Friday, May 14, 2010

What to do when you have nothing to do at work?

boredom_motivational_poster_by_thesilverthief Two weeks ago, I returned to work after a one year long leave. I spent the time with my family, worked on my online store and learning a little graphic design. Though I enjoyed my leave, I looked forward to get right back into the swings of things. My company just signed a contract with a new customer but didn’t get the order yet so I’m on standby.  It’s been a week and I yet to start on the project.  I’m absolutely bored.

I bet you are thinking, WOW, getting paid just to be around.  Many of you probably want to switch places with me.  No you wouldn’t.  When you are not busy, time passes S-L-O-W-L-Y.  I feel guilty since everyone else is working plus I don’t like the feeling of looking over my shoulder.

Well it was up to me to figure out what to do.  Hey, I am getting paid to be here.  Now I feel like I accomplished something during the day and these tasks are flexible enough so I can drop everything once we get that elusive order.  I just want to share what I did with you.

Brush up on company policies and procedures

Things change. I would be concerned if nothing has changed. It’s little dry but now is the time to learn about them. No one needs to make a huge million dollar decision within 20 minutes and it can’t be made in time because now it has to be approved by 3 managers when it used to be one.
Catch up on your reading
I’m not talking about the latest science fiction novel you’ve been dying to read. It’s a good opportunity to catch up on the latest in industry news. If you are thinking of a career change, why not read articles related to the career you’ve been thinking of? I inherited a desk from someone in the quality department and she forgot a couple of magazines. Before returning them, I actually read a couple of articles about millions saved at a rail road company based on process improvements.
Surf the Internet

Related to point #2, keep it to things related to your industry or to news stories. Don’t forget that companies have the ability to see what you are looking at when you are on the internet. I know of one law firm that the Face book addition got so out of hand that they blocked it after they determined the average daily time per employee logging on face book was 3 hours. Keep the personal surfing to your entitled lunch hour

See if there are Cross Training Opportunities

It’s enriching if you have an idea how another’s job affects yours. If you have a good idea of the timeline of the slow period. Pitch the ideal to your manager or even ask someone in the other function to mentor you for a couple of hours. Everyone enjoys talking about themselves and what they do and it’s beneficial for both parties to improve the working relationship. 
Today I advised someone how delicately write an important email recommending a solution to reduce inventory in a limited amount of warehouse space.  He felt his solution was best for the company as whole, but it would make a few people jobs a little tougher.  For me this involved 20 minutes of understanding what the problems are so I can understand the solution he was trying to recommend.   And the best part was, I felt energized because I was actually drawing from my experience and I have a clearer understanding of how my actions affects his job.

Go for a walk

If the weather is good, a walk will help your time pass faster and better for your physical and mental health. Companies nowadays credit an exercise program to increase productivity. Helped me in my case. I was extremely frustrated with boredom, but my co-workers take regular half hour walks 2 or 3 times a week. We are fortunate enough to work near some nature trails. It was during these walks that my colleagues made me realize that it was my responsibility to make sure that I created some value for myself during the slow period.  Hence my activities above and this article was born.

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