Q: I have been at my job for about two months. I have learned very quickly that there is little work for me to do. While I am at the office eight hours a day, I perform maybe one or two hours’ worth of work because that is all there is available.
I have informed my boss that my projects are done, yet it appears nothing more is coming my way. I feel guilty sitting in my chair reading the news all day when I’d rather be doing my job. What should I do during my downtime? Should I discuss this more with my boss? — D.M., Boston
A: Having too much work to do can be awful for one’s stress levels and overall sanity, but it’s far preferable to having no work to do. Being paid to do nothing sounds great, but “doing nothing” generally means watching TV in your pajamas, not sitting upright at a desk in business casual. Your situation is more analogous to the “rubber room” where New York City teachers accused of misbehavior have to sit all day while they’re being investigated, or my idea of hell.
I asked a friend in the same situation how to survive. “Keep quietly and persistently suggesting to your boss that you have no more work on your plate and would happily take on anything else at any time, but mostly to build a paper trail in case someone asks why you aren’t doing anything,” she said.
A good idea, to which I would add: Use your free hours to look for another job. Or, as a former Work Friend suggests, milk it for as long as you can.
Work Friend is a cheeky New York Times advice column to help with careers, money and the sometimes grim, sometimes hilarious maze that is the contemporary office, from a rotating cast of advice-givers. Email questions to email@example.com.