NHL Playoff Preview

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It’s playoff hockey! Yeah, I know… I’m not a huge hockey fan either. In fact, I may be one of about twelve Canadians that doesn’t consider hockey to be one of their two favourite sports – mine are hockey and NFL football. These days, I’m probably even more willing to watch soccer than my beloved Maple LOLs, but still – I enjoy prognosticating, and I enjoy writing, so here we go!

St. Louis Blues vs Minnesota Wild – You have to love the Dubnyk story for the Wild, but St. Louis is my pick to come out of the Western Conference this year, so I’m going with the Blues – great defense, well-rounded offense. The goaltending is a little suspect, but only Nashville has a goalie in the West that can steal a round.

Nashville Predators vs Chicago Blackhawks – I’m going with Chicago. I don’t think Pekka Rinne will still a round here, but it’ll be close. I really hope Nashville wins, but they and the Ducks are ripe for an upset.

Anaheim Ducks vs Winnipeg Jets – The Jets are winning at the right time, they have a hot goalie, and the team has gelled nicely after dumping Evander Kane for Drew Stafford and Tyler Myers. Jets in 6.

Vancouver Canucks vs Calgary Flames – The Canucks are better on paper, but the Flames are having a Cinderella season, and you don’t mess with the Belle of the ball (see what I did there?) I think this series will go the distance, but I like the Jets.

New York Rangers vs Pittsburgh Penguins – I’m actually thinking this series might not even be close. Actually, I’m going with the Rangers in a sweep. Pittsburgh looks awful, partly because they’re missing their three best defensemen. The Rangers are also one of the best teams in hockey.

Montreal Canadiens vs Ottawa Senators – It’s sad to see the miraculous run of the Senators come to an end, but I think it will in this series. Montreal is my pick to come out of the East though, so my whole bracket depends on Carey Price being better than the Hamburglar; PK Subban being better than Erik Karlsson. Montreal in 7.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Detroit Red Wings – This is another series that won’t be close. Detroit rode a very strong first half into the playoffs; without it, this is Tampa vs Florida or Boston or Ottawa. The Wings looked old and beat up by the end of the year. Four games, maybe five.

Washington Capitals vs New York Islanders – This may end up being the best series of the first round. Tavares vs Ovechkin. Should be a hell of a lot of fun. This is the year that Ovi asserts himself. Washington in 7. On the other hand, my heart thinks the Islanders may be the surprise team of the playoffs. If the Islanders win this series, I think they’ll run up against Montreal in the final four.

The “Surprise” Predictions

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Every Major League Baseball season is replete with surprises – be they players that either have an abysmal year (Joe Mauer) or a dream season that comes out of nowhere (Jose Bautista, Chris Davis), or teams that run on Cinderella-magic for all 162 games of the year (2012 Baltimore Orioles) or that choke all year despite strong expectations (2014 Texas Rangers). The same is bound to happen in 2015, and I look at a few of those potential scenarios.

Surprise Teams of 2015

You’ll see some of these teams in my standings predictions below, but I think that post-season years are due for the Toronto Blue Jays, Chicago White Sox and Miami Marlins, with near-miss years from the New York Mets and San Diego Padres. I don’t foresee many other surprises, except for maybe two: the Houson Astros and the Cincinnati Reds. While I don’t expect Houston to compete for the post-season, I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility for them to finish above .500. They have solid young stars and stars-in-the-making like Jose Altuve and George Springer, and they have some decent veterans as well. Someone like Colby Rasmus is going to look to prove himself in a no-pressure situation. Things could be ripe for an 81-win year in Houston.

As for Cincinnati, they have an uphill battle to face in a division that includes the mighty Cardinals and reliable Pirates; the Cubs splurged in the off-season and have exciting and talented youth to go with deep pockets. While I don’t quite think the Cubs are playoff-bound, the Reds are a team with a few stars of their own, and a recent post-season pedigree as well. Johnny Cueto will be looking to scratch out a huge payday this off-season, and the Reds will benefit (well, until they trade him if they can’t extend him). A healthy Reds team won’t win 90 games, but they may make things interesting down the stretch.

The Baltimore Orioles are a goddamn mystery to me. This off-season, they lost Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz and Andrew Miller (though I don’t think Miller is a huge loss). But, Manny Machado is one of the best third-basemen in the game, and their rotation is solid but unspectacular. I think they could be as good as last year, especially with hurlers like Kevin Gausmann only getting better. On the other side of that coin though, that make-shift rotation could be as reliable as a bullpen – great one year, ordinary the next. I really don’t know what to make of them.

