Ever Heard Of The ‘Undertime’ Concept?

Posted: May 9, 2015

Most of us know the concept of ‘Overtime’, but ‘Undertime’ is a lesser known concept. A funny take on mixing business with pleasure!

I have  learnt a new word: Undertime. It means time spent by an employee on leisure during his or her working hours. Now, when I say leisure, I mean things like a person chatting on the phone, surfing the net, typing personal letters, going shopping etc – all during office hours. Yes, of course one can debate that the phone chat was official, the net surfing was also official and so on. The only characteristic that makes the said activity official is that it was done during the course of employment, nothing more.

Some people are very disciplined. They are the earliest to arrive in office and then they start their long phone chats. But then, this is not undertime, isn’t it? Yes, it is not as long as it continues before the office timings but, if the chatting continues after the office timings have started, it becomes undertime. Which is what usually happens – obviously on office phones the calls are pretty long as office is footing the stupendous bill (or bills). There are others who stay back after office hours to chat on the phone. Sometimes,they even get paid for overtime- for  working overtime on the phone!




I initially worked in an office in a moffusil area. Some computers were shifted to our branch offices for easing the data entry work. This, in turn, led to the transfer of a data entry operator to the branch. He would very sincerely do his work but beyond that, he refused to do any other work even if he was sitting idle. On Fridays, there would be load shedding and hence, the data entry operator would just sit and stare at others. Our requests to him to make himself useful would elicit responses like, “My salary makes it unaffordable for me to do any other work other than data entry.” His colleagues would just stare at him with jealousy and lament their  fate that they had to continue working whilst he lazed away.

Once, I had picked up some vegetables on my way to office. It was a Friday and the power went off. The data entry operator took my jhola containing the vegetables and started cleaning the veggies. I begged him to do some other office work but he continued with his undertime. He also quipped that if any executives came for a surprise visit, he would tell them that his boss (me) had ordered him to do the cleaning! Thankfully, nobody came and I was spared the undue explanations about the supposed official undertiming by the employee. Obviously,I was glad that my veggies had got cleaned at office expense during the undertime of an employee other than myself ! This was a double whammy. I had more time to rest- at home, that is.

In the suburban office, the Man Friday in office was notorious for being absent for hours together. He would go to the bank to deposit the day’s collection and on the way back, he would be undertiming. He would even have a haircut by undertiming. He was of the firm opinion that he had a license to undertime as he worked so hard – for the Company, that is! But all this led to his doing overtime till late nights as work was always pending for reasons which were there for all to see.

On one occasion, all the male employees went to enjoy an extended lunch which went on for nearly three hours. They were undertiming en masse! This can be termed as male bonding – nah, undertiming! And  then, men always complain about women bonding over everything except work. Maybe, this male group undertiming is an exception – one too many !

So, you can understand that overtime and undertime are opposites  in one sense but similar in another sense. The meanings of the words are opposite to each other. They are both the same in a way, as both lead to a drain on the employer. In fact,undertiming is the cause why overtime becomes a necessity!

The absence of undertime would have robbed employees of the gold mine of overtime. So both need each other or better still, thrive in the presence of each other!

First published at the author’s blog

Hand with a clock image via Shutterstock

I am a law graduate from Government Law College,Mumbai.I am a Fellow in

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