What does "nine-to-five kind of person" mean?

For example:

The great thing about my job is just music, I get CDs constantly pushed into my hand, and I go to loads of gigs, so if you love music, there are plenty of added bonuses. Although, if you're a nine-to-five kind of person, then this isn't for you; as I say, I never really break out of work mode...

  • 8
    a "peson" is a new subatomic particle, I edited the typo in the headline for you!
    – Fattie
    Sep 16, 2014 at 10:30

6 Answers 6


Nine -to-five:

  • a job with normal daytime hours. I wouldn't want a nine-to-five job. I like the freedom I have as my own boss. I used to work nights, but now I have a nine-to-five job.

often used to mean:

  • reflecting, or exhibiting a lack of willingness to work beyond the required amount of time or with more than minimal effort: With your nine-to-five mentality, ...

Source: www.idioms.thefreedictionary.com

  • 3
    Yes, if the person is not willing to devote more time and effort to that job, that is not the right place for him/her.
    – user66974
    Sep 16, 2014 at 10:21
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    You know, it can mean not necessarily lazy, but rather than you prefer a conservative life
    – Fattie
    Sep 16, 2014 at 10:31
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    @JoeBlow I completely agree. Although not just conservative, but structured. Some people thrive on routine. These are nine-to-five type of people.
    – Richard
    Sep 16, 2014 at 11:21
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    "structured" is the perfect word. right, it is by no means a "pejorative" term. (it could be, but I'd say it is probably "usually not" pejorative. it carries a "different - but that's OK!" feel!)
    – Fattie
    Sep 16, 2014 at 11:27
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    It also can mean that there's no work/homelife separation. Plenty of people like to go to work on regular hours, go home, and not worry about work until they go in the next day. There are plenty of jobs where work doesn't necessarily stop when you get home. Like jobs where you're on call.
    – user65692
    Sep 16, 2014 at 15:53

Generally speaking it means someone who works (or would prefer to work) traditional working hours (9 AM to 5 PM, Monday to Friday), probably in an office environment. From this we can often infer several things:

  • That they would prefer not to work evenings, early mornings or weekends, at least not on a regular basis.
  • That they work for one organisation for an extended period of time, not for themselves or a wide range of clients.
  • That they (willingly) work the hours required of them each week, but no more.
  • They consider their job as a means to pay the bills rather than a passion. In other words they work to live, not live to work.

Obviously, not all of the above will be true for every individual. Arguably a builder, a shop assistant or a freelancer could be a 'nine-to-five kind of person' if they worked regular weekday hours.

Depending on context, this term can be have a positive meaning (e.g. a loyal and reliable employee) or a negative one (e.g. unadventurous, boring). In many cases it is just a neutral term indicating the person's preferred job type.

  • 7
    I think the key is living a structured life and having an expected schedule. I can very easily see a nine-to-five person working nights or putting in a consistent 50 hour work week. The structure seems to be the key.
    – Richard
    Sep 16, 2014 at 11:24
  • @Richard Nothing against nine-to-five, but the usually implied cubicle = death. Sep 16, 2014 at 13:36
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    "They consider their job as a means to pay the bills rather than a passion" -- although if you flip it around and spend 40 hours a week on a hobby you aren't paid for, that would be considered sufficiently passionate for most practical purposes ;-) Sep 16, 2014 at 14:08
  • 1
    @SteveJessop "they consider their job as a means to pay the bills needed to do what they're actually passionate in". Amazing how simple changes in word choices can alter the message so strongly
    – Raestloz
    Sep 16, 2014 at 16:15

OK, I wasn't going to post as an answer, but it seems that the other answers miss the mark.

A "9-to-5 kind of person" is someone who prefers to live a structured life. By comparison, someone who does not like "the 9-to-5" prefers a varying schedule and a more unexpected life.

What we have here is two concepts, both with connotations.

Literally, this is referring to a job that has the hours of 9am to 5pm. However, it is rarely (if ever) used literally. The term is used as a way to indicate a type of job that tends to be very structured and rigid. Because of that, it often has the connotation of being boring. When you "go to a 9-to-5" or "put in the 9-to-5", the speaker is usually implying that they do not enjoy their job because of the structure. It's generally considered a derogatory term.