On the flip side, here are a couple teams that may disappoint (though I’ve given them the benefit of the doubt in my playoff predictions). There are four teams that I think are worth watching and may fail to meet expectations, but let’s talk about the Boston Red Sox first. Many people are picking them to win the East. I don’t get it. They have no rotation, no bullpen and even their vaunted offense is a slump or injury away from turning the consensus pick for the division crown into a sub-.500 team. I arguably gave them too many wins in my predictions below, and I hold firm that 83 wins is their ceiling in 2015. It wouldn’t surprise me if Boston and the Bronx Bombers trade fifth in the division all year.

I’m curious about the Washington Nationals. There’s no way that a rotation featuring Zimmerman, Scherzer and Strasburg wins less than 100 games, right? Really, they’d have to play relatively ordinary (and the Mets and Marlins extraordinary) to lose the division, but it’s happened to teams before when they think they have it cinched up as of Opening Day and rest on their laurels. I’m thinking a 6-8 game losing streak is a real possibility at some point during the dog days of summer.

The LA Angels are my favourite pick for just caroming down the standings, especially with hungry young players in Oakland and Houston dying to prove themselves, and in Oakland’s case, to prove Billy Beane was right all along. Albert Pujols had a great bounce-back year in 2014, but will it continue? The dark clouds hovering over Josh Hamilton’s head will likely hover there all year like the sword of Damocles. How will Weaver do? Will Garrett bounce back? Does Mike Trout have any kind of regression in him? If everything goes wrong for the high-priced Angels – and just ask the 2013 Blue Jays about that – this team can go from division/wild card favourite to 75-wins in the blink of an eye.

The San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers are the last two teams on my list. The Dodgers have a mix of young and old, professional and impertinent. A rotation with Grienke and Kershaw is difficult to bet against, and their lineup is solid too. Can they put it all together? The Giants are an interesting case study – they lost Pablo Sandoval in the off-season, but still have Buster Posey, the best catcher in the game. Their rotation still boasts some great arms. I just don’t see post-season in the cards for them though, as they didn’t do enough in my mind to either catch up to the Dodgers or keep pace with the Padres’ frenetic off-season.

Players to Watch – The Darkhorses

Josh Hamilton – Hamilton signed a huge contract two years ago and has been awful, and this off-season he relapsed into alcohol and cocaine, even leading his own bosses to question an arbitrator’s ruling to not suspend him. Hamilton is a proud guy, and I think he’ll do everything in his power to get himself back into the good graces of Angels fans and ownership.

Drew Hutchison – While the Blue Jays opening day starter still isn’t an ace, huge pitching performances often come with little warning. Hutchison spent the off-season working on his off-speed stuff, and it was his first normal off-season after Tommy John surgery wiped out his 2013 year. I’m predicting a breakout year for him.

Josh Johnson – He spent his only year in Toronto on the DL for the majority of the season in 2013, and spent his only year in San Diego on the DL for the entire season in 2014. This year, back with the Padres, he’ll be looking to bounce back in a pitcher-friendly park.

Brett Gardiner – I think this is the year that Gardiner emerges as the Yankees’ best player. I’m predicting top-10 MVP votes.

Brett Lawrie – Only glimpses of his brilliance were caught in Toronto, as he spent much of his time on the disabled list. But, playing in a different culture in Oakland, on natural grass, and you may well see the Lawrie that the Jays hoped they were getting when they acquired him for Shawn Marcum.

Darkhorse MVP Candidates – You’ll see the usual names like Trout, Bautista, Cano. I think Josh Donaldson is only going to build on the huge offensive numbers he put up in Oakland now that he’ll be playing his home games in Toronto. You’ll also see great performances this year from Kyle Seager now that he and Cano have some more protection in the Mariners lineup. Jose Abreu is one to watch though – his ceiling his damn high, and only time will tell how high it goes.

Darkhorse Cy Young Candidates – Phil Hughes or Jacob deGrom, anyone?

Players to Watch – Season Long Slumps

Hanley Ramirez/Pablo Sandoval/David Ortiz – This is a big reason that I think Boston’s playoff hopes are a mirage. I don’t see successful seasons from these three, and you can lump Dustin Pedroia into this group as well. Boston’s wins will come from the youngsters – Castillo, Betts, etc.

