Working 9 to 5: Is it still a way to make a living?

Posted in Sales team management.

‘9 to 5’: working hours so famous they wrote a song (and even a movie!) about them. The 9 to 5 has, of course, been the standard for many years. Recently, however, the highly structured work day — the act of sitting behind a desk for 8 hours — has become decreasingly prevalent. Working has become more flexible.

One reason for this increase in flexibility is the rise in working parents. The number of working mothers has increased by nearly 50% in the last 40 years, for example, sparking a rapid need for businesses to introduce greater flexibility. In some countries, including the United Kingdom, employees also have a legal right to request flexible working hours, although there is no legal requirement for businesses to enable this. But working parents aren’t the only contributor towards the death of the 9 to 5. Quite simply, these set 8 hours of the day just don’t seem to facilitate production within many industries.

Workplace Flexibility

The 24 hour business is said to be ‘the future’, meeting the evolving demands of businesses going through ‘consumerisation’. B2B sales, for example, are becoming heavily consumerised as business buyers look for benefits similar to those B2C customers enjoy: instant gratification and a real time experience, no matter when they choose to engage with a supplier. While not all businesses are going down the ‘open all hours’ route — British supermarket Tesco recently reduced the number of stores open round the clock — many are opting to incorporate some degree of flexibility or even mobility. They’re largely shunning the restrictive 9 to 5 desk job tradition; a tradition Generation X author Douglas Coupland calls ‘barbaric’.

Regardless of whether we’re for or against the idea of the 9 to 5, or we’re for or against the idea of static working (there are still supporters for both options), it can’t be denied that in some sectors, such as sales, these restrictions just don’t make sense. Firstly, we have to question whether the hours between 9 and 5 are really the best for contacting and qualifying leads. Secondly, we must consider whether office-based sales are really that effective in the modern age. Flexibility and mobility, it seems, are key.

Flexible Sales

In a recent lead response study, it was found that calling between 5pm and 6pm was 114% more effective, when attempting to contact a prospective client, than between 11am and 12pm, and better than any time between the 7am and 4pm period. The research suggested that the success of contact decreases 10 fold after the first hour following initial contact by the lead, while the chance of qualifying a lead decreases 6 fold after those crucial 60 minutes. Today’s leads have a remarkably short lifespan, with millennial expectation for instantaneous response quickly rubbing off onto the older generations.

Sales teams can never really afford to stick to a highly structured work day if they want to truly succeed; there needs to be some level of flexibility that enables sales reps to work outside of these set hours, and engage with prospects during ‘micro moments’; those times when prospects are in the buying mindset.

In terms of sales emails, 5pm to 7pm is considered best for sending B2B correspondence, with 9pm to midnight also showing high levels of success.

Mobile Sales

With sales reps provided with a greater opportunity to contact leads, qualify leads, and meet their targets by working outside of the standard 9 to 5 hours, this naturally creates a problem with desk-based working practices. It becomes necessary for sales reps to be able to work remotely in order to ensure they’re in a position to contact the right leads, at the right times. Fortunately, technology is helping.

It’s reported that three quarters of all B2B buyers find it helpful to utilise in-person support when looking into a new product or service, and the majority of B2B buyers actually prefer face-to-face meetings over digital communications. Technology is facilitating the ability to meet these demands, and adoption of mobile working practices amongst organisations is expected to reach more than 70% by 2020. That’s up from just under 40% in 2015, according to the Working Anywhere report published by the Work Foundation.

Here are some technologies that are allowing businesses to reap the benefits of mobile sales:

  • Mobile Devices: Including tablets, smartphones, and mobile data allowances
  • Cloud Computing: Virtual storage enabling data access from anywhere at any time
  • Apps for Sales Reps: Software allowing reps access to their selling tools from any location
  • Virtual Team Working: Tools such as VoIP software to facilitate collaboration
  • Mobile Payments: Expected to be valued at $503bn by 2020, compared to $75bn in 2016

Security Considerations

If it is indeed correct that the traditional 9 to 5 office-based work day is disappearing, with flexible, mobile working practices slowly but surely becoming the norm, then there are some considerations that will need to be taken into account to facilitate a safe way of working, particularly from a security standpoint. Remote and mobile working practices naturally expose businesses to new risks that can be challenging to manage. However, at a time when cyber security is a very real challenge, taking the time to address these issues and find suitable solutions should be a top priority for any flexible business.

Not only does the transfer and storage of confidential data outside of the secure office environment pose a risk, but it is also important to consider the risk of loss or theft of mobile devices, data breaches resulting from stolen information, malicious software, and connection to vulnerable networks.

Measures that can be taken to improve the security of flexible and mobile working include:

  • Creating an in-house mobile working security policy, distributed to all staff
  • Educating sales teams and raising awareness of risk, along with best practices
  • Ensuring that staff connect to internal networks using a secure connection
  • Selecting apps for sales reps and other software carefully, only using reputable options

Taking measures to create a safe and secure mobile working environment can help to ensure a smooth and streamlined transition from traditional 9 to 5 practices, to a more flexible way of working. While flexibility and mobility in the workplace holds the potential to benefit many sectors, it is perhaps most advantageous within a sales environment, enabling reps to engage with the right people, at the right time.