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What Does It Mean to Work "around the Clock"?

Nicole Madison
Updated May 23, 2024
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The phrase "work around the clock" is an idiom, which is a phrase with a figurative meaning. This particular idiom means to work all day and all night, or seven days a week, 24 hours each day. No person is actually able to work such hours, but the phrase is often used when a person works much longer than the average. In such a case, he may feel as if he works all the time because he has little time for rest and socializing. Some people may also say they work around the clock when they have both work and family responsibilities that take up most of their time.

This phrase is usually used to mean a person works all day and night, seven days per week, although this is not technically possible. A person may use this phrase to describe someone who works extended hours rather than literally all day and night. If working 9 AM to 5 PM Monday through Friday is the norm in a particular area, the phrase working "around the clock" may apply to someone who works 7 AM to 10 PM six days per week.

Often, it is easy to identify someone who works a great deal based on certain lifestyle characteristics. In many cases, a person who fits this description has little time for anything besides work. He may have to neglect housework because of his work schedule, and he may have little-to-no free time for entertainment and socializing. A person who fits this description may sometimes neglect himself as well; he might not sleep enough or get adequate exercise because of his work schedule. He may also eat poorly because he is too busy or too exhausted to prepare nutritious meals.

Sometimes, a person may fit this description if he works several hours at a job or business most days of the week and then has at-home responsibilities that take up much of his time. For instance, if a person works eight hours per day and then goes home to cook, clean, and care for dependents, he may feel as if he works around the clock.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Nicole Madison
By Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a Language & Humanities writer, where she focuses on topics like homeschooling, parenting, health, science, and business. Her passion for knowledge is evident in the well-researched and informative articles she authors. As a mother of four, Nicole balances work with quality family time activities such as reading, camping, and beach trips.
Discussion Comments
By LisaLou — On Jan 25, 2012

@myharley - I find it interesting you point out the good days and memories you make with your kids.

When I was growing up, my dad was what some people would call a workaholic, and would work around the clock.

In his mind he was doing everything he needed to make sure he was providing for his family. As kids, it was hard for us to see this, and we just knew he was gone most of the time.

One thing we would do is take a family vacation every summer. Those weeks are always the best memories when I think of our family time together.

My dad doesn't work as much as he used to, but it is still hard for him to sit around and do nothing. He just feels much more productive when he is getting something accomplished.

By myharley — On Jan 24, 2012

Most moms who work full time outside the home, and have young kids at home work around the clock. There are not enough hours in the day to get everything done that needs to be.

You go to work and put in a full day at work, knowing when you get home, the list of chores is endless.

There are many days when I feel like I am working around the clock. Somehow, the important things get done, but there can be some pretty stressful days along the way.

There are also good days and memories that make it all worthwhile. I just feel like there isn't much time for myself when so many other needs have to be taken care of.

By John57 — On Jan 23, 2012

My husband runs a crew for a construction company and during the summer, he pretty much works around the clock.

It is dark when he leaves for work in the morning, and it is dark when he gets home in the evening. He is so exhausted from his work, that all he has time to do is shower and sleep.

He gets up early the next morning and does it all over again. The only good thing is he doesn't have to keep up this schedule all year long.

Once the weather changes and the days start getting shorter and colder, he is able to take some time off.

Keeping up with this kind of schedule on a long term basis is not good for you. It is hard because he needs to get his work done, but I think our bodies also need time to rest and relax.

By gravois — On Jan 23, 2012

Does anyone remember that song by Bill Haley's Rock Around the Clock? That was one of my favorite songs as a kid. I had it on a cassette tape and I would play it really loud and slide around in my socks and underwear.

I think my parent would be glad to never hear that song again. They must have gotten so sick of it.

By summing — On Jan 22, 2012

I actually did work around the clock once. Literally, I worked all day, all night and then the sun came up and I worked all the next day. Never left the office. I took a few breaks to eat and freshen up but I never slept once.

I am a lawyer and I was preparing for a huge case. I had not expected to stay all night but I came across an important detail that had been overlooked at the end of the day and there was nothing to do but address it immediately.

Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison
Nicole Madison's love for learning inspires her work as a Language & Humanities writer, where she focuses on topics like...
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