Being accessible to the office 24/7 can certainly make it feel like we are working longer hours than in years past. But has our in-office time increased as well? Does anyone actually work nine to five anymore?
Career expert Alison Green (aka Ask A Manager) analyzes this reader’s question about the increased in-office hour expectations.
I wanted to get a perspective from you and your readers on whether you think a majority of businesses and industries are now expecting longer workdays from their employees.
Colloquially, “the nine to five″ has been a phrase to describe full-time jobs conducted during normal business hours. Obviously all individual offices will vary, but based on my own experience and the experiences of people I know, it seems like “the eight to six″ would now be a better descriptor. I have held multiple positions over the past 10 years where I was expected to be in the office at 8 a.m. and not leave until 6 p.m. These hours didn’t account for unpaid lunch time, either. I almost always ate lunch at my desk while working on something or during a “working lunch” meeting.
From talking to friends and family, I am far from alone in this experience. Is the 10-hour workday and 50-hour work week the new normal?
For some people. As you point out, there’s tons of variation.
Some people do indeed still work jobs that are truly nine to five. That’s still very common. The assumption is usually that they’ll have a half hour for lunch, so they’re really working 37.5 hours a week.
But other schedules have become more common too, and you’re right that many of them are longer. Nine to six isn’t unusual, and neither is eight to five, and lots of other variations. The thinking behind those is often that they include an hour for lunch—so you’re still working eight hours, but the finish time is nine hours after your start time because of lunch. I question this reasoning, because tons of people with this schedule don’t actually take a full hour for lunch, but that’s where it came from.
And of course, many people routinely work longer hours than that.
Additionally, even in jobs where the standard hours really are nine to five, some people might come in at 7 a.m. and leave at 3 p.m. or work some other form of a flexible schedule.
Like so many other things, it really depends on the job and the workplace.
I do think, though, that “a nine to five job” has taken on a cultural meaning that doesn’t strictly mean “a job that starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m.” Its cultural usage has changed to mean “a professional office job with fairly standard business hours, Monday through Friday.”
As for the broader picture on how many hours people are working: The average workweek for full-time employees in the U.S. is nearly 47 hours, according to a Gallup report released last year. That’s held pretty steady for the last 14 years, but—unsurprisingly—it was lower before that. That said, 42% of people work 40 hours a week, so that’s still pretty common too.
This article originally appeared on Ask A Manager and is reprinted with permission.
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