There was a lot of work to do a few generations ago, but the work wasn’t regulated by a clock.
With the growth of industrial capitalism during the post-Civil War years, more and more Americans were feeling pressure to be “on time.” (The phrase itself was a colloquialism which did not appear until the 1870s.) The corporate drive for efficiency … reinforced the spreading requirement that people regulate their lives by the clock. … And though there was much resistance, especially among workers from a preindustrial background, the triumph of clock time seemed assured by 1890, when the time clock was invented. 
Clocks had been around for centuries, but no one punched a time clock until 1890. People had regular schedules, some more so than others, but in general their schedules were not rigid or synchronized.
Increasing numbers of people now enjoy flexible work schedules. This is not something new but a return to something old. Industrialism made synchronization necessary. Post-industrial work is partially returning to pre-industrial norms.
 “No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture, 1880-1920″ by T. J. Jackson Lears.