at 8am or 7pm, the problem with "flexi" is that everyone is different and the only ones taking the brunt of it were us.

So now with an office its a strict 9.30 - 4.30 and nothing after, computer off, time for life.

However if we had an employee, as long as they complete the work we need them to, to the correct standard by the time we need it, essentially we'd let them do whatever hours between 7am-8pm (save for covering our holidays in the office).

Thanks (2)
By Duggimon
07th May 2024 09:49

Is it intentional that the article doesn't state what the firm in question has as working hours now? Are we assuming that it's just do your work any time at all?

The headline is about a move away from 9-5 but the article is about remote working with no alternative model of working hours presented.

There has to be some agreed overlap of working times surely or else how can you collaborate with colleagues? If you have one staff member who only works from 01:00 to 08:00 it'll be hard to discuss anything with them.

Remote vs hybrid vs office is a discussion that's been had an awful lot lately and it's getting a bit dull, this is the same discussion but with Dolly Parton shoehorned into the headline.

Thanks (8)
paddle steamer
By DJKL
08th May 2024 12:47

When was practice ever 9.00-5.00?

The change is not hours, it is location.

I have years back been in the office from 9.00 one day to 5.00 the following day to meet a deadline, staff regularly worked extra hours, came in Saturdays and Sundays in January etc.

My only concern with staff working from home and flexi hours is some may get a bit compulsive and have difficulty putting work down and stopping, when way back in 1994 I first worked for myself from home(made redundant just before wife finished for maternity leave) work seemed to consume all my time and doubt it was healthy (though at 34 at the time I was more robust than now), even if that was just because it was my own business ,employers imho do need to be careful that staff can separate work and leisure time.

Thanks (0)
Replying to DJKL:
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By Mr J Andrews
14th May 2024 09:52

Agreed totally. The article appears to indicate NOT working 9 to 5 is something new.

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