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How many hours are you really working today?

If you are reading this, I’m 95% confident you are probably at work. Do you know what that means? It means you aren’t actually “working”, unless your boss pays you to read my blog (which would probably have to be the coolest job in the world right?).

I’ve been talking with a bunch of friends recently about how productive they are during their work day. Some of them work solid 10 hour days, every day, even though they only get paid for 8, but the LARGE majority of them confessed to only being productive 2-4 hours a day.

I had a job in college as a ‘building manager’. It essentially meant I got paid to sit behind a desk in a large campus building and answer questions that students had. My shifts usually lasted 4 to 6 hours and I maybe put in a solid 30 minutes of work each time. It got really bad when I worked the late shift (6pm to 11pm). No one would go to the building I worked in at night, so after 5pm it was a ghost town. Sometimes, I would just leave a note that said “If you need help please call…”. I’d leave my cell phone number and then go visit friends in the dorms or go back to my place and watch TV. It was either get paid to sit behind a desk in solitude, or get paid to watch TV in my apartment. The choice wasn’t a difficult one.

Was this unethical? Perhaps, but let’s be real, not even YOU work 100% of the hours you are paid for. Heck, I’m sure your bosses frequently fall short of their obligation too. I realize some jobs (physician) really don’t allow slacking off, but for everyone else, a good chunk of time is probably spent surfing the web, reading the news, chatting with coworkers, taking a little longer lunch than allowed, etc.

So I’m asking a huge favor of you all today, Be bold, be honest, be real, and share how many hours you think you will legitimately work today. You already have to deduct the amount of time you’ve spent reading this post 🙂 If you don’t want to “out” yourself, you can always comment anonymously to keep your identity hidden. I’m guessing the majority are gonna fall between 5-7 hours.

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  1. Arrive in office 0730, leave probably around 1630, an hour off for lunch.
    Alleged work hours: 8
    Actual productive time: Hour and a half, tops.

    (I'm on secondment to another company for a particular project, we've only got 3 out of 10 people here because of snow and we're in a planned slow period as well. Normal day in the office is about 8.5 hours present, 5 hours proper work.)

  2. I am so bad about not working. I work from home, on my own schedule, so half the time I end up working maybe 1 or 2 hours a day. Since I charge by production not by the hour it doesn't screw over my clients, but I'm really in trouble if I can't buckle down before mini-me comes.

  3. On average over the course of 250 working days, 6 hours per day. Plenty of days require 8-10, some require 2-3.

  4. Between computer & coworkers, probably 5-7 depending on the day. If my workload is high, I shut things out, if it's light then I chat & decompress. My boss approves of a little web decompression because otherwise we can get wound up. 🙂

  5. Out of the 7 hours I was supposed to work today, I already “lost” one hour because I had to go to a doc appt and left early. Besides that, considering the couple times I checked my personal e-mail and the chatting with collegues, I guess I lost another hour, which brings me to 5 productive hours out of 7… not bad, I think! LOL

  6. I work in a doctors' office, and please believe me that doctors find plenty of time to slack off.
    My average is probably about 4-5 hours. Honestly, I would love to be using my brain more than I do, but my boss and manager don't seem to think it's important. I have ASKED to do more, even made suggestions for new projects, and I get shut down every time.

  7. it depends. i work as an RN at an adult day health program. some days it's just meds, vitals, and hanging out with fellow staff and clients (which can be really fun). Other days people fall, there are emergencies, and I work more. I'd say on average…probably 3 hours per day. The great thing about my job, though, is that everybody's in the same we don't have to sit around and pretend to be busy. Having fun/interacting with clients is part of the job…

  8. Yesterday I worked approximately 0 minutes. The day before I worked 18 hours straight. So for me, it evens out.

    I have a very all or nothing work life that most people don't really get.

  9. My work is deadline oriented – and projects aren't steady. when one is looming, I work 10-12 solid hours. Right now, nothing's going on, so I maybe worked 2 hours/day all week.

  10. I think the concept of a 40-hour work week is outdated for many lines of work. Unless you are a shift worker on an assembly line (or something similar) there is really very little reason to correlate time spent in the office with productivity. It makes much more sense to link compensation with successful completion of tasks. I also believe that there are very few people who are capable of doing quality work for 8 hours straight. It's human nature to lose focus and fatigue after a certain amount of time.

  11. Tsh… we work until the work is done, so no time for slacking off. And they know if we're slacking off without even seeing us. Welcome to warehouse work.

    And I don't work Fridays, so nyeah!

  12. I think it depends a lot on the type of work you're doing. I find that when I'm using my brain a lot, I cannot sustain attention for 3-4 hours straight, so I have to work on a challenging task for an hour, then read blogs for 10 minutes and so on. I generally try to plan my day so I have some mindless tasks worked in that are still work (e.g., returning phone calls, routine paperwork) to intersperse between the difficult stuff, but really, it's hard to do mindful challenging work for 7-8 hours straight. The synapses just wear out. So, I'll estimate that on Friday (my last day of work since this post) I put in about 8.5 hours, but it took about 10 hours at the office to do so.

  13. Good post and good point Ninja. I've thought about this often. I must be at my job from 8:30 to 5:00 Monday to Friday, with an hour for lunch each day. That equates to 37.5 hours of work time per week. Working as an accountant we bill out time to each client, in 6 minute increments, so ten time units per hour, and I have to keep track of this all the time. My bosses here don't always have enough work to keep me busy, and by the end of the week I usually have a shortfall of 150 units, which is 15 hours out of the 37.5 I get paid for. Ain't that terrible! But I put that 15 hours a week to good use using MSN, reading blogs and checking out I do feel a bit guilty about it at times but at the same time I'm always asking my bosses for more work and am here ready if they need me for anything.


  14. It depends. Some days I'm working the entire day that I don't even get a lunch; I voluntarily stay after work for HOURS jsut to catch up that at the end of the day I am literally CRYING. Other days, I have nothing to do and I can virtually sit there and just read blogs all day.

    I think in the end though it evens out though.

  15. 6 hours a day. I'm an attorney, I bill by the tenth of an hour, and I'm required to put in 6 billable hours per day. That's 3 BS hours per day. If I'm near trial, it may be more, but it's almost never less.

  16. Used to work for a govt. contractor and they actually had tables that accounted for "nonproductive" time during work. They didn't expect 8 hours = 8 hours of actual production. BTW, I kind of *do* get paid to read your blog and others like it. (Napoleon Dynamite voice: "Lucky!") That said, I suspect that in an average 40-hour work week, true productivity = maybe 28-30.

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