It’s weird, not having anything to do at work.
I used to not think it was weird; when I worked in a computer lab, a large chunk of my time was spent passing, well, time. Whenever work popped up (tech support call, A/V event, etc.) I did it, but for the most part I was left to basically get paid to surf the Internet. And believe it or not, that can get really old pretty quickly.
But I haven’t had that experience at my new job yet (that I’ve been at for all of two months). The past few days we’ve had an odd lull, where the various projects we have are in various stages of review or waiting for feedback. So yesterday, while I lamented the lack of time to finish my projects (not the kind I could do at work, of course), I allowed myself to get sucked into the black hole that is TV Tropes. But I found myself a little perturbed, like I was worried that I should be doing something more productive.
Why does this sort of thing bother me so much more now? I think it may be a combination of forces: recent events and documentation. For instance: when I was working at Costco, there was always something to be done (well, almost always). Finish stocking one pallet? Move on to the next! Answer one member’s questions? Well, there’s three more behind them! Done all that? Time to start cleaning glass and dusting televisions! Spending two years in that sort of environment does tend to instill a certain sort of work ethic, or at least guilt over not “working.” At least it did for me; maybe if I had been there longer, I would have finished having my soul crushed by retail work and wouldn’t care. But I’m still enough of a lapsed overachiever that I trended towards the guilt response.
In regards to documentation, one thing about my new job that I hadn’t experienced before is an itemized time sheet. Every week, I have to turn in a spreadsheet with the names of the projects I worked on, what sort of work it was, and how much time I spent. This makes sense, when you think about it: I spend a good portion of my time drafting various schematics and construction documents, and that sort of thing can be billed to our clients (directly or indirectly, depending on the financial agreement [above my pay grade]). Of course the company would want a way to keep track of that. But doing so has the side effect of making me very aware about just how much time I’m spending on various tasks. And I’m still new enough that I worry if my “billable” hours aren’t high enough.
These two factors have made me much more conscious about the “lack” of “productivity” at work than I used to be. For one, I’m much more in the habit of working constantly. And two, there’s written evidence of just how I’ve spent my time. So when there’s literally nothing to do (and I checked), it feels weird. Like we’re all just waiting for the other shoe to drop.
And this lull probably is going to be short lived. There’s a good chance that all the projects we have out for commenting will come back around the same time. So while a part of me is eager to enjoy the downtime as long as it lasts, another part feels bad for doing so.