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Yo, Bindu: Can I Work on Side Projects at Work?

Yo Bindu, I’ve had a lot of down time at work lately. Is it wrong to work on my personal side projects at work when I have down time?

Yo, Moonlighter! You know there is a PC answer and a not so PC answer. We know what HR would say, but let’s think about this together in a way that will keep your supervisor (and you) satisfied.

Let’s assume if you’ve got down time, you are probably efficient at your job and do it well (maybe a strong assumption, but we’re going to go with it). So remember, a key strategy in leadership is to be visible at work and get noticed. And by this, I don’t mean taking on special projects like getting your co-workers to perform your own very special version of Harlem Shake. Stand out with leadership skills, competence, and emotional intelligence.

Ask for More Projects
If you have downtime, our first suggestion would be to ask your boss for more projects. This will provide more opportunities at work with more exposure, more experience, and more people to collaborate with outside of your normal role. This more, more, more equation could lead to a promotion or special recognition for taking initiative.

Apply the 20% Rule
Now this next approach depends on your relationship with your boss.  You could create some projects that help to get your department noticed (excluding the Harlem Shake video). This would be an opportunity for you to be creative, innovative, and breakthrough the mediocrity. For example, Google allows their employees to use 20 percent of their time to work on whatever they want, as long as it further’s Google’s mission. If the boss doesn’t support this type of creativity, look at modifying your work hours, that way you can look forward to your personal side projects on your “flex” day.

Understand Your True Full-time Passion
Lastly, take a look at your side project.  For example, are you extremely passionate about blogging, but you work as a software engineer? Maybe there is there a space at your workplace where they need a guest blog post. This way you can take your side passion and incorporate it into your workplace.

Ultimately, at the end of the day you want to be happy at your job and that does involve a conversation with the boss lady (or man). So take some time to think about your side project vs. your daytime job and how you can really be happy (and still pay the bills).

You know the non-PC response and we know lots of people do it. If you’re eager to get your side business going, so carve out a space and time before or after work (outside of the workplace) where you can fully dedicate yourself to this project, uninteruppted, and ethically.

Good luck and if you choose to do a Harlem Shake video, please send it our way!

Yo, Bindu is your go-to column for candid and honest answers to questions about emotional health, wellness, and happiness. Dr. Bindu has a doctoral degree in psychology and as a first generation South Asian woman, she recognizes the challenges of merging the best of two amazing cultures. As co-founder of The Happy Leader, she strives to find ways to bring happiness to many dimensions of our complex, intriguing and eventful lives. 

Have a question for Bindu? Email us at For our full website, please visit


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