What you need to know about an 8-hour workday (+ 8-hour workday calculators)

It's a business norm that full-time employees work 40 hours a week (including breaks). However, people often lose track of hours and end up doing more than they are supposed to. Here's a free 8-hour work day calculator that will show you when to be done for the day (plus a 7.5-hour calculator if you need to exclude breaks).

Open 7.5-hour calculator

8-hour workday illustration

How do you calculate 8-hour work days?

The math is quite simple if your only task is to add 8 hours from the moment you start working. However, there are several factors that can impact this.

We'll cover the most frequently asked question, such as should break time be calculated within an 8-hour shift — but first, let's check out what an 8-hour shift is, and which types of it exist.

What is an 8-hour shift?

An 8-hour shift is a global norm that full-time employees are required to work daily, 5 days per week, for the total hours worked per week to equal 40, according to the same norm.

There are three categories of shifts, depending on the business hours — well, more precisely, depending on the duration of total hours during which a business is open.

Therefore, employers can make the schedule for employees to work in the morning, evening, or a night shift — or any combination of the three.

8-hour shift: morning

The first category is the "morning-shift-only", where the business opens between 7 and 9 a.m. and closes for the day accordingly, between 3 and 5 p.m. You must've heard about the nine-to-five schedule — and that's precisely what we're referring to.

Most state and government institutions are open for business on such a schedule, Monday to Friday — or at least when it comes to the service-oriented work with clients. Some common examples are educational institutions, post offices, courts, daycare centers, banks, etc. — and those are usually closed during weekends.

Here's an example of determining the end time of a morning 8-hour shift with our free calculator.

🔽 Get 8-hour calculator, to see when to clock out.

8-hour work week calculator

8-hour shift: evening

Businesses in our second category have two shifts — so workers' schedule can point to either the morning or the afternoon shift. In some instances, the business will actually be open for the whole duration, while in others there will be a shift overlap.

The overlap may be intentionally scheduled due to the rush hour, delivery hours, or any other expected increase in circulation of people.

Various examples of non-essential businesses naturally come to mind when we think of longer hours.

Here's to name a few:

8-hour shift: night

There's also a third category that is related to 24/7 operations, thus needing three shifts to cover the whole day — morning, evening, and night shifts.

Both essential and non-essential businesses can be continuously open for different reasons.

Some examples for this category are:

FLSA: if you're working 8-hour shifts, what are you entitled to?

The Fair Labor Standards Act serves a purpose of setting the ground rules for two crucial aspects of work: minimum wage and overtime pay.

According to the official data, the current state of workers' rights shows the following.

Minimum wage

On a federal level, the minimum amount earned per hour worked is currently $7.25.

However, the minimum wage across states varies and is relative because of differences in living standards across the states, in most cases directly reflecting the living costs.

Overtime pay

Workers whose shifts are longer than 8 hours per day, or who have more than 40 hours per week are entitled to overtime compensation. Whatever the case is, overtime hours must be compensated at a 1.5 rate of a worker's regular hourly rate, or higher than that.

If your employer doesn't adequately keep track of overtime, workers should do it themselves. The law clearly states that higher compensation is within everyone's rights and there are no exceptions.

You can track hours manually or via software and calculate the total overtime on a weekly basis.

Does an 8-hour work day include breaks?

Different policies and regulations exist on the topic of requirement and calculation in terms of breaks in an 8-hour day — depending on factors such as:

In the US, short breaks, lasting between 5 and 20 minutes, are not required by the federal law. However, if a company policy allows these short breaks meant for coffee or snacks, that period counts as compensable.

On the other hand, there are periods dedicated to meals, longer breaks that last at least half an hour, which are not counted as time spent working, therefore being not compensable.

As the regulations vary by state, you should make sure you have all the necessary facts before calculating your working hours.

Regardless of whether those periods are included in the calculation or not, it is crucial to take regular breaks and even vacations.

The main reason is to prevent overworking and achieve the highest-quality performance at work. Both our bodies and our mind need time to refuel, so it's our duty to nurture them.

