I've read a few job descriptions and replies from interested parties about their places of work, that they have a "regular" workday with the hours of 8 to 5. I am normally used to working 9 to 5 and that is considered full-time as well to many of my colleagues and management.

In the US, the Fair Labor Standards Act does not set a legal number of hours that divides full-time/part-time work and it is left to the employer. So in what cases would companies see 8-5 as being more acceptable than 9-5 to be "regular" (in their words) full-time? These jobs in question are both for filling the same role, (software engineer) and are in the same geographic area. They usually haven't indicated if it is to keep up with a regional office from a different time zone. Is the number of hours required to work as full-time largely an indicator of the company's local culture?

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    Do you get a paid lunchbreak?
    – enderland
    Commented Apr 1, 2013 at 23:49
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    There was a time when workers were given paid breaks/lunches. That's a 'benefit' that has been eroded over the years so the norm is now often '8 hours of work, no paid breaks' hence the 8-5 (to make up for an hour lunch). Why software developers are expected to work set hours in the first place is a whole other crazy debate... :)
    – DA.
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 0:22
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    @DA i see no reason to restrict that to just developers, they / we arent a special case
    – user5305
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 13:13
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    @RhysW you're absolutely correct...it's a broad trend beyond any one industry
    – DA.
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 15:11
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    Where are you people getting these jobs? My job is more typically 9-7 or 9-9.
    – JohnFx
    Commented Jan 17, 2014 at 5:01

3 Answers 3


I solved this problem by asking the interviewer during the interview. The key is framing it as a work-life balance question, rather than a "how much do I have to work?" question.

One consideration: is this a salaried or hourly position? This is important to know. I know software engineers are generally salaried for FTE, but that's not the rule.

Are you more concerned about the longer hours, or earlier start time? For example, my current manager generally does not care when I get into/leave work as long as I'm accomplishing my goals and attending the few meetings I have.

If this is a larger company, they may have more strict policies. Just ask, don't wait until you're hired to find out that it's a death march style company.

If it's a medium-larger company, you can also check glassdoor.com and find reviews about the work-life balance of the company.

Bottom line: The best way to determine the company culture with regards to hours is to ask. You don't want to work for a company for 3 months and end up quitting because they expect you to work 10 hours a day. That's upsetting for you and for the company.

  • @jmort253 I tried to distill what I was saying in a bottom line statement.
    – Codeman
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 17:19
  • Hi Phoenix, thanks for the edits. This does make things more clear. :)
    – jmort253
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 18:14

I have never worked anywhere where 9-5 was acceptable, not in government work, not in small privately-held companies, not in large corporations. Most places you are expected to put in 8 work hours and lunch does not count and is not paid.

From the US Department of Labor (http://www.dol.gov/dol/topic/workhours/breaks.htm):

Bona fide meal periods (typically lasting at least 30 minutes), serve a different purpose than coffee or snack breaks and, thus, are not work time and are not compensable.

AS you can see from the chart in the link, state laws vary on whether a lunch break is required and what length the break must be. In some states the employee can waive his lunch break and in others he cannot. http://www.dol.gov/whd/state/meal.htm

Skipping lunch is often not permitted by HR as the purpose is to give you a mental break which makes you more productive (and less of a safety hazard in the case of an equipment operator). Another reason why HR often doesn't permit the skipping of lunch is that many people say they are going to work those hours and skip lunch and many of them still take a lunch break which means that the ones that don't have to suffer with the resulting policy.

Expecting people to put in the 8 hours a day they are being paid for does not mean this is a death-march company, it just means they expect to get what they are paying for which is 40 hours a week minimum for salaried workers. Project plans are based on you working this number of hours, salaries are based on you working this number of hours. Why should a company pay you a 40-hour salary if you only give them, in the case of 9-5, 35 hours? I've seen plenty of jobs where that number of hours would be enough to make you part-time and lose your benefits.

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    As a salaried worker, it is more important that I am able to complete my tasks than whether or not I work 40 hours a week. Some weeks I can get my work done in 30 hours. Other weeks it takes 50 hours. The whole point of the salary is to normalize these differences.
    – zzzzBov
    Commented Apr 2, 2013 at 22:16
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    When I worked at a company that woudn't let me skip lunch, I just took my lunch at the very end of the work day ;) Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 1:09
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    @zzzzBov, you are wrong, if you can finish your assigned work in 30 hours, then you should be assigned more. The point of salaried vice non-salaried is to get out of paying you overtime. You are still expected to put in 40 hours of work.
    – HLGEM
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 13:31
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    @HLGEM, no, I'm not wrong. When your work is project based, sometimes your project gets ahead of schedule. The ideal is to keep all projects exactly on schedule, so that I can put in a consistent amount of work every week, but that doesn't always happen. That's not to say that I don't fill in the gaps with other tasks that need doing.
    – zzzzBov
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 14:12
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    @HLGEM - That kind of attitude will result in employees that put in EXACTLY 40 hours of work per week, every week.
    – James Adam
    Commented Apr 3, 2013 at 15:05

The following is based on 55 years of management training and experience working for one of the largest corporations in America and several smaller companies in corporate America in positions that range from 1st level to "C" level, employee training classes on this subject conducted by HR Depts. in those companies.

This is my advice.

Hourly or Salary Hourly: If you are hired to work a 40 hour week and your company establishes a 9 -5 or an 8-5, that's what they expect from you and when you accept to work for them, that what you agree to. If you do not take the lunch break you can be directed to do so. If you choose not to, you are in defiance of a company directive and subject to discipline and possibly termination. You are breaking your contract.

Salary: If the company wants you to work as an exempt (i.e. exempt from over-time pay), you may choose to take the job or not. Your decision.

If the job requires acceptance of variable schedules, fluctuating hours, or certain additional or higher level responsibilities and risk management, it may well be deemed a "salaried" job. Generally, salaried jobs have more flexibility but require more commitment from the employee. Fixed income is a benefit to some and is considered to even out the time worked over a year. Example: Recreational activity may require a Dock Manager to work 50 - 60 hours a week in the summer but be offset by "Weather Days" that may be days off in the winter.

Salaried folks are either committed to the job and work as many hours as required or they prefer the Salary as a form of guaranteed fixed pay and know they are required to work more than 40 hours.

If an employee requests a conversion from hourly to salary, it could be to gain a benefit of working fewer hours by having more hours (or days) off from work, effectively earning more and working less.

The management issue is to determine if the job meets the litmus test of value (work vs. pay), risk management, client service, and necessary availability or it should remain an hourly job and be managed to obtain the results and the work hours agreed to. If the job does not require the use of judgment or work under variable hours and conditions, or if the employee is not required to work a minimum of 40 hours, (perhaps as much as 50 - 60 hours some weeks) then it should be hourly.

If the Job Description for the position defines duties that require work of more than 40 hours of work, it should be defined as salaried and the employee can accept or refuse the job.

My last opinion point is this: In either case, the manager is responsible to the company to get a fair day's work for a fair day's pay. Whether calculated on a daily, weekly, monthly or annual basis. The employee's responsibility is to deliver what has been agreed to. In a salaried position it is more of a deliverable, such as a service, a project, an objective, or a goal. In an hourly position, it is the work and the time as projected.

  • Comment from rejected edit: "Making the job salaried because it requires more than 40 hours of work per week will get you in trouble with the Department of Labor big time. First you need to determine whether the job meets the requirements for exemption (Executive, Administrative, Professsional or Computer Exemption). In many cases, even jobs that require over 40 hours WILL NOT qualify to be exempt and MUST be paid premium overtime for all hours worked over 40."
    – David K
    Commented Dec 15, 2016 at 14:18

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