For a western-europe work ethics, how many hours you're expected to be productive in a full-time IT job?

I'm always in the office 10-15 minutes before my official starting time and I leave the office 10-15 minutes after I'm supposed to. However, due to the flexible schedule (meaning other colleagues arrive between 8 and 9) I'm actually not productive for the first 30-40 minutes in the office. If you count in few coffee-breaks I can confidently say that I'm effectively working 7h/day. Of course, if there are deadlines or urgent tasks, I get them done ASAP but it's not the daily routine.

Where I work this is perfectly acceptable but I was wondering if that's the widespread behaviour.


Even if the question might be opinion-based there are methods used to quantify the number of actual working hours vs total working hours (as I learned from OECD link in the accepted answer).

  • 17
    I think most people are only productive for a few hours a day. The longer the working hours the fewer productive hours they have too.
    – user
    Jul 26, 2018 at 9:36
  • 7
    I think you need a clearer explanation of what is meant by 'actually work' or 'productive'. Take this scenario: I sit at my desk without a coffee and it takes me 60 minutes to solve a problem. Mirror universe me takes 15 minutes to make a coffee first, completes the problem in 30 minutes and moves onto the next one for 15 minutes. Who has been 'actually working' for an hour? Who has been more productive? Jul 26, 2018 at 11:38

2 Answers 2


I think that this is highly variable. I have days where I work 12 hours but only 4 are really effective. I think 7h/day effective work is already pretty good. Like you have said, of course when there are deadlines ahead, it is very important to push yourself to be even more effective. The organization for economic cooperation and development has some interesting information about this general topic:


  • 1
    I think while the exact hours differ, what can be agreed with is that no matter what the entire 8 hours is not dedicated to work.
    – Dan
    Jul 26, 2018 at 18:34

You'll have days where you come in laser focused and work 7.5 hours without a problem.

You'll have other days where you do 20 minutes of work and be completely mindless all day.

Realistically it depends. 8 hour work days came from an age where:

Time in factory => output achieved.

Nowadays this is less relevant, especially if you work in a more mental field like IT.

I wouldn't worry if you spend an hour having breaks throughout the day (cumulative, don't take multiple 1 hour breaks...) and have other days where you're cemented to your seat.

  • Actually 8 hours workdays came shortly after the Haymarket Riots back in the later 19th century. At that time, the average factory worker worked 60-100 hours per week for 6 days. In many cases, the comapny "owned" you by paying you with tokens that are only good at the company stores where you also lived.
    – Dan
    Jul 26, 2018 at 18:42

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