🔽 Get 7.5-hour calculator, in case you need to exclude your break time from the total 8 hours per day.

7.5-hour work week calculator

The importance of tracking your 8-hour shift

There are many benefits that start with better understanding of how a person allocates their time during the day. It's a key to maximizing your productivity levels, which is especially relevant for adequately managing your workload.

Tracking time can help you perfect your daily routine and in terms of the length of a shift, there are other aspects that matter.

For workers, arguably the 4 most important aspects of time tracking are:

So, the best starting point is to figure out what counts as working time and how to further optimize your 8-hour work day.

The amount of money that employees receive depends directly on the total of hours worked on a daily, weekly, and monthly level.

Everyone should be adequately compensated for the time they've invested and in order to ensure that — one of the best methods is to start tracking time, whether your employer requires it or not.

Another one of the frequently asked questions about the calculation is related to possible differences in day and night shifts. The answer is that it depends, but with the focus being more on the difference in the compensation rate rather than tracking of an 8-hour shift.

Sometimes, employers will offer higher wages for night shifts, as it's more inconvenient to work during the night.

How to track an 8-hour work day?

There are several ways for an employee to track the length of their shift and the first thing to determine is whether your employer requests a specific way of time tracking. If your answer is no, the choice is all yours, depending on what your preferences are — paper-based, old school methods or the digital one.

Just make sure you are well-informed about the exact length you are required to work and therefore track.

For example, many companies require their employees to count out their lunch break time, as it may be required by the law. If that is the case, then the employees should clock in only 7.5 hours instead.

That can be done in two ways, depending on a specific policy of a company in question.

One is to clock out for the duration of a lunch break and clock in again after. The other is to exclude the break time and add 7.5 hours to the moment you've clocked in.

But, that applies only if a company provides a solution for clocking in and out, which can be done in many different ways.

For example, employers can rely on timesheets, timecards, or the modern way — time tracking software.

Timesheet entering screenshot in Clockify

Productivity statistics indicate that the use of time tracking SaaS helps individual workers understand how they allocate their time in a better way, boosting their productivity levels by up to a whopping 47%.

How to organize your 8-hour work day to be most productive?

Everyone's raving about working smarter, not harder, but when it comes to doing so, most people simply don't know where to begin.

Different types of tasks require different physical and mental activities so it's essential to find the optimal time to perform each, as to be most efficient.

Here comes another way a time tracking software will boost productivity and improve your overall performance. It's because you'll be able to monitor and compare the results — how much time you spend on a certain task (first thing in the morning vs. after you've had lunch, for example).

Moreover, it's going to help you overcome many procrastination-related issues, which are common for the majority of workers.

Another important aspect of "working smarter" is related to an individual worker's motivation. It can be a difficult goal to achieve, especially without external benefits but, bear in mind, there are many useful methods to get and stay motivated.

Here are several other productivity booster pro tips you can use to improve your daily routine and get all the work done, while regularly accomplishing to leave work on time:

Impact of remote and flexible work on an 8-hour work day?

The beginning of the 21st century and technological advancements that came with it shed some light on the ineffectiveness of an 8-hour shift standard.

As various repetitive tasks have been automated, communication and collaboration tools have enabled faster progress, it turns out that period is unnecessarily long.

Getting more work done

No one can be productive for 8 hours straight. Moreover, employees who spend their shifts working in-office actually won't be working the whole time.

A significant portion of their time rather gets dedicated to chatting with coworkers, social media, and other time traps.

However, the adoption rates of remote, flexible, and hybrid work models are skyrocketing, especially since the global pandemic emerged. With the lack of distractions we've mentioned for the in-office setting, workers feel more in charge of their schedule and time in general.

Achieving better work-life balance

As a consequence, better work-life balance is achieved and people feel happier.

When we examine the main differences between an 8-hour work day in-office and an 8-hour remote work day, several advantages point to the latter being more beneficial for the majority of workers.

However, it can be difficult to get used to working from home and being productive in a space where you usually spend your leisure time.

