Keeping Busy On Site

Question:   What can do I when I'm required to be on-site but have no project work to do?

Here's a brief summary of the suggestions (in LEAST to MOST desirable order):

  • ask the boss if I can cut back on my hours
  • come in early, tend to personal business, then do a little work and leave early
  • ask the boss for more work (including in other areas of the company)
  • use the 'extra' time to practice writing essays, poetry, and fiction
  • use the 'extra' time to catch up on the STC journals
  • use the 'extra' time to take an online course, learn new tools
  • use the 'extra' time to learn more about the client and its business
  • look for ways to improve the project documentation (e.g., add an index or glossary)
  • sit back and enjoy it (read the funny pages online, laugh all way to the bank!)

Another, more detailed response:

When I first experienced "down time" on this job, I went to my boss and just flat out asked her how she wants to handle this. I've already asked them what else I can do, and there is nothing. The big difference is that I work from home many days per week unless meetings, etc. demand that I'm on-site. Therefore, I spend "down-time" at home and I can always find things to do. It seems especially weird to just bill those hours when I'm tending to my tomatoes.

My boss thanked me for my honesty, and told me that they don't want me to find another job, so they're willing to pay me whether I'm working or not as long as I'm available. So, I check my e-mail frequently from home and check in to see if there is work. The project really seems to ebb and flow. They extended my contract for a few months, but during long periods of down tim--, even though it seems like a blessing--, I feel uneasy at times wondering if they'll end my contract early.

In short: My advice if you can't work from home is to enjoy the down time and do other stuff, and when you get bored enough, just be honest with your boss and try to work something out. It alleviated a lot of stress for me.