What’s your 5-9 routine?
The trend is evidence of TikTok’s shifting attitudes around work.
Embedded is your essential guide to what’s good on the internet, from Kate Lindsay and Nick Catucci.🧩
Writing this made me realize I really need to step up my 5-9.—Kate
A little less than a year ago, I wrote about how nobody wanted to work anymore. The great resignation narrative was emerging via memes, YouTube videos, TikToks, and, of course, data about quitting and the unemployment rate, and I was happily on board with it. I myself had been laid off, but the general mood—plus a few months of severance and government-subsidized (thanks to COVID) COBRA—inspired me to take a beat, instead of immediately mobilizing to find my next full-time job.
Soon I became an anti-work champion. I spent the summer reading every single Tana French book in Fort Greene park. I worked in therapy on uncoupling my value from my productivity. I downloaded a meditation app and sometimes even used it.
During that time, I felt like the internet was cheering me on. But these thoughts were often interrupted by the part of my brain that knew my break couldn’t last forever. As much as I lauded the stories of people up and quitting their jobs, even my most enlightened self couldn’t ignore the obvious question: “But how are they making money?”
For me, it was through freelance jobs supplemented by unemployment. But soon, the unemployment assistance would stop. The government would (and did) stop paying for COBRA. Nobody wants to work, but most of us still have to.
And that seems to be where TikTok has landed after two years of grappling with the concept of labor. Which brings us to the 5-9 routine.
While I’m sure this isn’t a brand new concept, the most recent iteration of it seems to have originated with Jenna Palek, who released the first episode of Fun On Weekdays in July of 2021. The goal of the podcast is to encourage fellow 9-5ers to stop waiting for the weekend to have their fun. (Palek is now so successful as an independent creator that she quit the 9-5 at TikTok that inspired this concept in the first place.)
Last February, Dolly Parton released an updated version of her 1980 single “9 to 5,” changing the words of the second chorus to “working 5 to 9” to honor side hustlers and gig workers. But 5 to 9 means something else entirely on TikTok: How do we—especially those who WFH—do our work without becoming our work? How do we make the time outside of our virtual offices feel just as a significant a part of our lives?
The people showing off their 5-9s—the routines they indulge in after the laptops are closed—often aren’t doing anything remarkable. The goal isn’t to offset your 9-5 with a 5-9 out at bars and pursuing other late-night adventures. Instead, it seems to be finding appreciation and meaning in the simple things that keep you from sinking into your couch on your phone until bed.
The #afterworkroutine, #eveningvlog, and #5to9 hashtags, which have a combined 20M views on TikTok, showcase workout sessions, weeknight dinners, skincare regimens, and the occasional journey outside to a low-key nighttime activity or food pickup. While our day jobs take up most of our time and thoughts, shifting focus to the time we spend outside of work can help remind us that we are more than our jobs, especially during a time when work has invaded many of our homes.
We can’t not work forever, but we can permanently change how we think about it. That starts with acknowledging our off-the-clock activities. Making dinner and doing yoga may not yet feel as important or necessary as the work we do during the day, but they’re certainly worth documenting and sharing until they do.