C.C. Sabathia – The Yankees are really going to live to regret the TWO contracts they’ve given him.

Players to Watch – Trade Bait

  • Johnny Cueto, Cincinnati Reds – playoffs aren’t expected, huge payday is
  • Adrian Beltre, Texas Rangers – the rebuild will begin in earnest
  • Prince Fielder, Texas Rangers – the big man with the big contract will be dangled
  • Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees – If the Yankees eat most of his contract, he’ll be moved. Miami, perhaps?
  • David Price, Detroit Tigers – Boy, I can see this going either way. Price knows he can get $30 million a year. Will the Tigers pony up? If not, they need to get something for him.
  • Cole Hamels, Philadelphia Phillies – A big part of me thinks that the sheer stubbornness of MLB’s worst GM, Ruben Amaro Jr., means that Hamels will die a Phillie, but there will be no shortage of suitors (just a shortage of common sense on RAJ’s behalf) and Philadelphia is going nowhere.
  • Cliff Lee, Philadelphia Phillies – see above.
  • Yasiel Puig, Los Angeles Dodgers – The Dodgers aren’t afraid to make big moves, and if Puig off-field antics interfere this year with what the Dodgers are trying to build, they’ll pull the trigger.
  • Jeff Samardzija, Chicago White Sox – imagine, three trades in a year. It wouldn’t shock me if the Sox either aren’t competing or can’t come to an agreement with the pending free agent. Couldn’t you see the Dodgers pulling the trigger on a deal like this? What about Miami? The CUBS even?

It’ll be a fun ride to watch!

2015 MLB Preview

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It’s Easter weekend, meaning that a new MLB season is about to kick off. Numerous big names changed teams this years, recent bottom-dwellers revamped their rosters, and previous powerhouses are risking becoming also-rans. Without further ado, let’s look at the 2015 MLB landscape, including my predictions for the season.

American League East

A division that used to feature a couple of the biggest spenders in baseball has become an anyone-can-win-it division. Health and age will be the most important factors in winning the East; New York and Boston are old while Toronto, Baltimore and Tampa Bay are young.

I’m picking Toronto to win the division – they have the best lineup, rotation and defense in the East, and may well have turned the worst bullpen into the division into one of the better ones by adding a couple young fireballers. The bench is still shallow, and so is the depth – they can weather the season-ending knee injury suffered by potential ace Marcus Stroman, but that’s probably it. Baltimore lost a couple of their better performers from last season, and I think they won about 7-8 more games than they should have in winning a weak A.L. East. Boston’s rotation and pen are average, and while the offense is potent, it relies on a lot of older players that are prone to breakdown. Tampa is rebuilding and the Yankees are one injury away from an entire lost season, their offense built largely on feast-or-famine players.

Prediction:

  1. Toronto Blue Jays – 89-73
  2. Baltimore Orioles – 85-77
  3. Boston Red Sox – 83-79
  4. Tampa Bay Rays – 82-80
  5. New York Yankees – 80-82

American League Central

This may prove to be the toughest division in the American League. It featured two playoff teams last year, one of which took the San Francisco Giants to Game 7 of the World Series. And, with arms like Corey Kluber, David Price, Chris Sale and Jeff Samardzija, it may come down to pitching.

Look for Kansas City to drop in the standings – they still have probably the best bullpen in the game but are short on offense and starting pitching with the departure of ace James Shields to San Diego. Detroit, aging and more injury-prone and missing Max Scherzer after he defected to the Nationals, may also drop. Look for Chicago and Cleveland to benefit.

Prediction:

  1. Chicago White Sox – 88-74
  2. Cleveland Indians – 87-75
  3. Detroit Tigers – 84-78
  4. Kansas City Royals – 82-80
  5. Minnesota Twins – 63-99

American League West

This division stood out in the off-season because of losses and additions. Oakland, one of the reigning powerhouses of the division, lost Jon Lester, Samardzija, Josh Donaldson, Brandon Moss and Derek Norris. They also acquired players like Ben Zobrist, Tyler Clippard and Brett Lawrie. It may be unwise to count Billy Beane out, but this is a team that struggled mightily down the stretch last year after dealing away Yoenis Cespedes, and losing the their next two best offensive threats in Donaldson and Moss sure exacerbates the problem on offense. They’ll have good young pitching, as always, but they may well have given up too much.

