what’s the definition of “professional hours”?

A reader writes:

I work at potentially the most dysfunctional toxic company on the planet. While my list of complaints is exceedingly long, one of the biggest ones is the attitude that it’s unreasonable to expect a work-life balance. I regularly work 9-10 hours a day (salaried), but have gotten comments about leaving “early.” Any time before 8 pm is considered early, I guess.

Lately I’ve been hearing HR say we are expected to work “professional hours.” I typically work 8 am – 5 pm, sometimes later, and never take breaks (except to read your blog!). I’m under the impression that those are not considered “professional hours” here, but it’d be totally normal anywhere else I’ve ever worked! So, is this A Thing now? Or did my employer make it up to get people to work more hours? Since they don’t seem to understand the meaning of “professional” in general, I’m inclined to think it’s just made-up nonsense.

Any thoughts on this? I’m looking to leave ASAP, but knowing my 45-50 hours/week is considered unprofessional just makes me angry.

They made it up.

Professional hours are typically considered 9-5, 9-6, 8-5, or various variations reasonably close to that. 8 pm is not a typical ending time.

It’s possible that by “professional hours,” what they really mean is “you are exempt, salaried professionals and you’re expected to stay until the job is done, not work to a clock.” That’s reasonable only if (a) your workload has slower times too and (b) the flexibility they want from you goes both ways and you can leave earlier than, say, 5 during those slow times when your workload allows. But if you’re getting comments about leaving early any time you leave before 8 pm, that’s not the case.

It sounds like your company is just trying to pressure you into working long hours all the time by attempting to rewrite the definition of “professional.” They are wrong.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 249 comments… read them below }

  1. Sea Anemone*

    Have you asked HR for clarification? If they are the ones issuing the guideline, they, or the person who flowed the expectation to them, are the right people to tell you.

    1. Bad Memories*

      Yeah it’s also kind of hard to tell from the letter if this is a directed criticism (like is OP getting an email that says “OP, we just want to remind you that we work professional hours here”) or are there all-employee emails going out that may or may not apply to OP? To be fair an all-employee email would also be a red flag unless there was some pretty egregious and very wide-spread shenanigans going on which isn’t mentioned.
      Also I do think it’s somewhat common for people to think that clocking out right at 5 pm is early – not saying that’s right, but I feel like being offline at 5:01 is more likely to rankle people than not being online at 8:59.

      1. Queen Ruby*

        OP here. It wasn’t an email or anything, just certain senior managers constantly referring to “professional hours”, as if 50 hours a week is not enough.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Where I work we have “core hours,” a 6-hour window when all FT office staff is expected to be in. You can work the rest of your time on either side of that.

          1. gmg22*

            As a night owl, I really like this approach. Does this include guidelines to try to avoid scheduling meetings outside the core hours?

            1. A*

              Not the commenter you responded to, but my employer has the same thing. We have a short list of meeting guidelines including the following:
              – All non-emergency meetings must be scheduled during core business hours (10am-3pm EST) with the exception of those in global positions working with opposite time zones (in which case they just need to be available on an as needed basis)
              – No non-emergency meetings to be scheduled between noon and 1pm
              – No non-emergency meetings to be scheduled after 2pm on Fridays
              – Agendas to be included in all meeting invites
              – All meeting organizers, regardless of level, are required to start and end meetings on time
              – Emergency meetings = building is on fire / entire project is in jeopardy level crisis

              It’s been great! The only one that had to be removed from the initial list was the requirement against back to back meetings because it was impossible to maintain across that many stakeholders. Now we just make the best effort we can to leave time between meetings based on the majority of stakeholders availability. There was a bit of a pushback from the C-suite level on the mandated start/end times, but I was pleasantly surprised to see HR nip that in the bud. They sent out additional clarifications including that everyone’s time is equally important and if everyone, at all levels, adheres to the hard fast start/stop times it shouldn’t be an issue since meetings won’t be running late.

              It was initially a temporary thing during the pandemic, but they recently announced they’ll be keeping it in place and plan to make it permanent so long as it runs as smoothly as it has been once everyone is back in the office.

              1. A*

                Apologies, just realized I shouldn’t have included ‘EST’ as those hours apply to all employees as it relates to their time zone. We have those hours selected because for those in the HQ location (EST) it means they overlap with both NA & EMEA core hours. For those like myself that work with APAC it ends up being more like 3-4 hours split between late morning / early afternoon depending on the day, plus a few hours in the evening. Just wanted to clarify that I didn’t mean employees outside of EST are expected to work 10am-3pm EST :)

              2. Mr. Shark*

                A, This is excellent! All meeting requirements should be like this.
                I do like the idea of ending meetings at 25 after or 55 after the hour, so that you get at least 5 minutes between back-to-back meetings for a break.
                As you mention, the time zones make the core business hours things nearly impossible. Our company works in all four time zones in the U.S. on a regular basis, so there’s no real way to maintain that (and that’s not counting the meetings with other countries like you mention).

                1. Lizianna*

                  My agency works in all time zones in the US, and we generally have an agreement that if you have people from different time zones, you don’t schedule a meeting before 8 am in Alaska, or after 5 pm in DC. It’s a fairly small window, but as long as you’re thoughtful about it, it works.

                2. Lizianna*

                  Oops, hit enter too soon. So local offices will set their own core hours around the general 8 am AK/12 pm ET to 1 pm AK/5 pm ET parameters.

              3. COHikerGirl*

                My last company was doing a system called Traction, which has some pretty hardcore rules for meetings. It was delightful! Meetings had a purpose. They started/ended on time (generally). Meetings either ended with a resolution or a to-do list for people. I actually enjoyed meetings because they were useful. When done right, meetings are a good thing!

              4. Turtles All The Way Down*

                I’m always envious of this. On any given day, though, I have 2-6 hours of meetings. Necessary meetings – I’m a client services manager for an agency, so if it’s not an internal creative kick-off, it’s a client status meeting or something. Just the nature of this particular position!

              5. DataSci*

                I’m actually glad to see the “no back-to-back meetings” got nixed. As someone who needs to work in longer blocks of focus time to be most effective (as does everyone on my team), one hour is worth far more than twice as much as two half-hours of non-meeting time. So if I have two hours between meetings and someone plonks a half-hour right in the middle to avoid back-to-backs, that’s absolutely awful for me. I only need five minutes to grab coffee/water or take a quick break between back-to-backs, don’t make me try to get all my actual work done in half-hour increments.

          2. Lizianna*

            This is what we’re doing as we transition from work from home back to the office.

            Core hours are 9-3, the expectation is that you’re generally available during those hours (obviously if you need to take off for a doctor’s appointment, that’s not an issue).

            We may schedule meetings outside of that if we know that the participants work earlier or later (we’re a small enough team that we generally know each other’s schedules), but it’s totally fine to decline a meeting if falls outside of those times.

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          Yeah, if you pushed back/asked for clarification, I’m positive you’d get a round about, “you should know, it’s common knowledge/it’s obviously not your priority” answer to obfuscate “I think that if you aren’t here for 12 hours, then you aren’t earning your wages.”

        3. The Cosmic Avenger*

          For us, “professional hours” for full time employees is 40. Period. But then, I am of the opinion that if critical things can’t get done in 40 hours, it’s almost always a failure of management to properly staff, plan, and delegate resources, rather than an employee problem. (And even if it was a nonperforming employee, whose job is hiring, firing, and *managing* employees? Oh, right, MANAGEMENT!)

        4. Green*

          If your employer expects more than 40 hours a week, that is absolutely acceptable (particularly in some industries), but you need to be told that up front and *compensated* for the reduced amount of time for real life.

        5. Butterfly Counter*

          Honestly, this sounds like Office Space’s 15 pieces of flair. You’re working the required hours, but management is disappointed you’re only working the minimum required hours.

          I mean, look at Chad and his 32 pieces of flair!

        6. Momma Bear*

          It sounds like someone doesn’t believe in work/life balance.

          We have “core hours” of 9-4 where most people are expected to be online/in the office. This is in part to facilitate meetings and project work. It was made clear recently that some upper management has the idea that you should go home and keep working or something, but a lot of us have children or other obligations and stick pretty close to the standard 9-5 most of the time. I wonder if the comments you are hearing Queen Ruby are from people who have no kids, aren’t caregivers to their parents and are basically workaholics. To answer your question – it’s dysfunctional. I’d either ignore it or find a new job. Or both. If I routinely pulled 12 hr days, I’d never see my family. I’d go home, eat, and go to bed. That’s not a life.

    2. Batgirl*

      They won’t be specific or put it in writing. When my old toxic company was doing this they asked us to check in before leaving for the day, simply to check details of the day’s events, but really so they could hand us a couple of hours extra work. When we asked why we were being kept so late, or requested new contracts, or overtime, there was a lot of shrugging and talk of professionalism. It works by using pressure, not communication.

    1. tessa*

      Hard agree, especially since OP notes the “professional hours” pablum as one of many complaints.

  2. Bend & Snap*

    I worked at a company that mandated a 50-hour work week for salaried employees, and that wasn’t even the worst thing about it. Get out!

    1. Not a cat*

      I feel you. At a former (software) employer we had to log 45 hours, but anything under 55 hours got you ‘the talk.’

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      Yeah, I had a manager tell us that 50 hours a week was the minimum. I mentioned it to someone in HR. He got corrected.

      Of course, he retaliated, but he did other sh!tty things too. He took a dump on all of us, but female or Black got the worst of it. This guy was one who would verbally berate and insult one guy in our group in meetings with another department, and when on a conference call would berate and abuse the person running the call who didn’t even work for him. Needless to say, he hated my guts because I would stand up to him.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Wow, that definitely sounds like a toxic manager! It’s unreasonable for salaried employees to be held to those standards, especially as a professional when work ebbs and flows.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          He was. That group had 100% turnover in a year’s time. I have some stories…

          The kicker? He got promoted, because he kissed up, kicked down.

