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Changing Attitudes Toward Work and Life Endanger the 8 a.m. Meeting

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Feb 27, 2024

Photo by Maks Styazhkin on Unsplash

Questions over work-life balance are confronting what was once a common practice, particularly in industries such finance, health care and education: the 8 a.m. meeting, The Wall Street Journal reported.

The pushback against this accepted practice of corporate life is a result not only of the pandemic-induced rethinking of working patterns, but also of younger professionals who voice their opinions about boundaries more readily than previous generations.

Business Insider reported that a recent TikTok video demonstrated the attitudes held by both sides of the debate. “Corporate Natalie,” co-host of the "Demoted" podcast, responded to a question from a listener about a Gen Z new hire who could not make an 8 a.m. meeting due to a workout class by saying: “You just started this job. I don't give a flying [expletive deleted] about your workout class. Also, an 8 a.m. workout class is too late. Workout at 6, maybe 7." 

The video generated 250,000 likes and millions of views, with users saying that the two podcast hosts are out of touch and that people shouldn't have to work outside their contracted hours. Corporate Natalie, whose real name is Natalie Marshall, subsequently made an apology video.

“If the norm has been set that the workday is 9 to 5, then I don’t think you can all of a sudden say, ‘But on this day we’re going to do an 8 o’clock meeting,’” said Lorna Hagen, a managing partner of business-process improvement firm Culture Playbook Partners, in an interview with the Journal. If an early meeting has to happen, managers should notify people well in advance, she said, and acknowledge that it’s an unavoidable necessity. “Companies have to be very intentional about what conditions they set,” she said.

Last year, 43 percent of meetings logged by the scheduling automation company Calendly occurred between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m., with only 3 percent of meetings occurring between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Marshall, 26, told the Journal that she sometimes had to take early meetings when she worked at Deloitte and at Palo Alto Networks. She now owns her own content and business-strategy company. She and her employees take 8 a.m. meetings if clients require them and then end their days early when they can. 

“The corporate world is shifting—employers have to offer more flexibility,” she told the Journal, adding that, ultimately, the debate is about whether employees and employers have shared expectations.

Brie Burnham, a 38-year-old freelance graphic designer based in Bend, Ore., told the Journal that companies shouldn’t get unrestricted access to workers’ days. “It’s about communication and it’s about it being a mutual agreement and it’s just about respect,” she said. “That allows us to have a better conversation about ‘Hey when are you available?’”