Seattle remade themselves, Texas will be awful again especially after having lost Yu Darvish for the year, and Houston is still getting better every day.

Prediction:

  1. Seattle Mariners – 93-69
  2. Los Angeles Angels – 88-74
  3. Oakland Athletics – 81-81
  4. Houston Astros – 77-85
  5. Texas Rangers – 60-102

National League East

While this division features the best team in baseball (and perhaps one or two of the worst), it also features some young up-and-coming clubs. Really, it would be an amazing story if the Toronto Blue Jays and Miami Marlins – compatriots in that huge trade at the end of 2012 that saw established veterans like Mark Buerhle, Jose Reyes and Josh Johnson head to Canada in exchange for a package of prospects including Henderson Alvarez, Miami’s opening day starter – both made it to the postseason in the same year. It would be even more amazing if the New York Mets joined them, seeing as they dealt reigning Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey to the Jays a few weeks later. It just might happen. What isn’t a mystery is that the Nationals – headed by co-aces Max Scherzer and Jordan Zimmerman, with Steven Strasburg just a blip behind them – will win the division.

Prediction:

  1. Washington Nationals – 103-59
  2. Miami Marlins – 88-74
  3. New York Mets – 85-77
  4. Atlanta Braves – 66-96
  5. Philadelphia Phillies – 62-100

National League Central

A tough division to be sure, and maybe all the tougher by the combination of excellent youth and free agent signings that came out of Wrigley Field (even if Kris Bryant and Addison Russell will both start the year in the minors). I’m still going with experience and talent over potential in this division, and that means St. Louis and Pittsburgh.

Prediction:

  1. St. Louis Cardinals – 92-70
  2. Pittsburgh Pirates – 90-72
  3. Chicago Cubs – 84-78
  4. Cincinnati Reds – 74-88
  5. Milwaukee Brewers – 73-89

National League West

The Dodgers revamped their roster, and not in the conventional way that a team of their largess would generally go about it. They dealt away Matt Kemp and lost Hanley Ramirez to free agency, but acquired Jimmy Rollins, Brandon McCarthy and Yasmani Grandal. The big story though came out of southern California, as the San Diego Padres remade their team in a matter of weeks. They brought in Matt Kemp, James Shields, Justin Upton, Will Myers, Will Middlebrooks, Derek Norris, Brandon Morrow and Josh Johnson. Tyson Ross may well build on a strong season in 2014 as well. And, in the middle of it all, you’ll find the defending World Series Champions (and winners of three of the last five World Series). This is going to be a slugfest.

Prediction:

  1. Los Angeles Dodgers – 93-69
  2. San Diego Padres – 88-74
  3. San Francisco Giants – 86-76
  4. Colorado Rockies – 63-99
  5. Arizona Diamondbacks – 60-102

Playoff Predictions:

  • AL Play-in: Cleveland over L.A. Angels
  • ALDS: Toronto over Chicago; Seattle over Angels
  • ALCS: Seattle over Toronto
  • NL Play-in: Miami over Pittsburgh
  • NLDS: Washington over Miami; Dodgers over St. Louis
  • NLCS: Washington over Dodgers

World Series: Washington over Seattle

Awards (winner in bold)

AL Manager of the Year: Lloyd McLendon (Mariners), Terry Francona (Indians), John Gibbons (Blue Jays)

NL Manager of the Year: Mike Redmond (Marlins), Mike Matheny (Cardinals), Don Mattingly (Dodgers)

AL Rookie of the Year: Daniel Norris (Blue Jays), Aaron Sanchez (Blue Jays), Rusney Castillo (Red Sox)

NL Rookie of the Year: Joc Pederson (Dodgers), Kris Bryant (Cubs), Jorge Soler (Cubs)

AL Cy Young: Chris Sale (White Sox), Felix Hernandez (Mariners), David Price (Tigers)

NL Cy Young: Clayton Kershaw (Dodgers), Johnny Cueto (Reds), Jordan Zimmerman (Nationals)

AL MVP: Mike Trout (Angels), Josh Donaldson (Blue Jays), Jose Bautista (Blue Jays)

NL MVP: Giancarlo Stanton (Marlins), Yasiel Puig (Dodgers), Andrew McCutchen (Braves)

Love, From Outer Space

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One of the greatest episodes of The X-Files is from Season 3, called “Jose Chung’s From Outer Space”. Written by Darrin Morgan and directed by Rob Bowman, it tells the story of a novelist (played by Charles Nelson Reilly) writing a story about two teenagers on their first date that are abducted by aliens (or are they), and the fallout that ensues. At the end of the episode, the boy that is abducted – and accused of raping his girlfriend – again asserts his love for her. Her response? A terse one: “Love. Is that all you men ever think about?”

