How much work does the average worker actually get done in a day?
The answer is a bit complicated. While the average American spends around 35 hours per week on the job, that doesn’t mean that all that time on the clock is spent actually working. In fact, a study by Vouchercloud polling almost 2,000 office workers found that, on an average workday, workers reported less than three hours of productivity.
Given that a typical workday is eight hours long, this means that over 60% of the workday is spent on activities not related to work.
However, this information does not necessarily indicate that workers are procrastinating on the tasks they should be doing. Instead, there is a distinct possibility that workers are simply not given enough work to fill an entire eight-hour workday—despite this, they are still asked to be on the clock for the entire period.
Numerous internet users have previously pointed out this disparity between scheduled time and productive time. Some workers have claimed that the switch to working from home made them realize they can get all their work done in less than an hour—others have questioned why they are asked to stay for a full 8 hours if they can get their work done in less time.
Now, a Reddit user u/dogvillager has sparked discussion after wondering if this phenomenon, having only a few hours of work during an eight-hour workday, is typical.
“Is it normal to have absolutely nothing to do in an office job?” asks her post in the subreddit r/AntiWork.
“I’m 25 and this is my second office job, so I’ve never experienced a ‘real’ office, as I have always been a hybrid worker,” her post reads. “In both jobs, I would have maybe 2 hours of actual work to do per day. Is this normal, or is this just the industry that I am in?”
In the comments, a sizable amount of Redditors confessed that u/dogvillager’s experience is a common one.
“Sometimes it can be super busy. But most of the time all my tasks can be done in just a few hours,” a user wrote. “I also work an ‘office job’ and I spend a lot of my time finding things to do and making my spreadsheets look pretty.”
“Having an office job with nothing to do is hell, because most of the time you won’t be able to actually do anything other than look busy or pick up other people’s slack,” explained a second. “Now if you find the unicorn office jobs where you get away with watching YouTube all day, you won.”
“Do not tell your manager that you are bored, keep looking busy, pretend things take longer than they do,” a third advised. “I have 2-3 hours of work to do each day but I pretend it takes much longer. I literally finish a deliverable 10 mins after someone requests it and then wait 2 days to send it out in an email. My company is hiring a second person for my role now and my goal is to have them do all of my work and then I’ll just hide.”
Some job markets are responding to this by converting to a four-day workweek, with many posting positive results from the experiment. Still, until this becomes universal, users have developed methods for keeping up appearances while little or no work is being done.
“Sometimes I finish all my work in two hours. So I have to pretend to be busy for 6 hours,” explained a commenter. “Sometimes I open up notepad and type gibberish. Sometimes I book myself a fake meeting and watch YouTube videos. Sometimes I go for a walk around the office building with laptop in hand – you know, look like I am going somewhere important. Sometimes I do some online shopping.”
“Remember this: the movie ‘Office Space’ is a documentary and should be required viewing for anyone entering the office workforce,” offered a second.
The Daily Dot reached out to u/dogvillager via Reddit chat.