    3. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Yes, but do they tell all applicants that there is a mandated 50 hour work week upfront?
      Because then you negotiate your salary accordingly.

      It’s been my experience that most companies do NOT tell applicants about their 50-60 hour mandates and lead with something like “There is some overtime expected in this industry.” Ha! And it’s a real gotcha to unsuspecting new employees who are getting screwed on their salary because they expected a normal 40 hour workweek.
      It’s an abusive practice. All in favor of the employer of course.

      1. CatBookMom*

        In the early 90s, as a 20yr CPA, my insurance-industry company was going down, due to leveraged buyouts and other bad management decisions. I was the chief tax person of a very small dept. I asked the major national CPA-firm partner on our corporate job about an opening at a certain major entertainment company, near my home. He strongly advised me against it, due to the nasty work culture, even by tax-accounting standards. He told me something like ‘people are told if you don’t come in on Sunday, don’t bother to come in on Monday except to turn in your badge, because you’re fired’.
        I was used to long hours (50-60+ weeks) during what used to be called ‘busy season’, from Jan 15-April 15, with some small similar bumps in June and Sept-Oct 15, secondary due dates.
        I’m still glad (in the long run) that it so happened that I retired in the late 90s from health reasons, before the 24/7/365-accessibility expectations came into full bore. I missed a HUGE bullet.

      2. PT*

        I ran into this, I had a boss say, “Your salary is going to be Y, that’s equivalent to X per hour” and then later said the standard workweek was 45 hours. I didn’t catch this in time to double check the math.

        Well when I finally got a pay stub it was calculated at X x 40 hours, not 45, and the math of it brought my hourly rate for that job, a promotion, down to *below* the pay rate I’d been earning at the job the next level down. So my pay was cut back to *two levels* below my current job.

        That job was a dumpster fire and I didn’t stay there long, needless to say.

        1. Queen Ruby*

          Op here. I heard from a coworker that when calculating the salary they offer someone, they add 15% to compensate for the extra hours. I don’t know how accurate that is because some of the pay here is well below market rate (and you get what you pay for) or, at best, on the low end of market.

    4. Evelyn Carnahan*

      Yep, when I got my first full time job in my current field I was told that “40 hours is the minimum, but you work until the work is done.” I was often working 55 hour weeks without breaks, and getting assigned more and more tasks because I was “so responsible” and “reliable.” No, I was making myself physically and mentally sick!

    5. Zee*

      I just saw a job posting that said in the same breath that they value work-life balance but expect at least 50 hours/week. (And you guessed it, the pay was below average and there wasn’t generous vacation time to make up for the extra hours.)

  3. Antilles*

    “I work at potentially the most dysfunctional toxic company on the planet. ”
    The answer to every single question OP has is right here in OP’s own words, in the very first sentence.
    -Why did they get mad about you leaving at 5 pm? Because it’s a dysfunctional toxic company.
    -Did they just make up this professional-hours idea to get you to work more? Yes, because it’s a dysfunctional toxic company.
    -Is this a thing now? No, because it’s a dysfunctional toxic company.
    -Do they understand the meaning of the word professional? Of course not, because it’s a dysfunctional toxic company.
    -Any thoughts on this? I think you work for a dysfunctional toxic company.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        When you put in your two weeks are they going to treat you like you stole the food out of their children’s mouths or like you are running to the competition with ALL their proprietary information? Yes, because it’s a toxic company.
        Are you going to suffer through two weeks of mistreatment because you are guilted into following their amorphous (and fabricated) laws of professionals? No. Because you read AAM and you know this is a toxic and dysfunctional company.

    1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      I want to see the long list of toxic dysfunctionalities at this company, doled out once a week so that we can chew on them before moving onto the next one. Show us the rest of the iceberg!

  4. RB*

    You gotta admire that they’ve found a new way to gaslight employees into thinking this is a workplace norm.

    1. supertoasty*

      Unfortunately, depending on the industry that OP is in, it might be. I’m a 1L and I’ve been warned that the lucrative salaries offered by massive law firms often comes with a hefty price in terms of how long you’re in the office to get those billable hours. I know someone else downthread in the comments mentioned CPAs in April (though that’s more seasonally endemic than year-round).

      1. Queen Ruby*

        OP here! It’s definitely not the norm in my industry. And the salaries don’t match the expectations at all.

        1. supertoasty*

          Ah, OK. Then yeah, I think your best bet is dusting off the ol’ CV and looking for somewhere run by people who know what a typical workday looks like. Best of luck, friend!

        2. Bad Memories*

          OP this is more curiosity than a determination but – are you able to get all your work done? Or is this a case of being assigned an amount of work that can ONLY be accomplished with 60-hour work weeks and then the company insisting you work 60-hour work weeks?

          1. Queen Ruby*

            The expectations of what can be done in a day are totally unreasonable. For my specific responsibilities, I could work 100 hours a week for months and not be caught up. Not surprisingly, we are severely understaffed.
            So my work will never truly be “done”, but I do get a significant amount of work done in the time I’m here.

      2. Michelle Smith*

        I’m an attorney and while you are absolutely right, I hope they are also telling you that there are other places to work with much more reasonable hours (although you won’t necessarily be making 6 figures starting out).

        1. supertoasty*

          Oh yeah – these were all warnings about specifically the M&A, corporate-type biglaw places (Kirkland & Ellis, Skadden, Baker McKenzie, etc.), none of which I have any interest in both because a) I’m not at a good enough law school to even be considered in the first place and b) because I’ve heard enough stories about the 80+ hour workweek to steer FAR clear of any firm with, say, over 500 attorneys.

          1. SK Midwest*

            1L – the happiest lawyers work for the government. I did small firm private practice for 5 years – I still worked at least 50-60 hours every week, had only 2 weeks annual vacation, and didn’t earn enough to make the standard payment on my student loan. I now work a non-law government job. I have a 40 hour work week, a much better benefits package (health, dental, life, retirement, paid sick, paid holidays, and more paid vacation), and a much better work-life balance. Oh and because of PISLF my loans will be paid off after 10 years of income-contingent payments. I wish I had started with a government law job, before I burnt out from law practice altogether.

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        Temping as a paralegal in a biglaw firm convinced me not to apply to law school. Neither the associates nor the partners were happy people. The trap is that student debt is so high that you may need s biglaw job to pay it down. The best outcome is to take that job, live frugally for a few miserable years, then get out. And if you are part of the majority not offered that biglaw job?

        1. Casper Lives*

          Then you go to a cheaper state school that’s still ranked in tier 1. And use the funds your parents saved for your college to go there with a year of loans.

          Ok, ok, that was what I did. I’m quite privileged that my mother not only got an inheritance but put it towards our education. And I chose a state school with under $20,000/year tuition. It was competitive because of that.

          Law school is a trap.

        2. Outlandia*

          Richard, I have worked in the legal field as a non-lawyer for quite a while now. Same thing happened to me – I worked as a paralegal in a law firm and that convinced me not to go to law school. But because it was easy to stay employed in the legal field, I just kept working as a paralegal, first for law firms, then I moved in-house to corporations. I do the same work as the attorneys and make good money, but not as much money as the attorneys. The hours for legal personnel are too long, it’s stressful, and there will always be that ceiling for non-attorneys. I have a higher title now and my salary is $186K with a hefty bonus target. I don’t regret skipping law school, but I also wouldn’t recommend any legal professional job to a friend or family member.

      4. lawspouse*

        It can also vary a lot. I know the massive firms are crappy but my spouse is a lawyer at a firm that is large for their field and is almost always at 45-50 hours in a week. The field does start low for law but they have gone from $60k to $120k + bonus in three years. Actual progression since Fall 2017:

        Small firm,
        Fall 2017: $60k
        Fall 2018: $68k
        Fall 2019: $76k
        Fall 2020: $86k
        Large firm,
        Jan 2021: $87k
        Fall 2021: $100k midyear market adjustment + $10k bonus
        Jan 2022: $120k

        1. lawspouse*

          I should add the current firm is in Boston and is 98% remote (they go in every couple months or so). Maybe it’s less than BigLaw but that is far more money than we (or our parents) have ever made as a single salary.

          1. Magic Dragon*

            lawspouse, as a person who works in the legal field (not a lawyer) in Boston metro, the recent salaries you listed still surprise me because of how low they are, because that has not been my experience. I have worked at in-house legal departments of small corporations for quite a while now, but prior to that, I worked for big law. I can’t even find an experienced administrative assistant for less than $75K in this market. We recently hired an experienced executive assistant for $118K. I’m giving you the administrative staff salaries for perspective.

      5. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        I see that OP commented, and I wanted to add, that while it’s still BS that lawyers work around the clock, the key is “billable hours.” Lawyers work like money is on a buffet and you have to fill your plate before the restaurant closes.
        OP is like the majority of us, doing a prix fixe menu. Here’s your work, do what you can in 8 hours, come back tomorrow and pick up where you left off .
        So OP seems to be wondering why s/he is getting this speech because the work is not billable, it’s not video game drop deadline driven, they sure as hell aren’t monitoring nuke codes.
        This is just butt in seats, “I’m the king” BS.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          Yes, there’s obviously a big difference between those types of jobs and deadline type jobs (CPA for example) that would require greater hours rather than a more typical 8-5 job that it makes no rational sense for professional hours to be until 8pm.

        2. CatBookMom*

          Yeah, even in CPA firms there’s a difference between ‘chargeable hours’ (when you were working on a specific client) and “billable” hours, which the partners decide how much they can hit up their clients for and have a reasonable expectation of getting that bill paid.
          I once worked with a guy who would be found fallen asleep at his desk/PC, and who yet tried to finagle all those “chargeable” hours (however shaky in number, given the naps), against a contract for a maximum-monthly charge to HIS biggest client. He and another principal decided to use ‘chargeable’ as opposed to “collectible” as a way of divvying profits.
          I suspect there’s a lot more of this in law firms.

