How Much Actual Work Do You Do?

“I’d say in a given week I do fifteen minutes of real, actual work.”

This quote from Peter in Office Space really stuck with me when I first watched the movie back in my high school days. You see, at the time it seemed very much like a hyperbolic exaggeration by the slacker protagonist. Sure Peter would say something like that, but the idea that real adults at their job would have all this time to space out, take long lunches, or what have you seemed to be pure fantasy. After all, most other movies and television shows depict the workers as actually, well, working for most of the day.

Eventually, though, I left the Matrix and entered the real world of being an office monkey. And that is where my confusion and distress spawns. You see, I’ve been in the working sector for over a decade at this point. I’ve worked in big firms, small offices, you name it. And I have yet to find a job which accounts for every hour of the day.

That’s where my writing hobby began, in earnest, sitting bored in my office with too many hours to kill and the company’s web filter blocking Youtube. Not to say that I eschewed my duties in favor of this passion project. I’ve always prided myself on being a diligent employee, getting my tasks done to the best quality possible in a timely manner. But no matter the job, it always seems that, at baseline, I have plenty of time – and probably an excess of time – to devote to my actual job duties.

A few weeks ago, Heavy Metal Krist wrote an article about how we all deal with “imposter syndrome.” It’s the feeling that you are undeserving of all your accomplishments; that somehow all your success is a fluke and soon you’ll be exposed.

That’s how I’ve felt throughout my career, but not about what I’ve accomplished. Every win I’ve had in my career, every pat on the back, every successful negotiation or deal struck, I know that it was my intellect and skill that got me those victories. Instead, my imposter syndrome is this feeling that I should be working harder. Doing more.

Once again, I don’t think I’m lazy. I don’t neglect my work, take unnecessarily long breaks, or give less than my best effort at my job. I have too much pride for that. But when I sit there for hours on end trying to figure out what the hell I’m supposed to be doing when I’m just waiting for a client to call back or my boss to get back to me, the thoughts creep into my mind.

Do others have this much time? What are they doing right now? Should I be doing something else? Why don’t I have work to do? Is my boss not giving me more work because she doesn’t trust me?

It can be paralyzing, this feeling that your effort is inadequate when, in truth, it probably isn’t. I know that I’m not spending all my days spacing out like Peter and I certainly do more than fifteen minutes of actual work each week. In fact, I can quickly and easily recall those long nights where I stayed late to finish a project or sweated it out by not taking a lunch break to get stuff done. There are definitely those days or weeks at the office where it feels like there just aren’t enough hours to what you need to. Yet that doesn’t give me any comfort on the days where I genuinely feel I didn’t need to be in the office for more than a few hours.

I guess my question is: how much work do people actually get done in a given day or week? Are you also spending many of your days finding yourself with hours to kill, or are most of your days filled with actual work to be doing?

Let’s try to beat imposter syndrome by revealing just how much our jobs actually demand on a day to day basis. Or you can all reveal that yes, I am a lazy sack of shit and a time thief because I don’t have those full days.


  1. I worked for a pretty big corporation until very recently, and I was crushed under the workload. Probably 35 hours of legitimate work. I just made the move to a small town regional company and I work MAYBE 5 hours a week in the same basic role. Much of the previous 35 hours seemed to be trying to figure out how to do the five hours of work, and the stress never really seemed to pass.


  2. I’m either swamped working through lunch and some Saturdays to keep up or super slow. There tends to not be an in between so I feel this but I also try to remind myself that it all evens out in the long run. Avidly watching these comments though because I’ve had this exact thought a million times over.


  3. I probably work half the day. I’ll type for 5 minutes, get distracted by my phone or a co-worker for 5 minutes, and go back and forth doing this until the day is over.

    Idk if it’s the best way to work but I’m still employed.


  4. There was a report on NPR recently (couldn’t find the link) that basically said that work balance was dead, instead calling it a flow. Some weeks and months you’ll be slammed, others you’ll be slow. Take advantage of the slow times and cut out early, knowing two weeks from now you could be working 5 12’s


  5. This article is spot on. I hear the other analysts cranking out 12 hr days right now and of course we have different clients but, im kind of at a lul waiting for things to come back and let me file or do something


  6. The 40+ hour work week needs to die and middle management doesn’t need to exist anymore because let’s face it, their sole job is to be a thin membrane between giving you more money or getting rid of you. Our wages aren’t increasing anymore unless you keep jumping to another company because companies don’t care about career development. Everything that is tedious or time sucking should be and is automate-able and it’s only going to progress with AI and ML. Don’t work hard, work smart and after you’re done in 4 hours per day, you are free to go home because remember, every hour you work over 40 on salary means you’re getting paid less to do your job that you’re probably already getting paid less to do in terms of market value. Now go get’em lol


  7. Recently worked on publicity and licensing for a music label, I did maybe an hour or two of work each day. I just had to be ready to respond to emails quickly.


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