Is Working 9-5 A Waste of Life?


is working 9-5 a waste of life

The 9-5 schedule has been the standard for most jobs in the United States since the 1920s.

Originally, it was introduced by the Ford Motor Company and became standardized by the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 as a way to curb the exploitation of factory workers.

And ever since that time, the 9-5 schedule is the way that we have organized our work.

However, younger generations have increasingly been questioning the 9-5 schedule, asserting that it’s too consuming and doesn’t give people the flexibility that they need to live the life they want.

In fact, many people argue that working 9-5 is a waste of life.

And it’s that very argument that we’re going to unpack in this article. Within this post, we’re going to try and tackle the question of whether or not working a 9-5 is a waste of life and offer recommendations on what to do about it.

Let’s dive in.

What Does It Mean to Live a Good Life?

thinking person

In order to assess whether or not working a 9-5 is a waste of life, we need to establish what a good life consists of. From there, we can assess what it means to waste that opportunity.

Now, what is means to live a good life is obviously a subjective and loaded questions.

So, the way that I’m going to approach it is to give my high level perspective on they key elements I believe generally contribute to a good life.

Now, not all of the factors are hard prerequisites to living a good life. And, many people can live a good life without some of the factors listed below.

But, in general, I do believe that all of the factors that I’m going to present are correlated with a good life so, in general, somebody that experiences all of those is more likely than not to live a good life. 

Here are some of the key factors that I believe are important to a good life:

1. A Strong Foundation


Typically, a good life is built upon a strong foundation. To me, that means that you have a life that is at least somewhat stable. You take care of yourself, get enough sleep, have a healthy body, good habits, make enough money to survive and, in general, have a solid base from which to purse your life activities.

2. Community

A good life generally involves positive and healthy relationships with others. That means that you have at least a small number of close friends and/or good relationships with your family.

3. Fun and Adventure

Life can be hard at times but it also should be fun. Those that live a good life make a point to have some fun and, often, specifically seek out adventure and positive experiences to enrich their lives.

4. A Positive Contribution 

community work

My favorite definition of work is the “energy that we put forth to produce good”. And I do think that as people that we do want to produce some type of good and make a positive contribution while we’re here.

Whether that’s through our jobs, our community, or whatever it may be, contributing positively to something outside of ourselves is an important aspect of a good life.

5. Good Ethics

In Daniel Pink’s book The Power of Regret, he presents moral regrets as one of the four most common categories of regrets that people experience.

Basically, what that means is that when people do things that are unethical, such as cheating on a spouse, stealing something, lying, etc., it tends to eat at them and they experience painful regret.

With that being the case, living a moral, ethical life is an important aspect of living a good life from my point of view.

6. A Vision of the Good Life

You could argue whether or not this one warrants section but, I do think that in order to live out a good life, it’s important to have a vision of how the previous five factors manifest themselves for your own life. 

Without a guiding vision in the way that you want to live and orchestrate your life, it can be tough to know how you want to spend your time in order to actualize a good life. And, ultimately, you may end up looking back on your life realizing that you didn’t live in the way that you wanted to.

So, without being the case, I think a vision of how you want to live is an important part of helping to ensure that you do live a good life.

What Does It Mean to Waste Your Life?

going through the motions

To waste your life is to be lacking in key elements of the good life.

Now, I can’t say things like if you only have three of the six aspects of the good life above, that’s the point where you’re wasting your life. Or if you have this aspect but not that aspect then you’re wasting your life.

Ultimately, it’s going to be a bit subjective depending upon the number of good life criteria that you’re lacking and the extent to which you’re lacking them.

But, generally, I can say that if you’re not living with a strong vision of the life that you want to build for yourself and not seeing experiencing many of the aspects of a good life listed above, then that may lead to a wasted life.

What Does It Mean to Work a 9-5?

Working a 9-5 simply means that you generally work normal business hours of 9:00 A.M. – 5:00 P.M. Monday through Friday in order to earn an income. 

On the surface, working a basic and consistent schedule like that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be wasting your life but it’s the potential sacrifices and tradeoffs that you have to make to orient your life around that work schedule to could lead to the feeling of the waste of a life.

We’ll unpack that here in the next section.

Is Working a 9-5 a Waste of Life?

thinking person

Now that we’ve looked at what it means to live a good life, what it means to waste a life, and what it means to work a 9-5, we’ll look at whether working a 9-5 is a waste of a life.

The short answer to the question is that working a 9-5 could be a waste of a life. Ultimately, it depends upon the extent to which working that 9-5 takes away from your ability to experience the aspects of what generally make up a good life. 

Generally, I’ve found that it’s the context around your 9-5 is that can impact how likely it is that you waste your life. Intense and demanding 9-5s that involve high stress and lots of hours with little meaning behind the actual work are often the ones that most strongly take away from the ability to live a good life.

The right 9-5, though, and I think that you can still live a deep and rich life. 

To dive into it more deeply, let’s look at how a 9-5 might impact the areas of a good life that we discussed previously:

1. A Strong Foundation

In some ways a 9-5 can actually be helpful to having a strong foundation in your life because it establishes a consistent rhythm and habit pattern that you follow. In general, that’s a positive thing for a steady life and good health.