      6. NYC Taxi*

        That’s what I was thinking too. As an early career “billables or die” refugee from Big Law I would have been thrilled with only a 50 hour work week.

      7. Koalafied*

        I’m reminded of a letter we had last year, maybe in the fall, from someone at what sounded like a boutique finance firm, who was struggling to recruit recent grads for 80-100 hour/week entry-level positions with a 2-year commitment. They kept quitting after a few months. It seemed to be a case of Shroedinger’s employees: on one hand, LW was adamant that if they didn’t require this grueling schedule, they would be unable to attract quality candidates, because this is the norm in their field and the best candidates want to work these crazy hours. On the other hand, the reality was they already couldn’t keep the roles filled even paying very highly – I think it was like $250K for recent grads? – the employees kept leaving for bigger firms after a couple of months, because the big firms wouldn’t demand so many hours. Then they shared that the firm essentially wanted everybody in every meeting, and the junior employees sat around all day unable to get started on the analysis part of their jobs until after 5 PM, when the senior employees would give out assignments which would be due by the end of the night, so they could be presented to clients the following morning. Every potential solution was shot down, first it was the clients who wouldn’t be willing to accept not getting their reports the very next morning, and then eventually it seemed to boil down to all the senior employees had an attitude of, “we all lived in our cubicles when we were in their shoes, we paid our dues, so it’s only fair for the next cohort to do the same thing.”

        1. Mockingjay*

          I remember that letter. The LW couldn’t comprehend that their own work practices were the problem, not the staff. No matter how many ways we tried to explain it.

      8. Jackie Grow*

        Or: work for small law, where you get 50% of the pay for 95% of the hours! (I went solo. I love it.)

  5. AnonInCanada*

    Methinks your bosses need a “professional” boot to their posteriors. Best to get that resume updated! This is definitely not normal and just want to milk more working hours for the same amount of money out of you.

  6. Nonny*

    Has anyone ever worked somewhere where salaried people could leave before closing and not get side eyed? The best I’ve ever gotten is a boss telling us to leave early if we’d worked insane hours lately. But we never would have left early on our own.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yes. All of my professional jobs have been like this. I’m not even sure what you mean by “closing”. My company has a set of hours where a person is present to answer the phones, but 2 people cover those hours, as they add up to more than an 8 hour day. We are salaried consultants, and we set our own hours. I take it your job is more of a “butt in seat” type of job. My own boss lives on another continent and would have no idea when I walk upstairs from my home office or leave the corporate office when I’m working in-person.

      1. Nonny*

        Wow. That’s crazy to me. I definitely get companies having core hours to ensure meeting customer and collaboration needs, but all my salaried jobs (graphic design) have required being in by X and staying until Y with the expectation that we stay late as needed.

        1. Generic Name*

          The flexibility is really nice. I think part of it is because we have a lot of people working non-standard hours because of the type of fieldwork we do. A fair number of us do dawn/dusk surveys, and in the summer, plenty of folks try to be out of the field by 3 to work in the cooler part of the day.

          It also helps that we work billable hours, so the metric isn’t visually seeing who is “at work” and who is not, it’s your boss reviewing your timesheet and sees the 8 hours (often plus) each day.

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      Although I am not salaried most everyone else in my office is. There are only rare times when people stay late or take their work home to work. It is usually because they need to catch up on paperwork, especially before being gone or an appointment or something went really long. Occasionally there will be an event that needs to be attended by someone in our office. But my boss is always asking people “why are you still here” when it’s 4:30 on Friday. Sometimes before a holiday or something she will “kick people out.” But we have a great work life balance here, probably because I work with a bunch of therapists!

    3. SJJ*

      I think it may depend on the industry and areas within a company.

      My company prides itself on Work/Life balance, but it’s different depending on what division you work in.

      I’m expected to get the job done but allowed to take off early or flex my time based on needs. Other areas of our business have mgrs that are very much side-eyers if you aren’t ‘butts in seat’ at 4:59PM on a Friday afternoon.

    4. Jora Malli*

      My job is salaried/exempt and I’ve only had a couple of weeks when I’ve gone over 40 hours. I’m government, and in my city exempt staff working more than 40 hours is something they try to make as rare as possible. If I work an extra long day, I’m strongly encouraged to leave early or come in late in another day.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Government also, & most people work their 40/ week with some longer here & there. Higher-ups might work extra, but even they keep a good balance.

        And at this job, I have encountered some of the most dedicated & competent people I’ve ever worked with.

    5. Daniel*

      Sure. I work for one right now–the office is open from 7-6, but 8-4 are our “core hours” and we’re expected to put in 40 hours a week. So the office gradually fills up from 7, is pretty much full from 9-3, and then slowly empties out over a few hours as the folks who come in at 7 leave at 3.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      Yes. We have core hours so there is a limit, and our salaried employees tend to have in-office responsibilities that mean they can’t do it all the time (a lot of what we do can’t be done remotely), but they can do it.

    7. Metadata minion*

      Yes, though I work in a university library and closing is 2am most days, so it would be *really impressively* dysfunctional if anyone but the actual night staff had to stay that light. But for the most part, salaried staff are able to work reasonable if sometimes odd hours (teaching staff might have to teach a 7-9pm class or something like that, but then they’re not coming in at 8am that day).

    8. Wildcat*

      Yes, the Government. As long as you get your work done and do 40 hours a week, no one cares. When I was an intern my supervisor would often come in at 7 so he could leave at 3 to see his son play soccer.

      1. Good Enough For Government Work*

        Also government, and same but the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m a massive night owl, so I normally don’t start work til 10:30 unless there are meetings. I’ll then generally work through til 6 or so, but even then there are exceptions – I left work at 4 on the nose on Tuesday to get a haircut. I just made sure everything urgent was done and worked extra hours across the rest of the week. One of my colleagues is known (it’s literally in his diary) to be unavailable 3 – 3:45 almost every day while he does the school run, but he logs back on afterwards.

    9. Parenthesis Dude*

      Yes. I had one job where there wasn’t enough for us to do, so eventually our boss told us we could leave early regularly and take long lunch breaks.

    10. Bad Memories*

      Yes, I do – lots of colleagues who would shift commute to beat traffic (in the Bay Area, so in the before times leaving at 3 pm instead of 5 pm might mean a commute that’s 30 – 60 min shorter), drop off kids, etc. To be fair it was more of a shift than anything (like someone might leave at 3 pm to beat the traffic, and then log back on from 4 – 6 when they got home), but it was more of a set-your-own-schedule kind of place for the most part (within reason – lots of meetings and synchronous work that had to be done).

    11. No Tribble At All*

      Yep, as long as there wasn’t a required meeting/event during that time. Typically people would make up the hour(s) later, but you could absolutely say “Gotta go to the DMV, I’ll see y’all tomorrow”.

    12. anonymous73*

      Yes but I wouldn’t just leave without mentioning it. IME being salaried is about working extra hours when needed, being able to leave early for something in your personal life and being treated like an adult (i.e. not clock watching and making you feel like you have to make up time or take PTO if you need to leave a few hours early if your work is done/covered).

    13. ThatGirl*

      My current company makes occasional fusses about 9-hour days with an hour for lunch and the “flexible hours” in the handbook have similar references but in reality… nobody cares. I have several coworkers who regularly work ~7 hour days in office because they need to leave early to pick their kids up, and nobody has ever said a word except “have a great day!”

    14. Allison*

      My last salaried job had standard working hours specified in the handbook: 8:30AM to 5PM, so I made a point of coming in before 8:30 and working until at least 5, maybe a couple minutes after, but after a while it seemed like no one really cared if you left at 4:50PM every now and then, as long as you were getting your work done, especially if you’re staying late when your workload does call for it. In that vein, they might consider it “unprofessional” if you leave when the rest of your team is still there (but someone has to be the first to leave!) and the thing you’re working on isn’t considered done or emails are still coming in. That said, I value being able to leave at or around 5 most days, I’m possessive of my evenings, so if I were getting the side-eye for leaving when I do, I’d probably do a gut-check with my manager about expectations.

    15. This Old House*

      Yes. I do it all the time. I have to leave at 4:30/4:45 once or twice a week to get my kids to appointments – once Little League starts up, it won’t even be medical appointments, it will just be youth sports! But I’ve never actually discussed that specific schedule with my boss, because she gives us the flexibility to manage our own hours, within reason. She knows very well that I stay up until the wee hours of the morning working when deadlines require it – which is not infrequently – and if she were to say anything to me about leaving half an hour early sometimes, I’d probably be looking for a new job.

    16. gmg22*

      I mean, sure, there are salaried jobs where there are set hours and if you have a reason you can’t be there during those hours, you need to put in for CTO. (Teaching comes immediately to mind.) When I worked on newspaper copy desks, most entry-level roles were hourly and managers were salaried, but either way hours were pretty strict because of the pace of work required to create/update a daily product. We might occasionally “get a slide” from the copy chief if it was a quiet news night, but I’m talking like 15 minutes, half an hour at the very most.

      I do not have the sense from OP’s description of their company, however, that this is one of those kind of jobs. The excessive work-hours requirement does not sound like it’s based on any strict “opening/closing” requirements of the office, or a need to collaborate in a tight time frame on daily production, be available in person to clients, etc.

      1. Queen Ruby*

        The company says we’re open 24/7/365. However, there’s really only one shift to cover all hours. If something comes up, we’re expected to stay (which would be fine in certain situations but not here). So you’re correct in your assumption that it’s not based on strict timelines or hours, etc.

