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Aethelflaed's avatar

Why do we refer to so many jobs as "9 to 5", when almost all of them start at 8 or earlier?

Asked by Aethelflaed (13752points) May 15th, 2012

I’ve heard many jobs referred to as “9–5” jobs, yet, everyone starts working at 8, not 9. You can’t get to the 40 hour work week by starting at 9; you need a lunch break. So, why are they called 9–5s, and not 8–5s?

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18 Answers

woodcutter's avatar

It’s a catch all for usually predictable occupations where there is a lunch hour thrown in the day somewhere. Most people don’t get paid while on lunch break.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

There are some work environments, and even countries, where a job is conducted during an eight-hour shift, which includes ½ hour for lunch and two 15-minute breaks. In the US, this may have been more common years ago. I haven’t witnessed it for a long time, other than in some cases where a union is involved.

woodcutter's avatar

In every case where there were breaks, like 10 or 15 minutes, they were paid time but the lunch hour was your own time. I think there has been enough studies that show that productivity actually goes up if people get breaks. Not sure how many millions was spent to figure that one out but I could have told them the same thing for a few hundred bucks.

Sunny2's avatar

9 to 5 means more like a perfunctory( boring, if you will) office job that is predictable and that never ends. You can never finish it because there’s always more of the same work to do. And then think of all the jobs that have different time tables, nursing, restaurant service, city road work, teaching, stock market employees around the country, farmers, transportation workers of all kinds. I think “everyone” is perhaps an inaccurate term to use.

zenvelo's avatar

I work in California, and most people seem to work 8 to 4:30. But I deal with a lot of people on the east coast, and it is really common to hear they work 9 to 5 and actually a 37.5 hr work week, with a half hour for lunch.

ucme's avatar

Because the song lyrics wouldn’t work with any other time, “Working 8 to 4, what a way to earn a liv…..”
Doesn’t have the same ring to it at all.

augustlan's avatar

I’m just old enough to remember that in the past, those 8 to 5 jobs really were 9 to 5 jobs. It’s just a holdover from then.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@augustlan Really? Did they get lunch hours?

augustlan's avatar

@Aethelflaed Yep. Wiki says

The phrase is an expression in the United States originating from the traditional American business hours of 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, representing a workweek of five eight hour days comprising 40 hours in total. The actual time worked, or rather at work, often varies between 35 and 48 hours in practice due to the inclusion, or lack of inclusion, of breaks. In many traditional white collar positions, employees were required to be in the office during these hours in order to take orders from the bosses, hence the relationship between this phrase and subordination. Workplace hours have become more flexible but even still, the phrase is commonly used.

Aethelflaed's avatar

There’s a Wiki page? God, I feel dumb… Thanks Auggie, that was perfect.

augustlan's avatar

Haha, I was surprised there was a Wiki page, too!

cookieman's avatar

Workplace hours have become more flexible

Ha! More like longer. Most people I know average 50 to 60 hours a week. More like 7 to 7.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@cprevite They have become both more flexible and longer.

The_Idler's avatar

Office hours in the UK are 9–5.

If you’re lucky, you’ll get paid lunch, so 40h/w.

Many people have an unpaid ½hour break though (and 1–2 paid 15min breaks), so the general ‘working week’ is actually 37.5 paid hours. That is considered “full-time”.

In construction, warehousing, manufacturing, and so on, a normal day is generally 0800–1600. For tradesmen, this is usually unofficially truncated, or sometimes extended, depending on how much “got done”. I’m not sure why… maybe the office-workers just think getting up later is a perk…. personally I’d rather get up as early as possible, cane the work for six hours, go home at 1430 and get paid for 8 hours. Office jobs are for tools.

For many warehouses and factories, which run shift systems, 0600–1400 is early, 1400–2200 is late, and 2200–0600 is night. some places don’t run nights, just have two shifts.

