Normal Work Day Hours: What Are They?

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normal work day hours

Are you wondering if the expectations from your employer about your work schedule are normal? Or where the term 9-to-5 comes from?

This article answers the question “what are normal work day hours” and helps to answer related questions around a typical work day schedule.

What Are the Normal Work Day Hours?

Normal and regular working hours for white-collar workers in the United States is a variant of 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Monday – Friday. That is why you may commonly hear the term working a “9-to-5.”

The normal total working hours in a week is 37.5 hours, though 40 hours per week is actually is the typical expected standard (see this email from Elon Musk to Tesla employees).

Does 9-to-5 Include Lunch?

does 9-to-5 include lunch

In general, no, a 9-to-5 schedule does not include a lunch break. As previously mentioned, 40 hours per week is the typical expectation for the number of hours a white-collar worker in the United States will work in a week. That adds up to an average of eight hours per day across five working days in a week.

Being that a 9-to-5 schedule is exactly eight working hours, it would not include a lunch break. If you want to include an hour-long lunch break in your day, that’s where an 8-to-5 schedule would come in.

8-to-5 vs. 9-to-5

An 8-to-5 schedule represents a full eight hour work day with a one hour lunch break included. A 9-to-5 schedule represents an eight hour work day without a lunch break included. 

Note that people also work variations of 8-to-5 or 9-to-5 schedules with adjusted start times, leave times, and lunch breaks. For example, I’ve found an 8:00-to-4:30 with a half hour lunch break in the middle to be a pretty popular schedule.

In my experience, most companies just want you to work an eight hour day and a forty hour work and generally offer at least some flexibility as to how long of a lunch break you want to take and when you want your start and end times to be.

Working From 8-to-5 is How Many Hours?

Working from 8-to-5 is eight hours if you take a one hour lunch break in the middle. It is nine hours if you do not take a lunch break.

Typical 8 Hour Day Schedule

In my experience, the most common eight hour day schedule for white collar workers in the United States is some variation of the following:

8 Hour Work Day with No Lunch Break:

  • 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M.: Work
  • 5:00 P.M. – Done for the day

8 Hour Work Day with a Lunch Break:

  • 8:00 A.M. – 12:00 P.M.: Work
  • 12:00 P.M. – 1:00 P.M.: Lunch
  • 1:00 P.M. – 5:00 P.M.: Work
  • 5:00 P.M.: Done for the day

Note that I mentioned that the most common work schedule is some variation of the above. People may start earlier or later and then, correspondingly, leave earlier or later. People will often adjust the length of a lunch break as well so they can arrive or leave earlier or later.

The big things is working eight hours per day, forty hours total per week, and doing it on a schedule that is more or less in line with typically expected working hours (generally, 8:00am – 5:00pm-ish).

Also, the schedule above does not include breaks. Short 5-20 minute breaks are not required by federal law, but I’ve found that most companies are generally pretty flexible about enabling you to take a quick coffee break, or chat with a colleague, and not add that to a tally of extra hours that you need to work.

It’s also important to take breaks for your health, and for your productivity. This video from Dr. Brynn adds more color to the importance of taking breaks at work:

Conclusion

For white collar workers in the United States, the most common schedule is some variation of 9:00 A.M. to 5:00 P.M. Monday – Friday (a 9-to-5). That said, the biggest thing that employers expect is that you are generally working about an eight hour day and about forty hours per week. In general, there will be some flexibility as to how you hit that schedule based upon your preferred start time, end time, and lunch break length.

If you feel that you simply can’t work eight hours per day, there are options that you can explore, which are covered in this article.

About the author

Dan Slocum

Dan is the founder of Best Fit Work and is a business professional with over 10 years of experience. He has been a hiring and people manager on multiple occasions, and has also gone through the hiring process himself at a variety of different companies. Dan serves as a career counselor on the side. He writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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