          1. Queen Ruby*

            Nope. For now, I’ll just say we are kind of in the pharmaceutical industry. Maybe I’ll give more details when I finally leave lol

          1. Berkeleyfarm*

            … by overworking the salaried employees on “day shift” as their OT is “free” opposed to hiring coverage

            source: work in IT operations

    17. WantonSeedStitch*

      I do right now. I’ve Slacked my boss at 4 and said, “hey, my husband (who watches our kid during the day) needs to leave the house at 5. Can I pop off at 4:30 so I can get [home-related thing] done before he has to dump a toddler in my lap?” and he’s said, “go ahead and sign off now! You’ve been working hard.”

    18. Ann Perkins*

      My current job is flexible on that to a degree. I think our official hours are 8-5 but honestly most people in my area work more like 8:30-4:30. It’s glorious. My last job was very butt-in-seat mentality and you would get talked to if you dared leave at 4:50 pm on a Friday when all the 1099 sales people were also gone, so the change has been so nice.

      1. Ann Perkins*

        Also, my boss is senior management and frequently tells our team we’re free to go home between 3-4 on Fridays. This happens the most when he wants to go home too, ha.

    19. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Every so often, someone in my office will announce that they are sneaking out early. (We are very bad at stealth.) Usually it’s by no more than an hour or so off their usual schedule.

      More common is people flexing their schedule within a given week. While we officially do not have comp time (it’s in the training for our timekeeping system and everything), at least in my department management tends to prefer that if we have to go to an appointment or take a long lunch that we just make up the time during the same week rather than put in for PTO. And if we end up staying later than planned one day, that’s an excuse to “sneak” out early later in the week.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        My job (salaried but billable) does not allow us to work over 40 hours in a week except with permission. However, we can “flex” our working hours within the pay period, which is half a month. So instead of taking our meager PTO, we can just work extra on the other days of the pay period to flex an afternoon off for the dentist. As long as our timecard adds up to the proper number of hours for the pay period, it’s all good.

    20. CCC*

      My dad had a job (it was a government job, mind you) where the expectation was that salary employees had to work 8-9 hours a day sometime between 6 am and 7pm. People would communicate their schedules so that meetings could happen and stuff, but it was really flexible. It seemed awesome. Also, none of their meetings were more than 30 minutes. Ever. (The pay was terrible though)

    21. Nope*

      My job is 8 to 5 with an hour lunch. I leave at 5 every day. All my co workers leave at their 8 hours too. We chip in extra when needed and no one cares if you have an appointment or just need to leave early. No side eye either.

      1. Summer*

        Pre-pandemic my hours were 9-5 Monday-Friday with one hour for lunch. Just over a year ago they decided to change it so now we work 8-5 (still with one hour for lunch) but only 4 days per week. There are three full-timers in my department so our off days rotate among us on a three week schedule. We each work every Monday and Tuesday and then each one of us is off on either Wednesday, Thursday or Friday that week. Our salaries didn’t change.

        It has been glorious! I love having one day off per week to do whatever I want. The one downside is trying to schedule appointments far in advance and then counting out the weeks to determine my off day and hoping I don’t mess it up because, if it is a holiday week we have to work the other four days so the off-day rotation jumps over those weeks. But that is the one small downside to an otherwise fabulous schedule.

    22. Me*

      I mean we are expected to put in at least 40, so no we can’t decide we are only going to work 32 this week without taking leave.

      But flexing hours and having (and being able to use) generous leave is absolutely a thing. I want to take a last minute half day off using leave if I have no major projects in sight? Sure no prob. Leaving early next Thursday to get my hair done? Totally fine. I’ll make up the hour, but I don’t have to mother may I.

    23. RB*

      Yes, totally. If you leave early once or even twice a week, nobody cares because they know you probably worked late at least once or twice that same week (or maybe worked some in the evening, from home). It is supposed to average out over time. If you have a job where certain months are particularly heavy (quarter-end) then you would expect to have other months where you work slightly less than full-time (if the work permits). If you never get those slow months, you are never really catching your breath and getting the back-burner projects done.

    24. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Yes. Many places.

      Granted, there were always certain times you stayed to meet a deadline, had an event, or a general busy time, but the key thing is OCCASIONAL times. Not every day or even every week.

    25. Mr. Shark*

      We have normal hours, but if we needed to leave early or leave for an appointment in the middle of the day, we just have to let our manager know so if there are questions/meetings they can be covered. But we do have the flexibility to take off early/come in late as necessary.
      I’d say it’s not that anyone just tells our manager, “Hey, I’m leaving because I don’t have anything to do” though.

    26. Unkempt Flatware*

      I’m salaried and exempt. I work in regional metropolitan planning. My boss is very much the “get your work done and your hours are your own” type. However, I attend so many council meetings that I would never agree to do my job without a lot of flexibility in my day.

    27. Koalafied*

      I’m able to do that at my job. Communication is really the key – we have to let our team know if we’re leaving early and change our Slack status to reflect that we’re out early so people know they shouldn’t expect a response, and it’s customary (though not mandatory) for people to check their email at some point after 5 PM just in case anything unexpected came in at the end of the day where it would make a significant difference to do it before the next morning, or to explicitly state that they will not be getting back online until the usual time tomorrow.

      There’s a point it could be taken to that would hurt me – if I’m missing deadlines/behind on my work, obviously I’m not going to announce at 3 PM that it’s such a nice day I’m going to go outside for a few hours. And because you have to announce to your team when you’re leaving early, there’s a cultural/peer pressure that you don’t want to be seen making that kind of announcement way more often than anyone else, or so often that management starts wondering if there’s even enough work to justify your position.

    28. Jessica Ganschen*

      I’m hourly but still very flexible. I work an hour or two late earlier in the week so that I can leave early on Fridays, which my manager is very in favor of.

    29. Beth*

      Yes. Leave early every day, no–but I’ve definitely worked in places where as long as I was hitting 45ish hours in a week and making it to my scheduled meetings, no one would hassle me about leaving early on Fridays, or taking an extra long lunch break for an appointment, or shifting my hours to 7-4 or 10-7 to skip rush hour traffic.

      It’s worth noting, the places I’ve been that are like this have had both a company culture that at least nominally promotes work life balance, AND a team lead/manager who actively encourages people to stop after a reasonable number of work hours and protects them from pressure to squeeze in more. Even in companies that say they value work/life balance, in my experience, it comes down to the manager to set team culture and determine whether flexing time is expected and no big deal or whether it’s only allowed with permission for that day.

    30. Esmeralda*

      Sure, I work in such a place right now. Large state university, academic adjacent dept. Not faculty. We have core hours and a certain number of the professional staff have to be in office at 8am, at 5 pm. Not everybody. We are asked for our proposed hours about a month before the start of each semester and summer. Leadership massages it so as many people get what they want or close to it. Very reasonable and quick approval for PTO for arrive late/leave early. The managers will find coverage if there are too many such PTO requests, if they can. I’ve never had such a request denied. (I also volunteer to cover pretty often)

      This is just within the last few years and directly related to our superior managers. Pre pandemic in fact.

      Before that everyone was expected to be in office 8-5, unless they worked required evening or weekend hours, then they could get those hours for late start/early out within the next workweek. It was crappy.

    31. Meg*

      Where I work salary is mostly considered “40 hours” with the understanding that you’ll probably have to pull some insane hours during busy times, but after those weeks usually our boss will straight up tell us to leave early the next week. If you’re normal pulling more than 40-45 hours to finish work your boss wants to know how to automate a task or shift workloads. And if you’re finishing your work or have a light load and probably only pulled 35 hours some weeks, your boss probably won’t bat an eye assuming it’s not the norm.

      This is a VERY large company though so this applies to the two managers I’ve worked under in my 3 years. But yeah, no one gives you weird “looks” (we’re all still remote except one day a month) as long as you mark your calendar correctly. The biggest thing they care about is, if you’ll be away for more than an hour between 8-4, that you mark OOO so they know they can’t reach you/they can plan meetings around it.

    32. Xaraja*

      I work almost exclusively 8-5. My boss has apologized to me when we were working on something important and urgent and it was 5:45 before I left. Other than that every six weeks i work an hour on Sunday morning for a rotating duty that has to be done then. I’m a salaried professional, but I basically just work business hours. My case is a little different though because I’m in IT.

    33. londonedit*

      Yes. I mean, we don’t really have ‘closing’ (it’s not like everyone packs up at 5:30 and heads out of the building together) but we’re only expected to work our contracted 37.5 hours a week. Occasionally you might work a little more or a little less, but it all balances out and no one is tracking your time. Our core hours are 10-3, so you’re expected to be available during that time, but either side of that you can work a pattern of anything from 7am-3.30pm to 10am-6.30pm. They have to be regular hours (you can’t chop and change from one day to the next) but if your hours are 9-5.30 then that’s what you work, no one is going to ‘side-eye’ if you leave at 5.28pm. And no one is going to mind if you occasionally say hey, I’ve got an appointment after work, I need to leave at 4.45.

    34. hamburke*

      My first job out of college was salaried and we had core hours of 10-2 and everyone managed their own schedule for the most part. People who came in a 6, left at 2, people who came in a 10, left at 6. Bc people came and went on such a loose schedule, no one side eyed anyone for “leaving early” unless there was a problem.

      However, part of my job was to process coolers of lab samples which could arrive anytime before 4 so I had to stay until 4:15 to make sure samples were checked in if they arrived.

    35. Gumby*

      Yep. No one particularly tracks which hours I work though we do report how many on our timesheets.

      I tend to fiddle with start time more than end time. Today I started at 11 a.m. I have, in the past, worked fewer than 8 hours in a particular day and might top out at 7 hours today actually because I worked extra yesterday to meet a particular deadline. It generally averages out over a two week pay period. If I was consistently under 40 hours a week someone might say something.

  7. Daniel*

    Ha, yeah, no, “professional hours” definitely does not include 8pm in an office job (unless it’s shift work).

    This makes me curious to hear more stories of dysfunction from this company. I’m guessing OP can give some choice examples.