I’ve worked in some places that do their own thing. An engineering company, which made you work 0645–1730 (tot. 45min unpaid breaks), Mon-Thu, so you’d have clocked 40 hours in four days. Then you could either take the three-day weekend, or come in on Friday for double pay.

Whatever the sitch though, 9–5 is a figure of speech denoting full-time work- 40 hours a week.

Of course, considering the state of America nowadays, many people work more.

prasad's avatar

Office hours in India are 9 am to 5.30 pm. There is half hour lunch break immaterial of your industry. Usually there are two tea breaks, one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

Manufacturing, construction companies have 9 to 5.30 timing; working overtime is not uncommon (for engineers). Three shifts are like: first shift: 6.30 am to 3.00 pm, second shift: 3.00 pm to 11.30 pm, third (night) shift: 11.30 pm to 6.30 am. They work for 6 days in a week; only multi-national companies work for 5 days in a week.

IT companies work 9 to 6.30 on an average. They work 5 days a week. BPO (call centers) companies have shifts adjusted to customers; they call UK shifts, US shifts, Australia shifts, etc.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

@The_Idler and @prasad Thank you for sharing the information about the UK’s and India’s work schedules. Two questions for both of you:

1.) Does this apply everyone, or just people who what the US calls ‘non-exempt’, meaning jobs that require that overtime be paid according to federal law. ‘Exempt’ employees do not receive overtime, no matter how much they work during a seven day period.

2.) At what point are work hours considered overtime? For example, in the US, federal laws require that anything over 40 hours a week is considered overtime. A state can choose to handle it differently, as long as it is less stringent than this law and benefits the employees. (California, for one, chooses to pay non-exempt employees overtime for any time worked over 8 hours in a day, regardless if they work less than 40 hours in a week.)

The_Idler's avatar

Your employment contract stipulates your weekly hours. 37.5 or 40 is “full-time”.
The maximum contracted hours per week possible is 48. You may work more, but you have to sign a legal document declaring your desire to. It is illegal for your employer to treat you in any way unfairly for refusing to work more than 48h/w. You can cancel this agreement with 7 days notice. Again, it is illegal for your employer to do anything about this.

anything over the contracted hours is “overtime”, which is paid at a rate negotiated with your employer.
Some places have very generous overtime rates, others pay nothing above normal wages.

There is no regulation of overtime wages, beyond the set minimum of £6.19 (as of october 2012) per hour, which is about $10. Tips do not “count” towards your wages. Every adult is legally guaranteed at least £6.19 for every single hour worked.

Young working-class people will start out at or near the NMW.
More experienced – but unskilled – factory-workers generally earn £8 or more (~$13), with higher pay for people with more skills i.e. setters might get more like £12–15 ($19~24)

Wages are higher in London and The South, and lower in The North.
Prices and the cost of living, however, exhibit this trend to a greater degree.
i.e. a pint of beer is costs fewer local-man-hours in Sheffield, than it does in Reading.

The situation in offices is similar (though overtime is much less common). Wages are about the same as in the factories for most people, though obviously there is much more room in the office for progression, for those with the ability and inclination.

National Minimum Wage applies neither to apprentices (who are usually young people, living with their parents whilst learning a trade), nor to self-employed people. So for a self-employed tradesman (many of them are) you can earn £100,000 in one year, and literally nothing in the next, as happened a few years ago to my father (a sparky).

The only exceptions I know for the working-week limit are emergency services (plus armed forces)... and fishermen… who can’t exactly be said to work 9–5.

prasad's avatar

@Pied_Pfeffer I think rules in India are not that strict and also not followed to much extent. When someone complains about working more than normal, he is told he is free to quit the job and there are many people in the queue to get in. Disadvantage of vast population. I like UK and US considering such things.

A day has 8 hours of work. More time than that is considered overtime, probably more than an hour or more. Weekly calculations have rare occurrence, except for IT industry. There employees have to work stipulated number of hours per week (9.5 hrs * 5 days).

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