For some reason, the concept of love and aliens seems to be an intriguing one, particularly when combined with the line uttered by one of the men in black (played by former wrestler, mayor and governor Jesse “The Body” Ventura): “Truth is as subjective as reality”. Is love as subjective as truth, as subjective as reality? What a clusterfuck!

The idea of love while on board an alien spacecraft, about to be probed, is fascinating. I think that anyone in a potentially life-threatening situation alongside their loved one is going to naturally move into a protective mode, but the boyfriend here actually fails at this; a second after telling his girlfriend that he’ll protect her, she is sucked up through the ceiling into the testing room, and he is left to tell a smoking alien to shut up.

However, despite the whitewashing of the memories of the young couple of the abduction at the hands of a hypnotist under the supervision of government operatives, he maintains his love for her. All of the other memories are fuzzy, but love conquers even the most pernicious violations of men with nefarious agendas.

Do I have any idea where I’m going with this? Nope, not really. All I can state definitively is that once love is captured, it should be strong enough to withstand the entreaties of man or beast, otherworldly or of this one. You should be able to hold on to it, as fiercely as this boy does, in the face of Men in Black or Lord Kimboat the subterranean alien that lives at the Earth’s core, just as Agent Fox Mulder holds on to his belief that the truth – subjective as reality or not – is out there.

Love, truth, reality. All subjective. Can truth really be so defenseless that it can be manipulated and redefined by a soothing voice? Can love be so prevalent that it being unrequited is worse than being forcibly taken into space (and more painful than the – erm, experiments?) Some would say yes. Others would say no. And, therein lies the subjectivity of these concepts.

Is reality subjective? Sure it is. Ask 100 people how they feel about something, and you may well get 100 different answers. Eye witness reports are notoriously unreliable. We can’t empirically measure the the senses really; everything is experienced differently. The taste of asparagus is a constant, yet it would be bound to garner different descriptions from all of its tasters, with extremes of love and hate frequently entering the equation and a healthy dose of indifference lopped into the center. It’s all about experience; all about the present tactile engagement with something. It’s about the mood of the person having the experience as well – listening to a beautiful piece of classical music is sure to be less than grand if someone is hitting your foot with a hammer at the same time. So, reality surely is subjective. One man’s alien spacecraft is another man’s Planet Venus. One woman’s Man in Black is another’s Alex Trebeck. (Dear Lord, watch the episode if you have never seen it – Netflix, baby!)

Love. Truth. Reality. All subjective. All glorious. All worthy of our time and our absorption and rapt, undivided attention. Don’t let it be manipulated, as the hypnotist did to those kids. Don’t let it be stolen. Do what needs to be done. Write the story that you need to write – like Jose Chung did – or jack off to a video tape of Big Foot, like Fox Mulder did, if that floats your boat. It’s all subjective. It’s all unwritten. It’s all up to you.*

josechung

*I was listening to back-to-back episodes of an awesome podcast called “The X-Files Files”, hosted by a very funny comedian and actor named Kumail Nanjiani, when I wondered about all of these connections. Listen to it if you’re a fan of The X-Files.

Five Mondays

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“You know Gus, this month has five Mondays.”

“What?”

“Yes, Gus. Five Mondays. Can you believe the luck? It’s mean. Almost downright cruel.”

“Geez, Barney! Why’d you have to go and tell me that for? Like I haven’t got enough problems.”

“Problems? What kind of problems?”

“Well for starters, I haven’t had a pair of pants fit right for about twenty-seven years now.”

“Hmm. That’s rough. Ever thought of trying a shrink?”

“Well I’d love to shrink Barn, but I’d have to get one of them newfangled rowing machines or something.”

“No Gus, I said ‘ever thought of seeing a shrink’. You know, a head doctor.”

“Oh. Well, I don’t think that’s the kind of thing you see a head doctor for.”

“Sure it is. Self esteem thing, or some such. But anyway, what else pooped in your soup? Maybe I can help.”

“Well, my oldest just got a drum set. Put it in the part of the basement right under the living room. The vibrations don’t do my stomach much good after the roast beef, if you catch my meaning.”