    1. SF2K01*

      Maybe if you’re an accountant during busy season, then 8PM or later be expected, but even that usually comes with the understanding to be relaxed about hours the rest of the year.

    2. supertoasty*

      Just this company? I can give you horror stories I’ve heard about first-year law associates at massive firms, where work-life balance often looks like WORK-(life).

        1. supertoasty*

          Oh yeah, you’re definitely working for every cent of that paycheck you get as a first year associate, don’t get me wrong. They’re still horror stories, and I for one have elected to steer closer to smaller, more sane firms.

        2. TechWorker*

          The management consultants don’t. A relative has been at one of the big 4 for nearly 10 years and is still nowhere near that.

          (I think the hours are also not so bad, and more project based so there’ll be busy and less busy periods. But also very performative bums in seats and lots of late nights in the office before a deadline).

    3. Queen Ruby*

      OP here! I could tell you stories that would make your head spin….
      Here’s one: Christmas bonuses. The company is privately owned. The owner decides how much each employee gets as a bonus. So the favorites get super generous *eye roll* bonuses of $200-500. The lower the amount, the less he values you as an employee. If you get $25, take it as a big fat F you.
      My refusal to work more (professional) hours since receiving $25 has freed up a lot of time to spiff up my resume and job hunt.

        1. Casper Lives*

          When I got over feeling hurt, I hope I’d start laughing in that situation. It’s so absurd! I had a boss once that gave everyone $100 bonuses at Christmas. He would personally call us up one-by-one and expect profuse thanks. Like he’s a lord of the manor.

          Hopefully you get a new job with actual, normal professional hours soon.

          1. Queen Ruby*

            I put the $25 into a small games of chance machine and turned it into $45. I guess that’s a win?

          2. Doug Judy*

            I had that happen except it was $20? Maybe $10. It was 15 years ago but it was definitely under $50. But it was mega hyped all week that the Biggest boss was coming down to see us in person to see the “look on our faces”.

            The look was disappointment.

          3. Koalafied*

            He would personally call us up one-by-one and expect profuse thanks. Like he’s a lord of the manor.

            Which is super funny, because people with domestic employees are usually upper crust enough to consider it gauche to talk about money or to make a big production out of giving someone money, so usually put the cash or check in a plain envelope without disclosing the amount, so that the employee doesn’t even see the amount until later. Making a big deal out of the amount and wanting to see the recipient react to the generosity of the amount would be viewed as incredibly uncouth.

        2. A*

          Only thing worse is if it was one of those $25 gift credit cards that cost $4.95 to activate [eye roll]

        3. Turtles All The Way Down*

          My company once decided to put $20 bills inside some holiday ornaments and hang them on our tree. At the holiday part, we each got to choose an ornament. But the catch was that 2 of them were actually $50!

          One of the owners, who at the time drove a 6 figure sports car, got one of the $50 bills.

          And then I realized that was all we were getting for a holiday bonus as well…

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        Excellent! Hope you get to join the Great Resignation sooner rather than later.

        Honestly, how do these clowns hold onto their staff?

        1. Turtles All The Way Down*

          They rely on young employees with no family commitments and who don’t have enough work experience to know they are being exploited and gaslighted. Been there, done that.

      2. Mr. Shark*

        Queen Ruby,
        I feel your pain with the dysfunction you have in your job, but on the positive side, you’re providing a lot of people entertainment (for lack of a better word) today with your stories about the dysfunction.
        I love the old $1 bills that you were given as a “bonus” — yay! Even though you turned it into $45 I’m guessing it wasn’t on dollar slot machines because the bills were so old they wouldn’t go in a slot machine!

    4. NotAnotherManager!*

      When I worked in BigLaw, there were partners who frowned upon associates leaving before 7 PM, but I think BigLaw is generally one of the most dysfunctional industries there is.

  8. Retro*

    This sounds like a case of if we hire salaried people, we can force them to work more/produce double the work without paying them for the full value of their hours worked. I bet the cost of paying their 10 salaried employees to work 50hrs/wk is much less than the 12-13 non-exempt employees to work 40hrs/wk.

    And I bet this workplace also says no one wants to work anymore *eye roll*

    1. Chief Petty Officer Tabby*

      Someone said that at my job, and I retorted, “No, they just don’t want to work HERE, and I don’t blame them.” (Yes I’m looking elsewhere)

      She thinks that people who take days off when they’re tired is “lazy”, because she’s a parent and never gets time dor herself, which makes me roll my eyes. Like, ma’am, you have a husband, stop doing everything and take some damn time for yourself instead of judging people who are smart enough to not allow the job to swallow them whole!

  9. sofar*

    This has gotten WAY worse with COVID, I’ve found. Pre-pandemic, everyone at my company worked a pretty regular 9-6 or 8-5 in the office. I get that it’s nice that people can “choose their own hours” more, but the expectation has become that you need to be available “when needed.” Which could be at 9 p.m. if someone on your team is a night owl.

    Someone asked for clarification recently and, now, officially, we are “supposed” to be “available” 8-8 ET (!!!) so that we “can be flexible for all the different time zones and to childcare challenges.” But we’re not “required” to “engage” or take meetings that entire window — we just have to “see” and “respond if necessary.” Which I count as engaging. I mute notifications on my phone at 6pm and stay out of my email.

    1. Dinwar*

      Being required to respond “if necessary” is called being on call (before someone objects, note the air quotes around “if necessary” and remember scope creep). You need to be paid for that time.

      I use the beer rule. If I’m not allowed to have a beer because you may need me to help with something, I’m on the clock and thus am getting paid. I’m a consultant; if you tell me to get out of bed my first question is “Who am I billing?”

    2. Phil*

      I believe that here in The Great State Of California that would qualify as “on call” and you’d get paid for it all!

  10. JelloStapler*

    *(a) your workload has slower times too and (b) the flexibility they want from you goes both ways and you can leave earlier than, say, 5 during those slow times when your workload allows. *

    Unfortunately, too many companies use “salary” as an excuse to ignore both of these guardrails and you can always work more but never less to balance it out.

      1. gmg22*

        So in other words, your company’s owner doesn’t have enough staff (by design, so he can make more profits). Been there!

        1. Queen Ruby*

          Haha..yes! And I will provide some stories about what he does with that money some day…

  11. mlem*

    I would 100% reply with, “It’s great to hear that we’re moving towards working professional hours! Effective immediately, I accordingly will be working 8-4:30 with a half hour lunch break.” Make them state their unprofessional definition of “professional”.

    1. WindmillArms*

      This is a good idea–especially once you’ve accepted your next job! I’ve worked in offices as a professional for many years, and I don’t think I’ve ever been at my desk over 40 hours in a week.

  12. kiki*

    I feel like there’s an interesting sociological phenomenon in workplaces where the management at workplaces believe their way is the most professional way because everyone who succeeds, lasts, and moves up in their organization abides by that set of norms. They either don’t realize or ignore that they’re the ones selecting the winners, so they are creating and ingraining their own set of professional norms that may not actually reflect the broader professional culture.

  13. Kim*

    I worked for a company ( they bought out my former company) where if you worked less than 70-80 hours a week ( salaried) you were called a slacker or a “part timer”. They fired or demoted many employees who couldn’t/wouldn’t work like this continuously. Fortunately I found another job.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I quit a job with no job lined up when a new sub-manager said that working 50 hours a week was the bare minimum to be meeting expectations, and to consider our priorities. My MIL had cancer at the time, and so I considered my priorities and quit. (A better job fell in my lap after about a month.)

      1. Mr. Shark*

        Sorry about your MIL, but good for you for quitting and finding something better.
        Workplace norms like that have to be challenged.
        I vote that we take up some of the new allowances in some of the other countries — 4 day work weeks, no contact after work hours (though that seems impossible given the time zone constraints when you are an international company).

    2. JustAnotherKate*

      Yeah, I realized I was done with my (small) law firm when I left work around 6:45pm and another associate snarked, “Taking a vacation?” He also used to write down when people came in and left the office each day, or at least he would whip out his notebook and mark on it when someone left before him or got in after him.

      Guess who’s a partner in that firm now and who left the practice entirely?

  14. Ranunculus*

    When I was in Business School, I once met a person at a networking event who worked for a big consulting company and who had just negotiated a half-time position so that he could work from 8-5 every day and be home with his newborn child in the evening. Made a mental note there and then to not apply to any positions at consulting companies.

    1. Alex*

      I work in consulting, and while it’s not quite that bad, I wouldn’t say his experience is substantially out of the norm. Our (very few) part-time people work 38 hours a week, and full time 50+. The money is good though, and the part time people are still eligible for health insurance, although no other benefits. If I could afford it (student loans ) I’d go part time in a heartbeat.

      1. gmg22*

        I’m sorry, but I’m sitting here chuckling to myself that 38 hours a week is considered “part time.” (Though like you, I’d jump at that if the money worked out since it includes health insurance. Hell, for 38 hours a week and retention of my sanity, I can easily afford to start up my own retirement account.)

        The work week at my first full-time job, in a unionized newsroom starting in 1997, was 32.5 hours (an evening shift, 5-11:30 pm). And because the presses started at 10:50 pm and all but one or two designated “late” people would then promptly be sent home, in practice it was actually more like 30 hours. Yes, this was in the United States of America. Though I guess it was kind of like being employed in Europe. I had absolutely no idea how good I had it (understandably, because I was 22). Now, this came with a downside of having to put in some holiday shifts, regular weekends, etc, and if evening work wasn’t for you, then this would not be your gig. Not to mention that I’m sure the MBAs of the world would tell me that this is a reason the newspaper industry went down the tubes. But it sure was a civilized way to live.

      2. Never Nicky*

        My full time role is 35 hours a week. And I’m manager level. I work 8-4, and if I have a late meeting or event get time off in lieu. Maybe three weeks a year I have a spell of working overtime, and TOIL applies then, too.