With that said, the job itself is rarely 9am to 5pm. Often times these jobs can stretch to include nights or weekends. Employees who work 60+ hours a week may refer to their jobs as "9-to-5" jobs. However, it's rare for an employee who works varying schedules (20 hours some weeks, 60 in other weeks) to refer to their jobs as "9-to-5" because of the variations.

It's the structure of the job that implies a "9-to-5" type of job.

A 9-to-5 kind of person
This is the type of person who wants the structure provided by a 9-to-5 job. There are various reasons to want that type of job. Often, it's job security, a regular schedule, or a regular paycheck (and often all of those). The reason that "a 9-to-5 kind of person" is not considered derogatory is because working "the 9-to-5" has the advantages mentioned above.

People who are not "9-to-5 kind of people" tend to prefer the varying schedules and desire the unexpected. By comparison, "a 9-to-5 kind of person" tends to prefer the expected and therefore seeks out jobs that maintain that structure.

  • Absolutely the best answer by a long shot. (I'm lacking superlatives in my praise, no?) Sep 18, 2014 at 2:28

Personally, I see no negative connotation in the term 9-to-5 at all, especially in this context. The writer is stating how much he loves his job and that his "work" actually involves doing something that everyone else has to pay for. He's just stating that his hours are not normal day-job hours.

If anything, I'd say that "9-to-5" is usually used as a term to describe a boring job - not the poor unfortunate that has to do the job. Take this example from Michael Jackson's "Off the Wall":

 "Tonight, gonna leave that 9-to-5 up on the shelf and just enjoy yourself."


There are some different but similar concepts at play here and they have some overlap, so here's a comparison and contrast:

  1. (United States) The 9-5 job is typically more metaphorical than literal, referring to employment that meets the needs of the household. Despite the number of companies, each with their own policies and management, the workplace and compensation offered by each are similar enough that they are all conceptually 9-5 jobs.
  2. Generally, the "nine-to-five type" refers to personality traits and preferences that would cause an individual to favor stereotypical 9-5 jobs.
  3. Infrequently, the "nine-to-five type" is invoked to compare what is normal in a specific field or position to what is normal of 9-5 jobs in general. It can be used to identify individuals for which management styles may need to be changed.
  4. Someone may be referred to as a nine-to-fiver (also 9-5er, 9-5 worker) because they work a 9-5 job or because of their social status. The label connotes an individual's class (i.e. the price was outrageous to a 9-5er) and should be used with caution as a result. Referring to a specific person by the label will likely be taken as an insult; for example, introducing Bob as an accountant is perfectly acceptable, but introducing him as a nine-to-fiver could be considered insulting.

Anyone from the USA can read #3 only.

1. What is a 9-5 job?

(description for those outside the United States)

To those outside of the United States, a 9-5 job is permanent (as opposed to temporary), full-time (35+ hours) employment. It has little to do with the "9-5" part. To make sweeping generalizations, a 9-5 job is a boring office job that'll pay just enough for you to get by. Not very tantalizing, sure, but it seems most people prefer it to part-time work and construction/landscaping.

2. Where does the whole "type" thing come in?

The 9-5 job isn't supposed to be the end; over the years you're supposed to eventually get to one of the jobs that pays really well-- navigate through middle-management to become an executive, or start your own company. Capitalism does a great job of making it seem like you can get to millionaire by taking one step at a time.

If you follow the gameplan like you're supposed to, you'll risk your safe, fairly easy job on another position with more responsibility. The problem is that the higher you go up the responsibility chain, the more you need either luck or innate talent. And most of us don't have innate talent when it comes to dealing with people, let alone managing them... especially when everyone is competing with everyone else.

Eventually you settle. Most settle back where they started, at the bottom. As you go up the money tree fewer and fewer people manage to stick around without getting kicked down by the latest up-and-comer. You find yourself expending more and more time and energy just to stay where you are.

