Is having “nothing to do" at work good for you?
Busy Doing Nothing
There are obviously occasions when it is very bad to have nothing to do at work, such as a lack of orders or lack of customers but it is worth point out that even successful, longstanding companies have periods or seasons that are slower than others (for example fashion or retail industries).
Is being busy a virtue?
Many customer-facing jobs will have an ebb and flow to them and if your work is creative or project focused you are less likely to have tasks being fed to you. Being rushed off your feet at work can feel amazing – the day flies by and you feel like you’re achieving so much - but what are the benefits to not being so busy?
Firstly, there is personal health aspect, it simply isn’t healthy to be running at 100% all of the time. In retail, Christmas and the New Year sales can be brutal and it wouldn’t be feasible for shops and staff to operate at that capacity all year, not healthily anyway. The quiet days of February allow the store to re-stock, tidy and repair. It also allows staff to re-charge their batteries and put themselves in order.
When work is busy, people’s focus can narrow as they concentrate on the task at hand and it becomes harder to think strategically. Having less to do at work provides an opportunity to take a step back and actually work on those things your customers have been telling you or those things you simply didn’t have time for before.
For example, at First Response the winter months are traditionally slower for vehicle sales than the rest of the year. What a perfect time to reflect on what went right, what went wrong, and sharpen our processes for next year. When would be better to test new products or polish new systems than the down season? We'd certainly struggle to do it with the phone is ringing off the hook!
Making the most of informal time
Rather than seeing a few moments chatting to colleagues or playing hang man on a slow day as "wasted time" maybe you should change your way of thinking. It may be that this time actually has the benefit of team bonding which could make you work better and more productive in the future. When you have less to do having fun with the people you work with should (hopefully) pay back in spades when you need to rely on them when you’re all busy again. If it doesn’t, what can you do to make better use of that relaxed time next time the afternoon seems to be drifting by? If it's not an informal chat, what about other team building exercises?
Allow ideas to breathe
Being able to come up with creative solutions and new ideas is key to growing your business and developing as a person, however, your brain simply won’t be able to come up with these wonderful ideas if its having to deal with the hectic input of a busy office, or if you’re being constantly pulled on by the day job. What your brain needs, is time and space to mull over options - make connections between thoughts and explore single ideas. This often needs to happen naturally. We’ve all experienced that eureka moment when a problem is solved quite unexpectedly but this almost never happens on a timetable.
Planning for the future
There are very few roles or industries that haven’t seen changes accelerate over the last decade. Very few of us can be confident that being good at our job will mean the same thing this time next year. The ability to adapt, change and learn new skills are vitally important for individuals and the companies they work for. Boxing Day sales or new car registrations may not the time to find those precious hours of personal development time, so grab them whilst you can!
Successful and long-lived businesses are much more than the sum of their products and processes, they need to foster good culture, enthusiastic staff and build great connections with their customers. When you’re so busy that work time flies by, these important but less obvious things can take a back seat. So when you're sat looking for something to occupy your time these are the little things that can add a mass amount of value to the business.
Put the goodness back in.
The farming principle of crop rotation is quite simple, by planting the same crop in the same field each year and over farming it, all of the nutrients will be taken out and the field will become useless. By providing that field with a rest, or using it for something else, those nutrients can be replenished.
By using slow time at work properly, you can do exactly the same thing; you can put the goodness back in. Of course – the real trick is to make sure that those afternoons are actually useful and don’t just amount to watching cat videos on Youtube....
If you do decide to choose a new role read our blog which talks through survival tactics.