However, where it might takeaway from your strong foundation is when that 9-5 is intense and involves long hours and lots of stress, such as working in a fast-paced environment.

When you work in that type of a context, it may degrade at your habits because you might not be sleeping as much as you should, you might not be exercising, and you might not be eating right. 

That can all take away from a healthy foundation, cascades into hurting the quality of your overall life.

2. Community

not be my references

Community, which I think of time and relationships with family and friends, is something that a 9-5 can really impact in a negative way. It simply consumes much of your day and energy that otherwise could go to time with others.

However, the good news is that most people do work a 9-5 schedule so if you weren’t working that schedule, in actuality it may not open up that much time for you to spend time with others.

A 9-5 can also be a vehicle to build new relationships with others and have a good community of colleagues if you can find the right time. Now, you do have to be careful to press too much into these relationships because they can end quickly via a lay off or termination but, I’ve personally been able to build some create relationships through my 9-5.

3. Fun and Adventure

Fun and adventure is another area that a 9-5 kind of takes away from. It’s difficult to be spontaneous when you’re expected to be available to work during fixed hours of the day.

However, with the risk of remote work, and things like unlimited PTO policies, employees are getting more flexibility to take trips, have fun, and achieve good work-life balance.

4. A Positive Contribution

A 9-5 is the vehicle through which many people contribute to society. It’s the place where we provide goods, services, or an output of some sort that benefits others.

Within this area, the key is the nature of the contribution. Are you working for a company that produces some type of good, or do you feel like what you’re doing is for something that is either unhelpful and the goal is simply to help a group of investors make more money?

5. Good Ethics

In my opinion, your 9-5 shouldn’t have much impact on your ethics. Ultimately, you can choose to have strong ethical standards regardless of your work situation.

6. A Vision For the Good Life


A 9-5 can be an important enabler for you to live the life that you want to live. For many people, the challenge of producing results within a 9-5 is extremely fun and rewarding to them. It can also provide the income for people to be able to do what they want outside of work.

However, if you’re in the wrong 9-5, it can actually cause you to go a bit numb and suck the vision of life out of you.


To wrap up this section and provide a high-level answer to the question of whether or not working 9-5 is a waste of life, the simple answer is that is can be if you let it.

Typically a 9-5 that wastes a life has the following characteristics:

  • It consumes you in such away that it takes away from the important aspects of living a good life like a healthy habits, community, and fun and adventure
  • It feels meaningless to you and takes away from the type of positive contribution to others that you’re capable of
  • It doesn’t fit into a vision of life that you want to live. You’re doing it because you have to, and not because it enables you to live life in the way that you want to

On the other hand, if you’re thoughtful and intentional about selecting a 9-5 that enables you to live the type of life that you want to live, then it can be a meaningful enabler of a deep and rich life.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Percentage of the Population Works a 9-5?

71% of Americans work 40-hours per week or more, most typically in the form of a 9-5 schedule.

Are 9-5 Workers Happy?

happy employee

A recent survey showed that more than 70% of 9-5 workers are unhappy at their jobs.

There are a multitude of reasons that go into that such as a lack of work-life balance, a feeling of meaninglessness in work, lack of career growth, knowledge of the difference in financial upside between ownership and the staff, a toxic boss or culture, etc.

Based upon those numbers, it’s critically important that you are thoughtful and intentional about the life that you want to build and how you want work to fit into it. It is possible to find a 9-5 in which you can be happy but you need to be very selective about what that looks like and possibly be open to alternate paths like being your own boss, the gig economy, etc.

Is It Worth it to Work a 9-5?

In general, yes, it’s worth it to work a 9-5. A 9-5 is the most common way for people to generate an income. And, obviously, having a income is critical to living well and meeting your basic needs.

A 9-5 can also actually be enjoyable place to do great work and build positive relationships if you pick the right context.

However, I will say that you do only get one life. And if you know that a 9-5 simply does not suit you then it might not be worth it to follow that path. In that case, I would encourage you to experiment and find alternate paths for what to do with your life.

How Do You Not Work a 9-5 For the Rest of Your Life?

thinking person

In our current day and age, there are more opportunities than ever to find an alternate path to working a 9-5.

You can start your own online business, buy and rent real estate, work in the gig economy, or find some other means to make money. 

Ultimately, you’ll need to figure out a non traditional way to make money, which can be quite difficult. However, the opportunity is out there to make money outside of working a 9-5 for the rest of your life.


Is working 9-5 a waste of life?

It can be if you let it be. Ultimately, if you let a 9-5 consume you in such a way that it takes away from the important aspects of living a good life then, yes, a 9-5 can be a waste of life.

However, if you find the right one, and the 9-5 works into the context of the overall life then you want to build for yourself, then it can be a great way to make an income.

So, be thoughtful and intentional about the life that you’re trying to build for yourself, and the 9-5 that you choose to fit into that.

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 writes to share content, tools, and resources to help people discover and thrive in their own best fit work.

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