I was born in the 90s, I check my phone a lot, I dream (too) big, and, like many of my 90s fellows, I don’t believe in the 9 to 5 life.
A first glimpse at the 9 to 5
At the end of my bachelor’s degree, I was working as a marketing intern for a digital firm. It quickly appeared that I had a problem understanding many of the established “rules of the workplace”. I was often asking myself and my colleagues “why?”, challenging the status quo, mostly about the work context itself.
I was mostly bothered by the concept of having such a rigid schedule. Most of my tasks did not require the collaboration of someone else, and all were done on my own laptop… I had a hard time understanding why I had to show up at the office for a particular period of time.
What if I didn’t feel like writing at the moment? What if I have a great idea worth developing at 11 PM? I was doing the job anyway, and I wasn’t paid by the hour… (actually, I wasn’t paid AT ALL, but that’s another topic). I couldn’t understand why work had to be constrained in a time and a place with absolutely no guaranty of quality.
“Because that’s how things work here.”
I felt that the 9 to 5 corporate lifestyle and work structure as it’s known was not working for me at all. I felt like it was not adapted to my generation, nor to a modern business model.
Discovering freelance work
After graduating I started doing a bit of freelance work. Bingo. I could work at my own pace for multiple clients, from different industries that interested me. I could work whenever I wanted and manage my time, making the most of my focus peaks. I could work from home, from a cafe, from the chalet.
This power over my own schedule was simply great. I really couldn’t see myself go corporate any time soon. I could continue studying at the same time, I could go shopping in the middle of a Tuesday, I had plenty of VIP passes for random activities that my connections with multiple companies provided me.
But the thing that I preferred the most about my lifestyle was that I was never really working. I was living, and my work was truly integrated into my daily routine. Each company I worked with was interesting to me, and I love what I do, so, there.
I was never really working! I was just living and doing work things that I like and chose to do. And every day I could be doing something different.
Every day. Yup…
And I realized: if I was never only working, I was never only living either.
The dark side…
At all hours of the day (and nights, and weekends), new requests could come from a client. And since I didn’t have a fixed schedule, now could be as good a time as any to deal with it. And if I didn’t, I would start feeling guilty. I worked mostly with small businesses and some of these entrepreneurs were easily falling into survival mode when an unexpected problems occurred. Calls at 10 PM on a Friday were not exceptional.
The work part of my life never actually stopped. I was always checking updates on my phone! Always! At any moment there could have been something new that I had to take care of.
You have to be a tough one.
I used to think that my natural devotion and involvement in my work made me perfect for the freelance lifestyle. Actually, it made me a very stressed, working-on-holidays, always-feeling-guilty-for-not-working freelancer.
I learned that to be a good freelancer, you have to be a tough one. You have to trust your worth and be able to distance yourself from a client. Providing your services with self-discipline on when to work, but also when not to work and be confident about it. Being at the beginning of my career, I really I didn’t have that confidence.
Back to Basics
About a year ago I decided that it was time to let go of my “glamorous lifestyle” (as my father called it, even though a freelancer’s paycheck is far from glamorous, by the way). I wanted to work for a company with a schedule or a working structure, established employees, steady paychecks, benefits, and actual advancement possibilities.
So I applied for jobs in my field and got my 9 to 5 life. The silliest part is, considering that my work and responsibilities fit me and that after 5 PM I don’t have to check my phone anymore… It often feels like I’m working less than before.
I think both lifestyles have both tremendous benefits and frustrating areas. I do still think that the freelance lifestyle provides a certain freedom that younger generations are definitely seeking, but that a high level of maturity – both as a person and in your career – is necessary to make it work.
The work of the future?
I think companies who adopt flexible work schedules, possibility to work from home or unlimited vacation policies are very smart. They attract the best talents while offering the best of both worlds to a new generation.
A high life quality and engagement at work are aspects of a job that Millennials undeniably seek and the companies who are able to adapt to the new era are the ones that will succeed!