    2. Girasol*

      We had an employee who was told by his doctor that he needed to cut back to 30 hour weeks so he renegotiated his position for part time. He was then expected to work 50 hours a week, because if the full time 40 hour/week guys do 60 hours, then a 30 hours part timer ought to do 50. (He had to quit for his health.)

    3. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      I think consulting businesses are usually run on a project basis to do work for other companies. So I’m sure there must be a big push to finish those projects in a timely fashion (or rack up billable hours like law).
      It would likely be a little different than working at the same company day in, day out.

      I’d assume they get a very high pay, as companies typically pay a lot to bring in a consulting firm.

      1. Dinwar*

        I work as an environmental consultant. We work based on projects (at least at my level). I imagine the day-to-day isn’t much different from non-consulting jobs–I’ve got my supervisor, I’ve got people I report to, I’ve got staff under me that I’m responsible for. The biggest difference is I need to figure out what projects to charge my time to each day.

        Whether there’s a push to get projects done in a timely fashion depends on how they’re built. I typically do firm fixed price projects, meaning the client cuts us a check and we do the work. In theory that’s all the money we get. If we do the work for less we pocket the money; if it costs more, we take a loss. There are of course assumptions and justifications for change orders and value added services (where we do work without asking for more money), but mostly it’s “I paid you X, you provide Y, we call it quits.” You can also build a project time and materials, where the amount your paid is based in part on the amount you work. I’ve worked on those projects, but not managed them, so I’m not up on the nuances. I do know there’s often a Not To Exceed ceiling.

        The biggest issue for us is the seasonality of our work. We can’t work when it’s raining, or too cold, and heat slows us down, etc. So we have to hit it hard when we can hit it at all. But everyone who comes into this business knows that coming in, it’s not a shock to anyone.

        I get paid well, but I wouldn’t say it’s very high. I’m comfortably middle-class. The reason for the high costs is that consulting firms need to charge 3x-5x the salary of the people doing the work to break even. The income from when you have jobs needs to cover the periods when you don’t, plus overhead (rent, utilities, insurance, all that good stuff). Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy with my pay (not as happy with my hours, but that’s a whole other thing); I’m just saying that most of the cost of hiring a consultant doesn’t go to the consultant, but rather to those things that let the consultant do their job.

        All of that said, one nuance that my company is acutely aware of is federal timesheet requirements. We get audited routinely, and are required to follow federal guidelines or lose the ability to bid on federal work, which means we’d go under. The feds require workers to be paid for all hours worked, full stop. If I tried to argue “But they’re salary, so they only get paid for 8 hours!” my company would fire me on the spot as an olive branch to their best customer. It’s actually a bit of an issue, honestly–if you transition from field work to office work you typically don’t work overtime anymore, and it’s a significant pay cut (20-30%). I know people who’ve refused promotions because of that. I’m making that transition; my wife and I are dealing with it by pretending I don’t have the money, squirreling it away, so when I do get the pay cut we’re already used to the lifestyle.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          When I worked environmental consulting there were three types of project, Flat Rate, Time & Materials, and Cost Plus Fixed Fee. The federal ones were usually the last. We also billed in increments of 0.1 hour.

          All of us were salary, but we billed the client hourly. We had to conform to federal per diem, etc, on even the T&M projects, because the feds insisted that they get the best rate and that we used their accounting standards.

          In the summer field work could easily be 12+ hour days, all solidly billable. We ended up in a situation where our engineers were billing hourly, sometimes 14 hour days for weeks at a time, but only getting straight salary for 40 hours a week. That caused a bit of a problem for lots of reasons. So they solved it by basically saying that field work was paid at straight time for any hours over 40 that were billable. The field engineers were much happier about flying halfway across the country to work 14 hour days for two weeks in someplace like Georgia in June after that.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Addendum: This was almost 30 years ago, and I believe it was the feds that spurred the rule that all hours worked, even by exempt professionals, had to be paid if they were billed. Those of us who were doing field work didn’t complain…

          2. Dinwar*

            I forgot about cost-plus. I haven’t worked on any of those, so they slipped my mind.

            We still use federal per diem guidelines. It’s the easiest thing to justify in our bid packets. “Why did we pick this? Because it’s literally the price you say we should be paying, right here.” :D

            The story I was told agrees with your addendum. The feds got REALLY cranky about some crap companies were pulling, and did a serious overhaul of how staff get paid. That’s where the bonding came in–you have to have a payment bond, to ensure that your workers are getting paid even if you go belly-up on the project. I’m not sure if everyone has this, but the contracts I’ve worked under include clauses about timesheet audits to ensure compliance with these regs. I’m under the impression that it’s pretty common to have these. And even if it’s not, it’s the law, so the regulators can look anyway.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Yep, they used to audit us occasionally. I would track my day by project number and tenths of hours. Some weeks I had a two page timecard because I worked on so many different projects in a supporting chemist role. But I would participate in the costing on CPFF contracts. That was interesting.

              I’m in high tech now, doing systems admin/devops now, but I miss my environmental career some days. I had to change fields when I became disabled because I couldn’t do field work any more. But I still miss it. I was at that company for the longest of my entire working life – seven years.

  15. Bryce*

    I grew up in a single-business town, and when I started working there I was told to show up an a branch office “first thing in the morning” for training.

    As my first traditional-hours job I thought it was 9, because of Dolly Parton’s song and that’s when school started. They thought I knew it meant 8 because I was a local and the whole town knew what Lab Time was. Really should’ve been communicated better but fortunately the only consequence was some embarrassment and catch-up.

      1. Bryce*

        Definitely, but a good example of people working off assumptions that everyone else has the same understanding.

    1. Goldenrod*



  16. anonymous73*

    There is no such thing as professional hours, or even standard hours. It will vary based on industry, type of job or any number of factors. I guess you could say typical office work is 9-5 (with variation for lunch breaks), but again, it can vary. Your company sucks. Just because you’re salaried doesn’t mean you should be expected to consistently work 12 hour days, 5 days a week. You may have certain busy times where you work longer hours, but if you’re EXPECTED to work that much all the time, they have very unrealistic expectations of what’s acceptable and appropriate for the average human.

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      If they want 12 or 14 hours of work every day, they ought to be required to pay overtime for hours beyond 8 hours.
      I guarantee the 14 hour days would stop right quick.

  17. Rolly*

    “what’s the definition of “professional hours”?

    Depends on how much you’re being paid.

  18. gmg22*

    The other thing this says about how poorly this company is managed is that they don’t have a meaningful system for addressing productivity/performance, so things like “You have to be here 11 hours every day regardless of the ebb and flow of your projects” end up substituting for that. An inflexible “butts in seats” policy is what an employer does when they don’t actually know how to judge the value of their employees’ work. (OP’s comment above about the crummy bonuses, distributed on a basis of personal favoritism from the owner, just drives this point further home. Good luck on the job hunt, OP!)

    1. Christmas Carol*

      I thought the song went:
      Workin’ Nine to Five, what a way to make a livin’
      Barely gettin by, all the takin and no givin.

  19. Webeh*

    Glad to hear you are planning the leave. I’ve hit a point in my career where I now expect to be paid for all of the hours I work. This is something I strictly monitor and enforce. But to be fair, I’m currently in the fortunate position where I can do this and am able to turn down offers when I think the employer won’t play ball.

    This is a fairly new perspective for me, as a few years back I had a contract where I easily worked 70hrs/week. This was to meet a really aggressive deadline for an under-resourced project with an expectation for a renewal and a future chance at FT. So, I successfully met the deadline on budget and management were super happy by the outcome. And… my reward for a job well done was unemployment. Management wanted to take a break before entering phase 2 of the project, which meant there was no money to pay for my salary. As you can guess, I was really not pleased by this.

    After that, I decided that I’m never going to break my back like that for a job ever again. Looking back, because of all of the hours worked I was earning way less per hour than I should have been. That was really not a good deal for me. So, I decided that I’m never letting myself be taken advantage of like that ever again.

    1. WindmillArms*

      My first professional job was a job where the work never ends and you can end up working all your waking hours if you’re not careful (teacher). I survived one year, and then moved to a field where I’ve never had to work over 40 hours in a week, and I’m paid hourly–for *every* hour. Don’t short yourself money or sanity for an employer, especially now!

    1. gmg22*

      “Yeahhh I’m gonna need you to go ahead and come in tomorrow … oh yeah, and I’m also going to need you to come in on Sunday, too. Okaaaaay? Greeeeat!”

  20. Amber Rose*

    We’re all salary. We work 8 hours a day from open to close and everyone vanishes like ghosts at closing time. To me, that’s professional. We work while we’re open and don’t when we’re not.

  21. NewYork*

    I think people in investment banking or big law firms are expected to work long hours. But they get paid big bucks. People in accounting firm work long hours certain times of year.

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Yeah, but OP said they got paid $59k/year. Hardly big bucks. Basically with 70 hour weeks it’s like minimum wage for someone is probably a college graduate with a certification.

      I call it WAGE THEFT

  22. Allison*

    This might sound crazy, but bear with me: what if that memo about professional hours wasn’t for you, OP, but it was for everyone else, and they’re actually trying to get people to rein in the late working. Maybe HR has noticed that the company has started to engage in this weird culture of seeing who can work the latest, because it’s bad for morale and it’s making everyone feel like a failure if they try to leave at a normal time and go have a life (and they’re side-eyeing OP because they’re jealous), and they’re trying to put the kibosh on it? I mean, if I’m right, they definitely should’ve communicated it better – “We want to remind everyone that we expect employees to start roughly at 9AM and finish work around 5PM; we understand that sometimes our workloads call for extra hours, but we’ve seen working until 8PM become the norm for some teams and it looks like a recipe for burnout. Managers, please make sure your direct reports aren’t working late just for the sake of it.”

    OP if you have a manager you can ask, I’d go to them and ask for clarity. BUT if, ultimately, this is an office where working until 8PM is and always will be the norm, and that’s not common in your industry, I’d start job hunting.

