Water-cooler time
October 20, 2006 10:09 AM   Subscribe

What is the general norm of “water-cooler time” reported on an 8 to 5 timesheet?

I work in a white-collar, project based profession, so we bill hourly. A small chunk of the day is spent socializing, personal organizing, taking a little longer at lunch, unwinding on Metafilter, etc. etc. A model employee would come in an hour early or stay an hour late to keep things square. I’m curious if most people actually do this or if employers generally see 1 or 2 hours written down each day as “office”.

Of course this varies by occupation and corporate culture, I’m just curious about the norm.
posted by tfmm to Work & Money (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I would say most people bill that time to their clients.
posted by poppo at 10:21 AM on October 20, 2006

For law firms, I've seen .06/hour increments of "general administrative" ~ generally less than actually occurs. Max usually 4 or 5 of those a day.
posted by KAS at 10:21 AM on October 20, 2006

At my old corporate job where we did not bill hourly, we still had to document every minute of our day. I accounted for some unproductive time by calling it 'time spent filling out this report'.
posted by look busy at 10:30 AM on October 20, 2006 [1 favorite]

I make up the time, but I calculate it somewhat generally. I've been wondering this, too...
posted by sweetkid at 10:30 AM on October 20, 2006

5 minutes an hour is how it is calculated here for internal purposes. That is if something needs to get done they generally assume 5 minutes an hour will be "wasted".
posted by geoff. at 10:48 AM on October 20, 2006

Our smallest billing interval is 10 minutes (realistically, 15) so if it's smaller than that, I don't bill it.
posted by muddgirl at 10:55 AM on October 20, 2006

15 minutes here too. In a typical 8 to 5 we get (2) 15 minute breaks, during which spend time at the "water cooler" ie surfing.
posted by bleucube at 11:29 AM on October 20, 2006

Not sure about "norm", but when I was filling out time sheets, I'd characterize that time as non-billable (unless the discussions were actually work related). Also, I'd come in early and/or leave late to keep billable hours at 7.5-8 hours of billable time.
Then I got a real job where productivity wasn't measured in time increments.
posted by forforf at 11:36 AM on October 20, 2006

IFAIK, in an 8 hour day, you are legally required to have one hour of break. This usually takes the form of

2 hours
Break (15 minutes)
2 hours
Lunch (half hour)
2 hours
Break (15 minutes)
2 hours
posted by fvox13 at 11:46 AM on October 20, 2006

Best answer: Our metric is that you should not exceed 10%, so we would expect anyone who is paid 40 hours to have not more than 4 hours unbillable. In fact, most people run about lower than that. 4 hours is the threshhold where you have to explain it to someone.
posted by Lame_username at 12:01 PM on October 20, 2006

It depends on your organization. Unless it's a really long time, we bill it to the client b/c there's usually some talk of project-related stuff in there somewhere...
posted by echo0720 at 12:15 PM on October 20, 2006

Accounting for every minute of one's workday sounds utterly insane. How do you notate trips to the restroom?
posted by Dreama at 12:47 PM on October 20, 2006

bill it to a client, because even if i am chatting with someone or taking a leak i am thinking about the job i'm working on or taking a breather to be able to tackle it better. if i blew half a day starting out the window, i'd write it down as 'research'.
posted by jedrek at 12:50 PM on October 20, 2006

if i am out in the field i charge it all to the client. if i am in the office i normally charge it to whatever i am working on - chargeable or otherwise as does everybody else in my office.
posted by koahiatamadl at 1:03 PM on October 20, 2006

Best answer: As a former consultant and project manager, I'd expect an employee to have about 2-4 hours a week of administrative or "office" time, which would be non-billable. Everything else is billable. Bathroom breaks, the need to take a phone call, talk to the boss, converse with another employee, etc. are all considered an element of doing business in any organization and as such are billable. I don't want an employee spending 45 minutes at a co-worker's desk chatting, but 10 minutes here and there are essential for developing a good working rapport that facilitates better cooperative project work down the line. To me, even though something might not be directly productive project work, if it adds to the business culture and has some type of positive impact on the client, than it should be billable.
posted by galimatias at 3:22 PM on October 20, 2006

Consider that every minute spent on a project is not equally valuable. The moment when you get that great idea which improves everything is worth much more that the hour spent formatting a report that will only be scanned quickly. Yet you bill them all at the same rate. If that downtime helped create more eureka moments, why should the customer not be billed for it? (I'm assuming you are not just doing mechanical grunt work day to day.)
posted by mediaddict at 12:58 PM on May 13, 2007

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