“I see. At least you’re regular.”

“Regular? The wife’s always told me different. Boy, you’re always looking on the sunny side of the egg, ain’t ya Barn?”

“Got to in this business of life, Gus. Otherwise, it’ll eat you alive.”

“I hear ya.”

“So, any more troubles keeping your sheep away at night?”

“Well I thought it was just the two, but now this five-Mondays thing is throwing me for a loop.”

“Only three problems for the month though, that ain’t too bad.”

“Yeah, but it’s only the first of the month. And, it’s Monday.”

On Dresses and Missing Forests

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We miss the forest for the trees, we do.

We see a dress, regardless of the colour of it, and we argue about it as if it were important. It isn’t. Blue/black, yellow/gold? What about the science that makes those distinctions possible? That’s what’s important. Dogs are colour-blind. They can’t tell the difference. All they need is a meal and a scratch behind the ear, and happiness abounds. Can’t it be the same for us?

We see a team on the ice, wearing the blue and white of the Maple Leafs of Toronto. We grant them no quarter for sloppy and uninspired play, missing that men play a boy’s game, missing that we live so free that our biggest concern of the day is whether or not a man paid $8 million for 200 days of work is trying hard or not.

Does it matter how we do things, as long as we do them? Bob Dylan wouldn’t win any American Idol competitions. But, there is soul in his words. There is haunt, hurt, wisdom. Years of… well, everything. A lifetime of experience coats every syllable like plum sauce on a grain of rice. But, we get hung up on whether or not he can sing a D-sharp. Does it matter? Why do we hear, but not listen?

I think it’s safe to envy children. They know what they want. They scream for it, kick for it, throw a tantrum for it. It’s given them, and they are happy. But even children know that satisfaction is fleeting. They’re on to the next thing before you even blink. Is that petulance, or wisdom? Why hold on to a thing for too long? Children acquire the feel of a thing, and they move on before the emotion wanes. It’s like drinking shot after shot to avoid the hangover. Eventually, you have to stop, and the sick begins. The hangover begins. It’s called growing old.

The Idiocy of 9-5

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Have you ever heard a friend tell you, often with nary a hint of derision in their voice, the following refrain: “my boss doesn’t care when I come to work, as long as put in my eight hours”? I’ve heard it many times. Shit, I used to say it myself, back when I worked for Home Depot’s head office. “We can come in anytime between 6 and 10, as long as we put in 8 hours.” It was only after I was no longer working there that I reflected on that, and realized how goddamn stupid that policy is.

It doesn’t matter how long we work. If given the same task, I know that I can often complete that task in half the time as many of my colleagues. What is disappointing though is that time – not performance – is a measurable metric. If you work for 8 hours, your employer believes that they can reasonably assume that you performed an adequate amount of work. If you show up at 10 and leave at 2, they believe that they can reasonably assume that you performed only half the work that you should have, and that is bad. Of course, in many cases, they couldn’t be more wrong.

Recently, I had to stay at home for a few hours waiting on a trades person. I ended up getting to the office at 2:30pm, later than I was anticipating. I had several tasks waiting for me in my to-do list. Over the next two hours, I finished them all. Why? Because I only had two hours to do them. Some may argue that had I worked the extra six hours, I could have gotten more done. It’s possible – I may have been able to tackle another non-urgent project – but doubtful. Parkinson’s Law states that we should apply less time to tasks in order to lessen their perceived importance, assigning almost no time to unimportant tasks. In all likelihood, my productivity would have stayed relatively equal during that day, just spread out over more time.

What employers should be telling us is, “I don’t care when you come in, as long as you get all of your work done.” What this would do is force employees that realize that their time is best spent in non-work situations to emphasize effectiveness rather than “how much can I do today?” It will force them to prioritize and automate their day, and not waste time with busy work or make-work projects, like cleaning up an inbox for example. By getting rid of piddly nonsense and spending time addressing situations that aren’t worth the time – by spending time on more profitable tasks, in other words – more gets done in less time.

I look after the accounts of seven customers. It’s no coincidence in my mind that my two least profitable accounts – the two smallest accounts – are also the highest maintenance. The same happened at two other companies I worked for – the largest vendors I worked with did things automatically, with minimal drama and hand-holding. The smaller vendors are usually the source of most of your stress. Insofar as your work will allow you, it’s probably a good idea to cut the cord as much as possible with those types of vendors/customers/tasks.

