How many personal things I can do at work without sin?

How many personal things I can do at work without sin? When starts the stealing from the company or from the society (for inputs reduction of the taxes, if I am one of owners of company)?
I don’t think so, that somebody expects, that I will work without any personal action, like personal thoughts staring through the window. I’m not computer. And when nobody expects this of me, I don’t steal. But there is others things, like tea (electricity), internet, paper, fuel, car, eraser, phone, place to meet friends and so on.
Where is the limit? Please advise.

I think there’s a difference between using work supplies and using your time. It’s also going to depend on the terms of employment. For example, I’m a part-time receptionist. I answer the phone and greet clients, and have other clerical tasks. I frequently finish up my work and have “nothing” to do for the rest of my shift. My employer doesn’t care if I read, browse the Internet, etc. as long as my work gets done and when the phone rings or someone comes in, I attend to their needs. They also have coffee and tea for clients who come in, and I’m permitted to have some, as well.

If they said differently, I wouldn’t use it (and if they were draconian, I probably wouldn’t work there.) There is a kitchen for employees’ use where I can store food in the fridge, heat it up in the microwave, and wash my dishes afterwards. They provide tissues, an employee bathroom with toilet paper, etc. It is no way a sin to use these (I’d actually argue it’s sinful for an employer to withhold means for employees to eat, drink, and use the facilities - and in many places it’s illegal). You are not stealing from the company if they provide you adequate (or more than adequate) amenities to make it easier for you to do your job.

Regarding the use of supplies: I generally avoid it. I may use a pen to write down a shopping list on a post-it. On occasion I may use the copier or printer, but only for a few pages. That’s as far as it goes, and if it were forbidden I would not do it at all, and I think that is fair.

This is an honest question. If you are given personal time and take care of personal things then, I would not think you’d sin. If you do them during work time and account it as work time (for example, if you bill to a client and charge them for painting your nails at your desk), that would be sin.

I struggled with this a lot. I’m a software engineer and sometimes there’s just natural downtime that’s unavoidable. My spiritual director left me with a few basic guidelines:

  1. While at work (or if you’re charging the time), work should come first.
  2. If a natural stopping point emerges (i.e. you’re waiting on someone to get back to you), it’s fine to do some personal things.
  3. it’s also fine to take short breaks… Things like bathroom, trip to get some coffee, short personal conversations with co-workers etc.
  4. If you have work to do, you shouldn’t let these go over about 15 minutes. If it does, think about not charging that amount of time.
  5. If you honestly have no work to do and you’ve made a reasonable effort to try and get work, you are free to do personal things while you’re waiting for work to come to you.

You’re right to approach this honestly. I can’t say for certain that the above guidelines are the greatest ever. Just what was provided to me.

I am a boss. If any of my people so much as look out the window, heads will roll. :mad:


My philosophy (and entirely undocumented policy) is that as long as the work gets done and meets the expectations of high quality, I’m not going to worry about personal activities.

A lot of that has to do with the nature of our work and the environment in which we do it. We’re white collar desk workers. If we made widgets, or were contracted to produce a measurable volume of work, or worked under strict deadlines our of our control, then life would be different.

However, as long as the personal activities don’t interfere or infringe on what we do, to the point that they damage our professional activities, I really couldn’t care less.

When it does infringe, I step in and rectify the situation.

What do your employers, supervisors, or anyone else in a similar position have to say? I’d say that their answers will have a significant influence on where that limit is in your particular situation.

Thank you all:)

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit