Is Working 9 to 5 For Everyone?


I work with a lot of Executive Pastors, and a recurring question goes something like this: “How many hours should I require my staff to work?” A follow-up question is often, “Should I make everyone work the same hours?”

Let me address this in two parts, the first related to you as the leader, and the second focused on your employees.

The Leader’s Hours

In ministry, it is difficult to differentiate working hours from non-working hours. Almost everything you do is related to ministry, so when are you not working? You get a call at home that turns into a forty-five-minute counseling session; you visit a member at the hospital on a Saturday afternoon; you work on your presentation late into the night at home. It’s not that different for those who work in business in an executive or management role. You answer e-mails on your off hours, you make phone calls in the evening to that associate who is in a different time zone, and at times you probably travel over the weekends.

So even though it is difficult to differentiate hours, I think it is incredibly important to disengage, to find out what renews you, and to spend time with people you love hanging out with.

I had a boss who often said, “There are three parts to every day. You should work really hard for two parts, and take the third one off.” That’s not always practical, of course, and we tend to work in spurts. We sprint for a while, then rest, then sprint, then rest. That’s okay, as long as you are resting adequately between the sprints. But the essence of this axiom is right on: Make sure you aren’t working 24-7.

This also has to do with your phase of life. Years ago as a young adult and no kids, or in more recent years as an almost-empty-nester, I can work a sixty-hour week and still be balanced at home. When we had four little kids running around, that wasn't true. In order to be a leader of integrity, pay attention to your phase of life and focus on leadership in your home as much as you do in your professional role. 

Pay attention to your body. Don’t let your emotional, physical, or spiritual tanks run dry. Get people around you who can wave the red flag before you go too far down the out-of-balance path.

The Employees’ Hours

At the church where I worked, we had some positions that required specific hours. These would include facility care staff who worked on shifts, preschool teachers who needed to be there for the kids at certain times, and restaurant employees who also had set hours.

However, most of our staff positions were more flexible. And that was intentional. In today’s world, more people value flexibility in their schedules than they do compensation, extra benefits, or more vacation time.

This is especially true of the younger people on your staff. 

Marketing firm Havas Worldwide reported recently on a Time magazine website that millennial employees (those born between 1982 and 1993) are rejecting the traditional eight-hour workday.

The following observations were among their findings:

  • Millennial workers won’t accept jobs where they can’t access Facebook.

  • Millennial workers value workplace flexibility over more money.

  • Millennial workers are always connected to jobs through technology.

In talking about companies that are hesitant to adopt flexible work arrangements, they said, “Many companies fear that, without structure, employees will be distracted, not as engaged and less productive. In fact, the opposite is often true. A trusting work environment breeds more-loyal employees and increases efficiency.”

The old command-and-control type of leadership will find it increasingly difficult to retain a growing workforce that desires flexibility. And it’s not just the millennials on your staff: I had several working moms on my team who valued the flexibility I gave them on non-school days to juggle their schedules around to accommodate their mom duties.

There is not a one-size-fits-all when it comes to working hours. A healthy culture is built with some flexibility in the system. 

Read more in Fairness is Overrated: And 51 Other Leadership Principles to Revolutionize Your Workplace