For all our talk about flex time and the freedom (and insanity) the Internet gives us to work at any time of the day, the traditional 9 to 5 workday, with a break at noon, is still going pretty strong.
NPR's Planet Money used data from the federal American Time Use Survey to chart when the average American is at work, finding that the majority of people still work between the hours of 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. More than 60% of workers say they're at work at 9 a.m., and only around 20% say they stay past 6 p.m. (The visualization doesn't show the average amount of time worked by each employee, but just the percentage of employees who say they're at work at a given time of the day.)
NPR visualized the difference in at-work hours for different occupations. While on average, a 9-to-5 workday might be normal, hours in some fields, like food service and protective services (like police and firefighters), vary more widely. Around 30% of protective service workers are still at work past 9 p.m., and food service work peaks at noon, when most other employees are taking their lunch breaks. Perhaps because they need daylight hours, employees in construction and mining and architecture and engineering tend to start earlier and leave earlier (the majority of construction and mining workers are on the job before 9 a.m., and only 20% stick around past 5 p.m.). Creative types in the arts, entertainment, and media field, meanwhile, have a much later schedule. Only 50% are at work at 9 a.m., and around 40% work past 5 p.m.
I'd love to be able to compare data across the decades to see whether our schedules have changed, and by how much, but unfortunately, the visualization only encompasses one year. Some caveats to consider: The data is a few years old, from the 2011-2012 survey. The survey data is self-reported by participants during a telephone interview, so there's always the chance that people's perceptions of what they're doing when doesn't exactly line up with reality. And, as Planet Money notes, the lines between work and not-work aren't so clean cut in white-collar professions, where going out to dinner with clients or answering late-night emails can throw a wrench into the data. Plus, as a few of Planet Money's commenters point out, the data doesn't encompass seasonal changes in work hours—like those experienced by agricultural workers or even retailers contending with the holiday rush.
[h/t Planet Money]