Rise of the 5-Hour Workday: The Shift from "Hours" to "Output"

The 12-hour workday culture that has permeated Silicon Valley has been upended by the global health crisis. In its stead, a new culture is forming that values "output" over "hours" - and this new culture may be here to stay.

By Jocelyn Kung • Jul 7, 2020 Originally published Jul 7, 2020

Audtakorn Sutarmjam | EyeEm | Getty Images

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

2020 has been the year our way of life came to a halt. Capitalism hasn't broken — but our culture of capitalism has.

The past decade was perhaps the most economically productive in world history: the digital revolution enveloped every aspect of human life, nearly everything became more convenient, and several companies even surpassed $1 trillion+ valuations.

Hard work, late nights, early mornings, and copious amounts of caffeine have been the hallmarks of the great entrepreneurs of this generation. All-night coding sessions are glorified, and several billionaires, like Jack Dorsey and Elon Musk, are even able to run two companies at once.

A 12-hour workday culture has permeated Silicon Valley, and Silicon Valley has set the tone for the rest of the world. This culture has been self-perpetuating, for when one team member works longer hours, they set the bar higher for their colleagues.

Then, at the pinnacle of the highest stock market in history, the pandemic struck.

Related: How to Write Company Manifesto That Creates a Better Work Culture

A mass exodus

Offices closed. People began working from home. And many of the engineers, entrepreneurs and product designers who defined this burnout culture packed their bags and left Silicon Valley. Lake Tahoe, Texas, and Montana have been among their destinations, and for New Yorkers, the Hamptons and rural Connecticut have gained considerable appeal.

As offices are swapped for country homes, people's attitudes toward work have shifted with them.

With no colleagues to compete with and no co-workers to share a common culture with, long hours have been replaced by focused productivity. With nobody around, work is really just... work. People do it because it is necessary, and then move on with their day.

Related: Work-Life Balance Is Simple. To Succeed at Work, Get a Life.

The midnight oil burns out

While there may have been something fun about being in an office with others, knowing full well you are creating something of tremendous value, when you're working alone, from home, there's little glory in staring at your laptop for longer than necessary.

While few are ready to admit this, the truth is, the vast majority of people are not "working" the same hours that they used to, and a large portion are surely not working as many hours. In spite of that — or perhaps because of that — 76 percent of companies have reported that remote work has either helped or had no effect on employee productivity.

In less than four months, a culture that defined our society and economy has been upended. And it appears the economy is no worse off. While many companies are suffering right now, few seem to be complaining about widespread lack of employee productivity.

Right now, a new work-life balance is developing — and it will outlast this epidemic. Offices will re-open, full-time remote work won't last forever, and human connection will once again be an important part of the fabric of any corporation. But, one lasting effect of this tragic crisis may very well be a newfound realization that output, not hours, is what counts in business.

Perhaps, ultimately, technology exists to enable us to spend more time with loved ones, more time pursuing happiness, more time developing our passions. Maybe it took this pandemic to realize that possibility.

Related: 10 Myths About Work-Life Balance and What to Do Instead

Jocelyn Kung

CEO of The Kung Group

Jocelyn Kung is a leadership and organizational coach who has worked with many of the world's top technology companies including Apple, Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco, Juniper Networks and 23andMe.

Related Topics

Editor's Pick

This Co-Founder Was Kicked Out of Retailers for Pitching a 'Taboo' Beauty Product. Now, Her Multi-Million-Dollar Company Sells It for More Than $20 an Ounce.
Have You Ever Obsessed Over 'What If'? According to Scientists, You Don't Actually Know What Would Have Fixed Everything.
Most People Don't Know These 2 Things Are Resume Red Flags. A Career Expert Reveals How to Work Around Them.
Business News

Survey: A Majority of Americans Are Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Sixty-four percent of U.S. consumers live paycheck to paycheck — even those who earn more than $100,000 a year.

Business Ideas

55 Small Business Ideas To Start Right Now

To start one of these home-based businesses, you don't need a lot of funding -- just energy, passion and the drive to succeed.

Business Solutions

5 Procurement Trends To Keep on Your Radar for 2023

Procurement professionals must adapt to inflation and a shortage of skilled labor in the face of an economic recession. Investing in a workforce paired with retraining and development strategies will put your company on top amid economic uncertainty.

Thought Leaders

How to Make Money in Logistics and Shipping as a Freight Broker

Being a freight broker can be a lucrative career, but it requires sidestepping these 10 common mistakes.

Business News

Massive Fire At Top Egg Farm Leaves Estimated 100,000 Hens Dead. What Does This Mean For Egg Prices?

Hillandale Farms in Bozrah, Connecticut went up in flames on Saturday in an incident that is still under investigation.

Business News

'This Just Can't Be for Real': Fyre Festival Fraudster Billy McFarland is Now Hiring For His New Tech Company -- And He's Already Selling Merch

McFarland was released from house arrest last September and is currently being ordered to pay $26 million in restitution to fraud victims.