Everyone, with the exception of sociopathic compulsive gamblers whose game of choice is middle-management, eventually carves out for themselves a nice little niche where they're comfortable with how much time they're trading for money and becomes some kind of 9-5 type.

3. But what is the 9-5 type?!

The 9-5 type is the type that says dollars be damned, I want to work during work hours only. I start work when I arrive at 8am and I'm done working when I get in the car at 5pm. The 9-5 type wants to be able to take their vacation days and not spend all of them shooting emails back and forth.

The "9-5 types" are those who decided to stick with their 9-5 jobs because they don't want to spend any more time at the office than they have to, and because they prefer the security of their current, not-so-time-consuming job. They like leaving the house every day and getting home every day at the same time. They like knowing exactly what's expected of them every day. They like being able to turn off their phone when they go vacation. They like not having subordinates that require them to make decisions on the spot over and over.

Your quote makes the trade-off quite clear. He says that to do what he does, you have to give up that precious right to only worry about work during work hours. The quintessential "9-5 type" simply cannot give up their right to stop working.

4. So... we're all the 9-5 type...

No, as I said, sociopathic compulsive gamblers aren't. They keep rolling the dice. Whenever things go sideways, the go to a different company and start again. Or make a new one.

And one other exception: people who love their job. They're just as compulsive. Your quote says, "I never really break out of work mode..." He's got it backwards: it's not that he can't break out of work mode, it's that he can't break out of fun mode, and he's managed to channel his fun mode into someone's profit margins.

I'm a computer programmer, and I love it. If I weren't programming at work, I'd be programming at home. So you have to wonder, at any given time, am I working or playing?

5. Man, I wish I was like that.

You'd be surprised. I learned the hard way that doing what you love for a living is dangerous, both physically and for your career. I mentioned up there that in some fields, the 9-5 types are the minority, and programming is one of them.

Turns out most people who go into computer programming enjoyed it at some point in their life. They like it-- or at least some of it. So when you look at a programming department the situation is reversed-- you'll be lucky to have any developers at all who are truly 9-5 types. All of them will work fifty or sixty hours every week. They don't more because they've just been doing it so long. You can still tell they love it.

I am the youngest of the developers in the department, which is why I think it's worst for me. The rest of the crew call it a night at some point, but if I can't figure something out I may still be here when they come in the next morning. I just let myself work as many hours as I wanted for a while until I overdid it and hit burnout. Burnout is terrible... it's like going on vacation for a month to a place that has only one thing to eat: your favorite food. At some point, you start to hate your favorite food. You need a palate cleanser but all you have is your favorite food. In my case, I wanted to write code but the thought of writing code disgusted me for days. It's paradoxical... nonsensical... but it happened, and it sucks.

I'm lucky: I heard it once said that if you can make a living doing what you love, you never work a day of your life. It's mostly true. Go too far though, and what you love starts to feel like work. That's burnout. But after I experienced it, I realized the 9-5ers are the gifted ones. They really can go home and turn off work. I don't know what that would be like.

But I'm also an obsessive-compulsive sociopath. I probably don't know what being human is like.


Not an nine-to-five mentally

I've worked in the IT industry for 27 years (Belgium), and this phase usually means the candidate will:

work more than 8 hours a day,
work on weekends several times a month,
prioritise work over all else,
sleep with the phone on and next to their bed (oncall rotas), and
take their work phone with them on holiday.

Oncall rotas often have emergency several calls a night that require some urgent action. Imagine having disrupted sleep patterns between 10p.m and 8 a.m for a few weeks a month over the course of a few years.

I no longer apply for jobs with this requirement because, in my opinion, one signs up for a form of indentured servitude with health damage that is seldom mitigated by extra pay. People's physical and mental health suffer. In Belgium this strapline is attached to most job advertisements in the IT sector, and I consider this a form of employee abuse. Of course, if you dislike this, or have children or value a family or healthy sleep patterns, then you should find another job, but few employees have this luxury of choice.

Do not confuse this with a company offering "flexible working hours".

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