    1. Queen Ruby*

      Oh, that’s definitely not what they mean. That would be nice though! Working late and on weekends is the norm and the expectation. It’s not the norm in the industry though.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        Still, you should assume that IS what they mean, since it IS the definition of “professional hours.”

        “Oh, I thought when you said ‘professional hours’ you meant that we shouldn’t engage in wholesale burnout hours, and should limit our hours to what is normally considered professional. That’s not what you meant? Well, I was about to give you my 2 weeks notice anyway, and I should be able to document my work in normal professional hours in my time left.”

        1. Pomegranate*

          haha I like it.
          Boss at 7:30pm: “Are you leaving for the day? Remember you should be working professional hours!!!”
          OP: “OMG, Boss, you are so right. I won’t stay this late tomorrow. I’ll try really hard to not work more than the professional 8 hours a day.”

  23. Goldenrod*

    I think there is a misunderstanding about salaried staff that you are supposed to regularly work over 40 hours a week.

    I don’t believe that is correct. The idea – like Alison said – is that the sum total of the time you put in should more or less EQUAL 40 hours….meaning, sometimes you do work late, but sometimes you leave early, so it all evens out.

    I think employers like to fudge this sometimes to trick people into feeling they aren’t allowed to have any work/life balance. But that is B.S., and OP, your company sucks (and I know you know it)!

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      Salaried = 40 hours per week. SAME as hourly workers.
      The only difference is that a salaried worker can work “some” extra time without getting paid overtime because they are meant to be more independent professionals and have some discretion to finish work as it’s needed.

      But companies can and do abuse this all the time. It something that is really, really wrong in America, where a company is basically committing wage theft by telling salaried workers they have to work 60 or 70 hour weeks on a regular basis.

  24. GoldenLatte*

    This reminds me of a private university I used to work at, on a team of technical professionals in one of the IT areas. Upon being hired I was told our hours were 8am-5pm. So I showed up at 8am, then left at 5pm. A little while later, our boss got upset that we didn’t know that it actually meant “business hours”, as is open for professors and students to contact us. So we were required to come in a little before 8am, and couldn’t leave until at least 5pm or a little later. After that, she got upset that we were “rushing out the door” at 5pm to return home to our families, and instituted a rule that we couldn’t actually leave until like 5:05 or something. Soon after, she got upset that we weren’t working 45 hours a week minimum, and informed us that we were expected to do, despite never actually telling us that until it bothered her so much she said something. The root of the problem, though, was that she actually expected us to willingly and cheerfully work huge amounts of overtime (we were salaried/exempt) without having to tell us. And we all left that job within about two years of each other, and have been much happier since.

    OP – you aren’t doing anything “unprofessional”. Most companies “professional hours” are typical 8 hour days. Best of luck on finding a new job!

  25. RJ*

    OP, I feel your pain. I worked at a firm like this who tried to ‘professional hours’ shame me, neglecting to remember that I monitored international projects and was often in the office 2-3 hours before the other staff ( my field is project finance). Good luck on your job search. You don’t need to put up with this. There are better firms out there.

  26. Texan In Exile*

    I worked in corporate finance for one year and one day. (When I quit, my boss suggested I add the day just to make sure I would not have to re-pay my signing bonus and moving expenses.)

    The reason I quit after only one year and one day?

    Because I left work one day at 6 p.m. after getting in at my usual 7 a.m. – I hadn’t missed any deadlines – and my boss’s boss told my boss to counsel me. For leaving at 6 p.m.

    The norm was that we worked until 9 p.m. or later. I knew that at 10 p.m., the lights went out and I had to call the guards to turn them back on.

    The massive pay for these long days? $59K a year.

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      That’s an expected 14 hour day! It’s unsustainable, and the pay would only be like minimum wage with those hours. This kind of shit should not be legal unless they pay overtime.

  27. Colorado*

    Working in a professional, successful company of all exempt employees, our professional hours are “we are adults, get your work done.” Sometimes that means 50+ hour weeks and sometimes that means I’m having a shitty week, I’ll work maybe 30. OP – good luck on your search and hope you get out soon!

  28. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    Yeah, that sucks, and you can find better, and how about this: in my division, the work hours are posted as 8:30 – 4:30. I’m customer-facing, but set my own appointments; plus I’m only one of two people in my unit, and I asked my boss if it was okay to come in between 9:00 and 9:30. He didn’t care, as long as the work was done. My coworkers, though, whipped themselves into such a storm of rage that I was forced to request accommodation to come in at 9:30. (Yes, I have a disability). These people seriously have nothing better to do, I swear.

    1. Gary Patterson's Cat*

      I worked at one place where I had a long commute, so I asked to start at 7am. I was not customer facing, and technically can do my work from anywhere. Nor did I have late afternoon meetings because I was generally meeting with our people in Europe time zone where early was a plus.

      You would not believe the shit I got for “leaving early” at 3 or 3:30 pm AFTER I had worked a full 8 hours. And the complainers? They rolled in around 9am most days. Yet somehow in their minds I was the one leaving early because it was before five.

      1. Tangerina Warbleworth*

        Oh, honey, I would sooooo believe you. The same clowns at my work whipped themselves into another, mightier storm of rage when they saw me leaving at 3:30 on days when I gave info sessions (on different parts of campus) from four to five, then went home. It was on my open Outlook calendar, I announced these sessions to everyone when I scheduled them, they’re listed on my unit’s website….. I don’t know who finally clued them in, but it was at least eight months before they finally shut up.

        And HOW, for Lord’s sake, does this actually affect any of them? I had nothing to do with their work. Uch. Solidarity, friend.

        1. La Triviata*

          Yes, I had a similar situation with one person especially. I’d arrive at the office at 8:00am (we’d be expected to put in a 7.5-hour day, with some exceptions and extra time as needed) and leave about 4:30. And the one person, who’d arrive between 9:00 and 9:30 would often be near the door, making comments about how they wished THEY could leave early. Luckily, she was someone most people knew not to listen to, but it was still annoying.

          1. Dinwar*

            This happened to me on a jobsite. I work best in the mornings, so I come in a bit early, an hour or so before the “official” start of the day. Other people work best in the evenings, so get in just in time for the safety meeting. I’d leave at 6, and they’d comment on me leaving early. Once I started saying “Yeah, but I don’t sleep in like you lazy bums” the comments stopped.

      2. WindmillArms*

        I worked in an office with core hours from 9-3, where we could do the rest of our hours on either side of that. A lot of the old military guys did 7-3, while I did 9-5. If any of them made a comment about me “finally rolling out of bed,” I went out of my way to scoff at him “leaving early.” They usually laid off us late risers pretty fast.

        I don’t understand why people want to start commenting on others’ hours when it doesn’t impact them! Surely that just invites people scrutinizing them right back.

  29. Gary Patterson's Cat*

    At my company the hours you are expected to “be available” for calls or meetings is 8am – 5pm, though most people are courteous and try to schedule the bulk of meetings between 9am to 4pm. This has held even with WFH and people shifting things around.

    That said, there ARE days when you’ll end up in meetings all day and then have no time to get your “actual” work done. I often find myself working until 7 or 8 pm when that happens. But it’s not every day by any means.

  30. Just smile & nod*

    If you’re already checked out emotionally, can you just work 9-5 or 8-5 and then just smile & nod if someone tries to “counsel you?” And continue what you’re doing.

    1. Queen Ruby*

      That’s what I’m trying to do. Just get a decent amount of work done to keep people off my back, and bounce as soon as my 8 hours are over. Some days I just can’t though.

      1. Dinwar*

        You never will. The company is pretty obviously not built to allow this. What I’d suggest is getting comfortable with not getting everything done. Remember, it’s your boss that’s put you in this position–you’re just refusing to kill yourself to pretend he’s not making trouble.

  31. Hailrobonia*

    This is a perpetual problem in my workplace, one of the many reasons I am job hunting. We are expected to do “100% effort” which in their mind is 40+ hours per week not including any lunch breaks.

  32. Gail*

    Professional hours are definitely “a thing”. It’s well understood in my industry to mean that we work the hours required to get the job done. We are paid accordingly with good salaries and bonuses etc but it is expected that you will work more than your contracted hours.

    1. Queen Ruby*

      But what if your workload cannot be tackled in less than 12 hours a day? What if you weren’t paid well and didn’t get bonuses?

  33. Fez Knots*

    As someone who is a new remote employee of an EST based company and who works in PST time zone, this is something I’ve thought about A LOT recently.

    For office jobs, anything outside of the 8 AM to 6 PM realm is not normal.

    We’re allowed to stagger our hours and so many of my coworkers start work before 8 am. When I first interviewed, they asked if I would be willing to start at 6:30 am (since that was 9:30 EST.) When I shared this with a few friends and family, there was a general consensus that “this sucks but that’s what they want.”
    I held firm by referencing ‘professional business hours’ and compromised with a work schedule that’s better for everyone. It’s not the hours either side might choose first, but it allows for my work to be done well and on time while respecting my work-life balance.

    Working abnormal hours has such a profound affect on my mental health (I’ve done shift work and was in clinical health care with no traditional holidays for a long time), so even though everyone around me thought I should just conform, I knew that wouldn’t make me happy. All I had to do was ask and my employer met me with a compromise! Don’t be afraid to negotiate! You’re not being “lazy,” it really does matter.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      I work for an East Coast firm but I live on the West Coast. Sometimes the clients will schedule important meetings at 9 am Eastern. That’s 6 am my time. I work 7:30 am to 4 pm, roughly, but if I it’s not a Monday I’ll try to log on for the early meetings, although it’s not required at my level. But I work remote, I can sit in a Zoom call with my coffee and be a semi-zombie. If I had to go into an office it would be impossible – I wouldn’t be safe to drive, IMO. (My team lead is also on West Coast time, which helps.)

