What do you call work or tasks that are Not part of the main(highest priority) work that a person is doing at the present time?

In lexico.com ,there is a term called side work:

( Credited reference: https://www.lexico.com/definition/side_work )

side work
Pronunciation /ˈsʌɪd wəːk/
1 historical A fortification or other defensive structure protecting the side of a position, body of troops, etc. Later only in plural. Compare "flanker".
2 Additional or subsidiary work; specifically (informal, in a restaurant, etc.) tasks such as setting tables, polishing silverware, etc., carried out by waiting staff in addition to their main work of serving customers.
Origin: Mid 17th century. From side + work.


To elaborate on the nature of the work that I'm assigned, it's essentially like having to climb a ladder in order to re-plaster and repaint the walls inside a house,

  • and as a byproduct of re-plastering and repainting said walls, there will be dust and dirt that falls on the floor
  • the dust and dirt that falls on the floor need to be ultimately cleaned up
  • However, the highest is re-plastering and repainting said walls
  • the prudent step is to tactfully clean up as much dust and dirt as possible whenever I come down the ladder
  • because it will be too cumbersome and too overwhelming to clean the dust and dirt on the floor when all the re-plastering and repainting said walls is complete.

( I suppose another way of phrasing it is that I'm trying to incidentally clean up as much dust and dirt as possible whenever I come down the ladder )

But could someone please answer with a word/phrase/expression/saying that is more sophisticated and/or elegant?

  • 3
    Additional duties is an accepted term. But you need to be a lot more specific. Please describe the context and provide a sample sentence where the term would be used.
    – Phil Sweet
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 16:28
  • 1
    Is this work that's paid by your main employer, or something you do on the side for extra work (I guess side hustle might not be high class enough for you)? Is it the same or similar to your main work, or distinct? Is it like when you're a university professor but have to spend lots of time filling forms and writing grant proposals, a firefighter who gives presentations on fire safety when nothing's ablaze, or like an actor who waits tables, or a school art teacher who also sells a few paintings, or a politician who writes books in their spare time?
    – Stuart F
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 20:52
  • @StuartF Please see my update on the question posting.
    – crazyTech
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 21:11
  • @PhilSweet Please see my update on the question posting.
    – crazyTech
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 21:11
  • 2
    side task is the phrase that comes to my mind.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 27, 2022 at 23:26

2 Answers 2


In the work that the OP describes, the cleanup is a task that must ultimately be performed.

Here, it can be seen as a concurrent task, i.e. it can be executed at the same time as other tasks.

This is a term from project management and scheduling in general.

However, there are other areas of management that have different lexicons, including the non-promotable task, as in this article in the Harvard Business Review: https://hbr.org/2022/04/are-you-taking-on-too-many-non-promotable-tasks


Sometimes that type of work is referred to as "housekeeping" -- i.e., "tasks that need to be done as a regular part of your work but are not the main purpose of your work."

  • Hello, 452. I can't see a sense/subsense at M-W (please attribute correctly) that applies reasonably accurately. Commented Jun 28, 2022 at 9:39

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