But once all the obvious advantages are embraced, research indicates people are actually more productive while working remotely. There is no time lost on commuting or preparing for work, and there are no chatty coworkers to distract you from working when you're in the deep work zone.

The consequences of working longer than an 8-hour shift

The length of 8 hours is one-third of a day. The average adult should dedicate between 7 and 9 hours to sleep, so if we add up 8 hours we spend at work, all that's left is approximately 8 hours for other daily activities. That includes meals, daily hygiene tasks, socialization, going to the post office, grocery shopping, doing chores, etc.

Doesn't sound like too much, right?

Nowadays, as mental health as a topic becomes destigmatized, the awareness is increasingly raised and more and more people realize the importance of work-life balance.

Overworking and workaholism lead to burnout and should be avoided at all costs.

How to prevent the consequences of overworking?

One way to work on preventing the two is by working on one's time management skills. By using a proper time management system, we are able to understand there's more to life than work. Moreover, as we get a better understanding of our required tasks it's easier to prioritize them to achieve balance.

Both mental and physical exhaustion increase the risks of injury at a workplace, reduce our attention span, and increase the margin of human error in general.

Here's a convenient weekly hours tracker, so you can make sure you're within the 40-hour threshold (or get adequately compensated for your overtime hours).

🔽 Get 40-hour work week calculator to see if you're entitled to overtime pay.

40-hour work week calculator

What is the future of the 8-hour workday?

To better understand the possible future of the 8-hour workday, let's go back to how it all started for a moment. In this section, we'll tell you a story of how an 8-hour day, and therefore a 40-hour week, became a norm — and what we can except from this norm in the future of work.

Mid-1800s: People work 10 and 16 hours per day, 6 days a week

Until the mid-1800s, a typical worker in the manufacturing industry was required to work between 10 and 16 hours per day, 6 days a week. That translates to working nearly 100 hours per week.

The impact of such long hours was reflected in the suboptimal physical health condition of workers, as well as abolished the opportunity for any kind of work-life balance.

1866–1938: Labor unions' demands and an 8-hour work day movement

A significant milestone happened after the Industrial Revolution, as labor unions started advocating for change in the weekly hours of work.

When the 8-hour shift movement started in the early 1800s, a social reformer Robert Owen came up with the expression "Eight hours labor, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest."

People started aspiring to achieve some kind of balance between work and personal life.

In 1866, the Labor union mandated that Congress pass a law limiting the work day to 8 hours, which didn't happen until the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938.

1926: Henry Ford's revolutionary role in an 8-hour work day

Did you know that Ford Motor Company was one of the first in the USA that adopted the 5-day, 40-hour workweek?

The Deloitte-based automobile factory embraced shorter working hours and the move, despite being controversial at the moment, proved to be brilliant. Not only were the productivity levels significantly boosted but the employee engagement and loyalty levels skyrocketed as well. Henry Ford thus became one of the revolutionaries in the 40-hour workweek movement, setting the standard for others to follow.

What does the future look like for an 8-hour work day?

All of the above poses the question — is remote the future of all productive work?

The question that follows is this one — is 40 hours too much of weekly work in the Information Age?

Well, according to a CNBC article, 48% of workers believe their team productivity is higher in a work-from-home setting, compared to in-office work. Many other aspects are being examined since the pandemic started and Wired suggests people are most productive if they work for only 5 hours per day.

Some other experiments also indicate that a 40-hour workweek is actually decreasing workers' productivity levels — such as the one with an introduction of a 4-day workweek in Iceland.

How to best track time

All in all, even though research suggests that even an 8-hour work day may be too much, most of us are still stuck with this type of a schedule.

For that reason, it's vital to make the most of that time and more importantly, properly calculate it to know when you've worked enough. Tracking your hours will not only prevent overworking, but also help you use your full potential and be the best version of yourself. Once you make a habit of tracking your daily hours, we suggest you start tracking time on a basis of individual tasks.

Time tracking tools such as Clockify can help you:

And, who knows — we all may end up working for only 5 hours per day — but until then, make sure you actually stop when your time tracker strikes 8:00:00.

Free time clock and productivity tracker screenshot