      1. CatBookMom*

        Given that my last job (90s) at an LA-based software company, involved working with people in offices across the US/Canada, in Europe, and in Asia, email was a god-send. At least, we could communicate without anyone having to be up at ghods-forsaken hours. Few of our issues were so urgent that a 24-36hr turnaround was too long.

        Phone calls to/from the US East Coast were the worst; I finally convinced most of my colleagues there that email was Our Friend, too. Part of that was just that I did my best to respond quickly, even if I didn’t have all the info; just letting them know I saw their queries and tried to build up a rep for actually following up, and seeing that my staff did the same.

      2. CatBookMom*

        Given that my last job (90s) at an LA-based software company, involved working with people in offices across the US/Canada, in Europe, and in Asia, email was a god-send. At least, we could communicate without anyone having to be up at ghods-forsaken hours. Few of our issues were so urgent that a 24-36hr turnaround was too long.

        Phone calls to/from the US East Coast were the worst; I finally convinced most of my colleagues there that email was Our Friend, too. Part of that was just that I did my best to respond quickly, even if I didn’t have all the info; just letting them know I saw their queries and tried to build up a rep for actually following up quickly, and seeing that my staff did the same. Even it was just to say “No, no answer from Corp Mgmt yet; will check in again today and let you know any status changes via email today.” So a whole bunch of phone/text dither was kept to minimal emails over a working day.

        Someone tell me: is this just too slow, antiquated, by today’s “I want an answer NOW!” culture?
        Am I too old-school to think that for many issues, 24-36hr replies are soon enough? Not all, no; I get that. But a query from my tax dept staff to their counterparts in Europe could surely wait that long.

  34. StudentA*

    I think LWs should provide more info in their questions to the blog. If anyone at any employer of mine said this to me, it would be insufficient info, and I’d have to request clarification. But the way the question is posed here today to AAM is just vague. The LW is asking a specific question, granted she hates her job otherwise. Of course ideally she should leave. But it doesn’t seem to truly answer any questions for the OP with so little info.

  35. CupcakeCounter*

    Employer: “We work professional hours here”

    OP: “Really! That’s awesome.”
    (starts gathering up items to go home)

    Employer: “What are you doing?????”

    OP: “You said we work professional hours. Those are generally accepted to be 8-5 – I should have left 1 1/2 hours ago!”

  36. Beth*

    Mandatory long hours might be acceptable if 1) you’re paid really, really well for it, and 2) you knew coming in that that’s what you were signing up for. But that’s the exception, not the norm. Normal business hours are…well, maybe 9 hour days (8-5, 9-6 ish range), nowadays, but definitely not staying until 8pm or later!

    1. Long Gone*

      I had a salaried job years ago (in a field that is normally paid hourly) and the boss took it personally if I tried to leave on time for a 7:30pm event every other week– official hours ended at 6pm. The only thing in the week that he tried to get out on time for was the Cosby Show (yes that long ago) at 8pm Thursday, the end of our client-facing days for the week.
      At my next job, I just about fell over when our boss cheerfully released my co-worker on time every night to work at her second job! No whimpering, no side-eye, no sarcasm, no pep talks about being committed, no passive aggressively adding late client appointments or extra services, no 1:1s to listen to lengthy passages read from Cruiseology (apologies to any possible aficionados among the commentariat), no long-suffering sighs.

  37. A Feast of Fools*

    The company I was at before this job — and the one where I only lasted a year before quitting — had 45 hours as the normal, expected work week.

    And, despite us all being salaried, managers wanted to know when you left your computer / work space for any amount of time longer than the quickest of bathroom breaks / coffee refills. I remember my manager become coldly irate when he messaged me in Slack and I didn’t respond immediately. He then called my cellphone (literally a few seconds later), which I had left in my desk drawer while I’d gone to the bathroom. I got an icy “reserved” talking-to about being “out of pocket” and “unavailable when the team needs me”. Dude, I was gone for 3-4 minutes, tops.

    Needless to say, the actual average work week was between 50 and 60 hours. Anything less and you were slacking off.

    1. GoldenLatte*

      I would have driven that boss totally insane during my pregnancies, where I typically went to the bathroom about 2-3 times every hour. :) I was a very hydrated pregnant person.

  38. Velomont*

    Hi OP, I work for a large, very successful multinational and we have core hours, though they’re not terribly enforced, to the extent that I no longer know what they are.

    All I do know is that I have to work at least 40 hours each week – how I distribute them is basically up to me, as long as I make the meetings I need and produce whatever I’m supposed to produce.

    You really should try to find a better job. Good luck.

  39. Debbie C*

    It depends on the industry and the salary. Professional hours for lawyers, accountants, and other “learned professions” are not 8 hour days. Investment bankers also do not work 40 hour weeks.

    1. Beth*

      I think it’s pretty widely known, though, that those industries are exceptions to standard professional hours. And that they’re generally compensated enough to make up for it (at least for a few years, for people who choose to opt into that path). You could say the same about other known-not-to-be-standard industries. No one expects a retail worker to have a routine 9-5 schedule. No one thinks an actor will work 40 hours every week. But we still acknowledge that in general, unless you signed up for something that you know is outside the norm, a 40ish hour work week and business hours somewhere in the 8-6 range is considered professional hours.

  40. HelloFromNY*

    What this LW is experiencing is actually pretty common. Especially in certain industries. I think it comes from a mindset that if someone is exempt, you can ask them to work long hours and get some extra “free” labor.

  41. Xaraja*

    I’m curious whether there’s any chance this is an attorney at a corporate law firm, because in that case, those would definitely be the professional hours expected. Young lawyers are worked to death in corporate law firms. And i gather they tend to be pretty toxic too. But i assume a lawyer would know that so probably not.

    1. Queen Ruby*

      Hi OP here! Definitely not an attorney – I’m in pharma, have close to 20 years in the industry. So not a young lawyer, but if I were, I’d probably be paid a lot more! lol

    2. Canadian Librarian #72*

      I used to work in corporate law (as a librarian), and this is correct. I worked a standard 9-5 or 8-4 shift, as did my colleagues in the library, but lawyers were constantly doing a surprised Pikachu impression upon learning that we would not, in fact, be available to do on-demand research for them at 10 pm on a Saturday or 7 am on a Monday. It was frankly really obnoxious, and the toxic work culture of corporate law is why I quit. That, and I didn’t love that my labour supported the tar sands.

  42. Chris*

    I think I may once have worked for this company (or it’s twin). My contract said that my hours of work were 9-5.30. During my first day I was told that our team worked the hours it took to do the job, and that was routinely 8am to 8pm with no breaks and lunch no more than 30 minutes. My Country has laws prohibiting this sort of eploitative behaviour and when I mentioned this I was “written up” to HR, who gave me a formal warning about my “attitude”. So I kept my head down and searched for another job, which took about 6 months. During this time all my holiday requests were denied, so come the time I handed in my notice I had enough holiday banked to walk out the same day and never return.

  43. Hacker For Hire*

    They made it up and they’re gaslighting you. Also, stop working 50 hr/week and do only the work hours defined in your contract. (You get the salary defined in your contract, and not a cent more, correct? So why should you put up more hours?)

  44. Chicken Situation*

    “That’s reasonable only if (a) your workload has slower times too.” That is key. My boss is making me work insane hours because we won’t replace staff (or make other staff do their jobs, but that’s a whole other story). She noted that sometimes I’ll have more work and sometimes I’ll have less, but when I noted that I’ve (literally!) never had less, she brushed me off.

    1. Queen Ruby*

      Do we work together? Lol it’s literally the same thing here! Others screw up left and right and it’s all on me to handle. No accountability at all for anyone else.

  45. Cruella DaBoss*

    “Office Hours” are typically an eight hour window ( 8 – 5, 9-6, and so forth). Unless your are in a retail setting, where “Store Hours” (9 -9, 10-10, etc…) would come into play. I would ask for clarification of expectations.

  46. Hokius*

    What is it with employers who want to pretend like there isn’t a standard? I get it if they want you to work something other than the standard – I don’t agree with it, but I could understand wanting it. But my boss recently told me that there is no standard American workweek when, during a discussion about hours, I mentioned that I had understood my position to use that standard and that I only worked more than that when there seemed to be a good business reason to do so.

    He also brags about his 50-hour workweeks and how he almost always loses vacation every year because he doesn’t use enough of it and the company only rolls over so much. There’s a lot I like about this job, but his skewed ideas of what a work-life balance should look like are not among them!

  47. Canadian Librarian #72*

    What’s “professional” depends entirely on the industry and type of work. I currently staff a university library services chat line, and our hours extend til 10 pm on weekdays. I’ve also worked til 10 or later in food service. However, “normal” business hours are generally 8 hours a day (minus a half hour or one hour lunch break), and are usually 8-4, 9-5, 10-6, or some other permutation starting around 8-10 and ending around 4-6. I used to work an 8-4 shift, for example. The standard number of hours to be considered full time in Canada is a minimum of 34 per week, and most people do 37.5 (or 40, minus breaks) per week. In my spouse’s industry, it’s normal to work anywhere between 40 and 60 hours per week, but the pay rate goes up for for overtime.

  48. FinanceGal*

    I feel like it really depends on the industry. I work in finance and if I told someone I was only available 40 hours a week they would fire me so fast my head would spin. Same with my friends who work in corporate law. But I am in my early 20s and making 200k a year, for someone like my roommate who makes like 50k if she had to work more then 40 hours a week on average through the year I would think she is super being taken advantage of

  49. MidlifeCrisis*

    It’s your decision what hours you find reasonable and whether you want to accept that lifestyle. In my own opinion normal hours are 8 hours a day and anything beyond is poor management and abuse of power. Whether that’s professional, unprofessional, it doesn’t really matter, it’s a question of how you want to live and what you’re willing to tolerate.

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