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Work Culture in USA – Working Hours, Lunch time, Meetings?

When I talk to my friends back in India working in IT, they say “I go to work at 8 AM and come back home at 9 PM or even late.” When I asked them, “what do they typically do so long apart from ‘work’ at work” … they say, “I take one hour for Breakfast, Tea/coffee break, One hour lunch, Smoke break, evening coffee break,  etc”.  From my experience working in multiple companies, the work culture I have experienced in America is completely different. I will share few thoughts on working hours, lunch time and meeting times, which are related to work culture in USA.

Working Hours or total time spent at work :

Depending on the company and your role in the organization this may vary, but in general people tend to work only 8 hours in US. People go to work around 8 AM and take off from work at 4:30 PM. The additional 30 minutes is for lunch. Some companies have flexible hours option, they allow their employees to work at their convenient time. Some come in late may be around 10 AM and work till 6:30 PM. Some people like to work early, they come in at 6 AM and leave around 3 PM.  The goal is to work 8 hours. Some  companies are even more flexible, they let you work from home on few days a week. So, it entirely depends on the organizations. But, the key point is, people tend to work only 8 Hours. If you work more than 8 hours, then you ask for compensation off time, if you are full time employee or bill the client for extra hours if you are consultant (contractor).


Lunch Time, duration. Eat at desk ? Lunch meetings ?

Typically lunch time in US is anywhere between 11:30 AM and 1:00 PM.  This may not be generalized, but for the most part people tend to allot around 30 min for their lunch time. Typically, people go out for a quick lunch, or bring in their lunch box from home. Some of them prefer to eat at desk to save lunch time and do parallel work or do something else. It is very common for people in US to eat at desk. People tend to eat at desk to save time and catch up on work and leave early.  Unless you are on a team lunch meeting, people tend to eat quick in 30 to 45 min. Sometimes, if there is a meeting scheduled during lunch hour, people eat lunch in meetings, they would just put in meeting request, lunch meeting or bring in your lunch unless the company is ordering.  If there is cafeteria or lunch room at work, people tend to go to them and eat there or buy lunch and come back to your desk.

Meetings ? Start time, end time of meetings?

Meetings are an integral part of corporate work culture in America. People tend to schedule lot of meetings to discuss and plan a variety of things. Meetings are usually started exactly on time. If the meeting request says 9 AM, it is sharply 9 AM. People will not wait for 10 min or 15 min because you are used to coming late or you are from a different work culture and have different perspective about time. Being on time is very important for meetings. The reality is, some people have other meetings right after your meeting, so be respectful to others time and be there exactly on time.  Also, typically there may be people joining through teleconference, if they cannot make it to meeting or if they are in a different country. It can be very frustrating if you are the key person in meeting and you are late. Ending meeting on time is also very important because of others team members may be booked for back to back meetings. If you are the organizer of meeting, make sure you plan it well and wrap up on time. People usually do a time check 10 min before ending time and review everything.

Check out the next article :  Work Culture in USA – Why do people schedule so many meetings?

Next articles will include articles focused on US work culture related topics like Work Ethic, Etiquette, Lunch with colleagues, Happy Hours, Why people schedule so many meetings, etc.

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  1. US working culture I live and experience that being a US citizen !!!! It depends on the Manager. If your manager( though he may work from home) he wants you to come to office and put in 8 to 5 work hours every day, Even if you are 5 to 10 minutes late( at your desk exclusive of getting a parking spot at work complex) due to traffic no excuse and your hourly wages are cut .10*5=50mts( 1hr). Around 4.50 p.m. he will check if you are at your desk. He would have enjoyed his snacks and watching TV at home. Come on guys this is the true fate of a contractor!!!!

  2. If you’re unlucky enough to work in retail, your lunch can be as late as 3pm – then you are scheduled to leave your job at 5. Othertimes, if you are working a later shift such as 10am to 6pm, your lunch could be anywhere between 1 to 4pm.

  3. So many words but I could not find an answer to a simple question – What are regular lunch hours in US?
    12AM? 1PM? 2PM?

    • Dredd, generally lunch is from 12-1. Often people may start to leave their office much before 12, at maybe 11:30 or 11:45 so they can get to the restaurant before 12 to beat the lunch rush.

      Often people also eat lunch in the office break room or at their desk. It depends on the work culture of the company. I worked in an office where I had to drive out and meet clients, so I often ate lunch in my car, or with clients.

      Some may eat lunch from 12:30 or 1 if they are busy. But it’s rare to go to lunch past 1:15 or 1:30.

  4. Thanks for the series of articles on this topic. I am going to create a training program for a hopeful crowd at IT park Kochi. Wish me luck!

    BTW I am an American and it’s very interesting to understand America from your point of view.

    I am learning about India by reading your articles and thinking that what you point out must not be the norm in India so… I get to learn something new! Thanks.

    • I will try to write some articles on lifestyle of people in US. In the mean time, you can browse “Life in US” section in categories.


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