Where Did It Start?

The idea of an eight-hour work day started in 1817, when Robert Owen coined the term “eight hours work, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest”. It took a very long time before this “short” day was granted, but many offices and white collar jobs adopted the eight-hour day in and around 1940. So, 75 years ago, before we had email, phones at every desk, Skype, instant-messaging programs, computers and monitors and mice and keyboards; when employees used typewriters if they were lucky and ledgers if they weren’t, we worked as many hours as we do now. Well, if you’re lucky. Many employers still make you work eight hours a day, meaning you need to spend 8.5-9 hours a day at the office if you want to, you know, eat lunch and not die at your desk.

So, given how much faster we can get everything done what with computers and email and software that does math for us, why do we still need to spend the best eight hours of our day slaving away, chained to a desk? I don’t have the math in front of me, but I can’t imagine that our salaries have increased over the last 75 years to the same degree that we have multiplied the amount of work we can accomplish over an eight-hour day. And that’s if you only work a third of the day. How much time do you spend commuting? How much time do you spend answering emails once you’ve returned home?

There are a few employers that have decided to join the 21st century in their attitude toward the 9-5 grind. Richard Branson of Virgin believes that employees should be able to take off as much time as they want, as long as their absence doesn’t harm the company. This may consist of a few hours or a few weeks. It’s not a new policy – Netflix adopted it too – but it’s impressive to see the owner of one of the world’s most successful companies decide that trust and employee happiness are more important than maintaining largely arbitrary business hours. In 2015, there is no longer a reason for office workers to spend 8 hours a day in an office.

Similarly, working from home is something that more and more companies are adopting, and for good reasons. Working from home, and allowing your employees to work flexible schedules based on their work-load rather than poorly-prescribed working days, are matters of trust and respect on the part of the employer. By telling your employees that the only way you will believe they are capable of performing their work acceptably is by sitting in a cubicle for eight hours under watchful eyes, you are telling them that you neither trust or respect them. There certainly are people that will abuse work-from-home or flexible hours, but rotten apples shouldn’t spoil the bunch. You move on from those employees.

Working at home shatters the 9-5 work day. It will mean that an employee can start work at 7:30 if they feel rested, or sleep in until 9 if the need is there. It means they may take a longer break in the middle of the day, when the remote clients they work with are off for lunch hours (for example, the clients I work with, based on societal culture and time zone, may be off anytime between 11am and 2pm my time) and then work until 6pm. They may even sign in at 10pm because they are waiting on an answer from a colleague in Europe, and like the idea of getting that answer ten hours before they normally would. This is good for employees and employers. In fact, studies show that people that work from home every day are happier and more productive than those that don’t. Happier employees mean healthier employees – less lost time due to sick days – and tend to stay with that employer longer. When you factor in that many employers spend $15,000 – $25,000 replacing lost employees, it only makes sense for employers to keep employees as happy as possible, and what better way than with measures that don’t actually cost them anything (like a salary increase would), like working from home or working fewer hours? In fact, studies show that companies that adopt full-time work from home schedules save money (office space, office equipment, hydro, water, cleaners, coffee/supplies, office furniture, repairs, etc) – one company in China even believed that the scheme was worth it because the money they’d save outweighed any loss in productivity they might experience. They were thrilled, then, when productivity actually increased.

Unfortunately, many companies don’t think this way. It’s an old-fashioned way of thinking, believing that an “honest day’s work” can only be achieved through punching in at 9, punching out at 5, and chatting about the weather while pouring a mug of terrible coffee. This is the best way to hate your life. It’s also a good way for companies to fall behind – if they are managing a revolving door of employees, constantly having to train and retrain, how can they possibly put time into what matters – being better and more profitable than its competition? How can a company possibly boast about “innovation” if their employees don’t even work on laptops? It sure is an interesting question.

No matter which way you look at it, the eight-hour work day is meaningless. Offering remote-work abilities and flexible time to employees – as well as offering them actual ownership over their work-load rather than spending time with make-work projects and trying to look busy out of fear of getting in trouble or fired if they don’t – is a sign of respect and innovation. It means that employers are more interested in employee retention and development rather than forced adequacy. If I can provide you with 100% of the results in 50% of time, while saving you money because I’m working at home, how is that not acceptable? I wonder what it will take for more companies to understand this. I have faith that 9-5 is dying. It’s just that a nearly century-old idea should have died a long time ago.