I want to say I am working on this problem in my free time and it won't affect my daily tasks. Is the following correct?

I am working on this problem in the background.

  • 1
    Your intended meaning won't necessarily be understood. Many people might assume you're spending "unauthorised" time at work doing what you want rather than what you're being paid to do, and that in the background simply implies you're going out of your way to conceal this from your boss (who might sack you if he found out). Apr 21, 2017 at 14:23

3 Answers 3


in the background
2 behind the scenes, unnoticed, out of the limelight
Rosemary likes to stay in the background.
(Collins Dictionary)

In the background is closer in meaning to being unseen, hidden not "free time". So I am working on this problem in the background sounds like you are trying to hide something or keep it a secret.

I would stick to free time, spare time or time off.

  • free time
    Time that can be spent on one's own activities rather than work.
    I love to play football in my free time.
    (Your Dictionary)
  • spare time
    uncountable noun
    Your spare time is the time during which you do not have to work and you can do whatever you like
    • In her spare time she read books on cooking.
    • I spend a lot of my spare time watching videos.
    (Collins Dictionary)
  • time off
    time for rest or recreation away from your usual work or studies
    (Collins Dictionary)

A more informal phrase is "on my down time".

Another phrase to consider is on the side:

on the side
1. in addition to your regular job or activities He drives a bus, but he's a tour guide on the side.

On the side suggests you have a primary task or problem that you're working on and that this problem is secondary.


As mentioned in the comments, if you say you are working on it in the background you may be understood as saying you are spending company time on the problem. I would say

I am working on this project on my own time


I am working on a side project in my free time.

  • what if it is company's project, not a high priority one, and I'm allowed to spend time on it in the company?
    – May
    Apr 21, 2017 at 18:20
  • @May: A phrase similar to "background" is "It's on the back burner" meaning it's not getting much activity but simmering, like a pot on the rear burner of a stove-top; that pot might get a stir or two every once in a while. It's not the main focus.
    – TimR
    Apr 21, 2017 at 18:37

I am working on this problem in the background isn't = I am working on this problem in my free time.

The former sentence expresses your intended meaning. The latter means that you are working on this problem in a place or situation in which people cannot notice you.

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