The Death Of The 8 to 5 Job


I’ve been around long enough that I can almost pinpoint the moment when the standard “8 to 5” job began to change.

There was a time, not that many years ago, when my company’s executives would give us pep talks about keeping our lives “balanced.”  We should not only be dedicated to the company and our jobs but we should spend time with our families and give back to the community. 

If an employee never took their leave, your boss would likely tell you that you need to take some time off. It was important, according to the prevailing thinking at that point in time, that employees take days off  to “recharge their batteries.”  Taking some time away from the job would invigorate the employee and prevent burn out. Time off would actually re-energize the employee.

Looking back on that time, it now appears that we lived on a different planet, than the one where we now live.  

Now, no one seems concerned if an employee’s life is balanced.  In fact,  outside activities should not cut into the time you are expected to spend at the office. At one time, there was talk of working four ten-hour days to give employees a three-day weekend.  Now the standard is more like five ten-hour days. 

The quality of life for employees had deteriorated to point that where a worker needs to apologize or explain why you are leaving at 5 p.m. Generally, most offices are  full of people until 6:30. Then when you do go home, you carefully monitor e mail traffic on your Blackberry to make sure you don’t miss anything. 

The impact of this technology was that you are still mentally at the office. I came to notice that if I sent an e mail to my boss at 10 p.m., I usually got a response in a few moments. After our ten-hour day, I found myself sitting in my home already talking about the issues that my boss and colleagues would deal with when tomorrow came.

In my novel, The Illusion of Certainty, I tried to tap into the stresses created by being married to your job.  

Much of the uncertainty that comes into the life of two of the main characters, Marc and Aimee, is aggravated by the pressures at work.  Marc and Aimee schedule their days and ultimately their relationship into whatever remains of their day after work is done. Their work is often never done.

Even, when they go away to a beach house on the weekend with their best friends, two of the friends have to have conference calls on Saturday to take care of demands back at the office. This was a weekend which was key to Marc and Aimee’s repairing their tattered relationship. 

Eventually Marc discovers that Aimee was sneaking away having a torrid affair which blew their family apart. Marc was not suspicious about his wife’s long absences from home. He assumed she was just at work. 

Many Americans can relate to Marc’s story, whether they lost their own high-powered careers during the recession or find themselves completely consumed with work, putting off their time with families and maintaining relationships. 

In The Illusion of Certainty, the protagonists realize that their dedication to their job doesn’t provide security and certainty into their future. When the economy collapses and corporates are under pressure in 2008, some of the characters in the novel are unceremoniously dumped. 

Corporate America considered Marc and his co-workers “excess” when the downturn hit the bottom line. 

The crisis which came into Marc’s life after losing his job, helped him to begin to focus on the real meaning of his life.  Marc had isolated himself and became a true “road warrior” in pursuit of his company. Ultimately he discovers that the only fulfillment comes from feeling the human touch in his life. All of the business relationships are not a substitute for family relationships and ultimately love. 


The recurring theme in The Illusion of Certainty is that we are not in control of all of the events of our life but often are left to just react to the challenges that come upon us. 

We carefully schedule our life, keep track of our spouse and children and our daily activities. Often the control we think we have is done via technology that is available to the 21st Century men and women. 

However, any certainty we think we have in our lives is only an illusion. 


About gregmessel

I've written six novels and am working on a seventh. My first three novels were "Expiation," "Sunbreaks" and "The Illusion of Certainty." I'm now working on a series of mysteries set in San Francisco in the 1950s. In 2008, I retired from corporate life and so I can spend more time writing. I spent over ten years in the newspaper business. I now live on Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, just north of downtown Seattle.
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3 Responses to The Death Of The 8 to 5 Job

  1. leeshxcore says:

    What a great concept! I wish I had grown up in a world where businesses & corporate America let you take time off & didnt really care when you needed to leave early, etc. At 23 I am stuck working in corporate, random shifts, horrible breaks, & no consideration from higher ups. Although my last job of four years working for corporate wasn’t all that bad, I am having trouble finding nothing other than corporate jobs to work for. Why is that? My sister has gone out & pursued a career doing a specific passion that she loves, but I find my mindset trickling into 9 to 5, Monday through Friday, etc. Hm.

  2. debrajwoods says:

    I spent my early years as a hotel latchkey kid, a necessary accompaniment to Dad’s business trips. I’ve bragged that I was a child of the I-5 corridor. Now I observe parents dealing with their offspring via apps, often from the next room and shake my head. Wow, did I have it good.

  3. gregmessel says:

    It is stunning that this has all changed so quickly. I remember when I first was given a laptop or a Blackberry. I didn’t see it coming. This meant I was going to start working all the time. When I took business trips I used to read books on the plane. Then things changed. I was doing presentations and answering e mail in the airports and on planes. Unfortunately, there’s no relief in sight.

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