Get All Access for $5/mo

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 Edited by Frances Dodds

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Audtakorn Sutarmjam | EyeEm | Getty Images

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With no colleagues to compete with and no co-workers to share a common culture with, long hours have been replaced by focused productivity.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.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Business News

How to Be a Billionaire By 25, According to a College Dropout Turned CEO Worth $1.6 Billion

Austin Russell became the world's youngest self-made billionaire in 2020 at age 25.

Living

Taylor Swift Has a Lucky Number. And She's Not the Only High Performer Who Leans Into Superstitions to Boost Confidence.

Even megastars like Swift need a little extra something to get them in the right mindset when it is game time.

Marketing

SEO Trends You Need to Be Aware of Right Now, According to a Seasoned Pro

Navigate the future of search engine optimization to elevate your online presence and drive meaningful engagement.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.