I am looking for a word that captures the severity or extent to which someone is busy. This is the word to be used for showing a measure for the extent to which a person or team is occupied with stuff to do.

  • 3
    How about workload?
    – Jim
    Dec 9, 2013 at 15:08
  • As is often the case, the question in the title doesn't match what follows. 'Busyness' is an acceptable word nowadays, but you seem to require 'workload', as Jim advises. Dec 9, 2013 at 15:45
  • 2
    'Workload' means something quite different to busyness, as @Edwin Ashworth points out. One could have a phenomenal workload but be doing nothing about it, so you wouldn't be busy. Equally some people busy themselves with very little productivity.
    – WS2
    Dec 9, 2013 at 16:22
  • @WS2- While you are technically correct, I don't think OP (or anyone else in normal conversation) is going to make that kind of distinction. If I ask you what's your workload like? I've got a project I'd like you to do. I don't expect you to tell me that A. you're workload is very high, but since I'm not doing any of it I can do your project. B. I'm so busy alphabetizing my email I couldn't possibly do it. (Although I admit that some version of the second case is more likely than the first).
    – Jim
    Dec 10, 2013 at 1:38
  • I meant to look for a word that captured how much someone's time is occupied as against the extent to which they are burdened. So workload - seems to capture the thing they need to be doing. It was far less about whether they were going ot get around to doing it.
    – rsman
    Dec 10, 2013 at 6:22

5 Answers 5


workload : 1. The amount of work assigned to or expected from a worker in a specified time period


In IT I've heard people use the term "utilization" where 100% utilization means that a given member of staff has absolutely no free time to take on more work. It might not be obvious what was meant by that without context though.

As mentioned elsewhere workload is probably a good choice.


Occupied describes being busy, but occupancy doesn't feel right, does it.

Military pilots use task saturation to describe having too much to do. That is a phrase, of course.


Occupation would be right in many circumstances, and preoccupation in others. Occupied is the adjective where as we need a synonym for the noun busyness. Occupancy should be avoided, as it refers to the state of inhabiting a place, and so is incorrect.

workload, on the other hand, refers to the work that we have, not the state of busyness we are in.

There is actually a paucity of synonyms for busyness. Activeness would again work in some situations. Perhaps in the end, the correct word after all would be busyness ;)


"Busyness," unlike "workload" or "occupation", does not describe the specific nature of tasks one does, but instead is a deliberately fuzzy, vague consolidation of all the different tasks of one's day into a blur of perpetual motion. The closest approximations I can think of are "bustle" or "activity," both of which could be appropriate depending on the context.

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