I like focusing on theoretical issues but there’s also plenty of space on this site for practical discussions. I tried to do that back when I worked at Kohl’s. I even gave some advice about how you could slack off easier in a similar situation. I even wrote a post while I was working there once. One of my proudest achievements.
When it comes to the much smaller convenience store I work at now, slacking off can go one of two ways:
- You either do it obscenely obviously
- You slack off through “facing” products or some other menial task
For those who don’t know, “facing” means turning a given product so it faces the customer. Really groundbreaking work here, y;all.
Anyhow, menial tasks can sometimes keep us “busy” at work while not really doing anything. The problem with this tactic (depending on your perspective of course) is you’re still doing something and doing something for the company, more specifically. It’s also a pretty meaningless action (which is probably part of why it first comes to mind, admittedly) and may just make your brain retreat more inwards while you figure out how to cope with work more effectively
But to cut the suspense short, I choose the first option.
I am blatant about my reading during work. I don’t worry about too many things outside of helping the customers at the counter. Sometimes I’ll make coffee or I’ll do the temperatures for the store (this is the most consistent thing I do outside of helping customers) but other than that I’m either reading a book or going outside to get online.
Have I gotten in trouble? Kind of.
Once my manager told me that I need to be more careful when I’m reading because sometimes I was reading when customers came in and I didn’t greet them. Or they were coming towards the counter and I was busy reading up until they go there. Or I just wasn’t watching them while they were in the store? One of these anyways. Or a combination.
What did I do about this? Not much.
The next shift I tried to see how best I could implement his objections but found that I was pretty much happy where I was. No customers ever complained about it (that I’m aware of) and my manager never brought it up again.
As with any of my other slacking advice, I don’t claim that this will definitely work for you. It obviously depends on your methods, the manager/s and so on.
I’m lucky in that I’ve had a pretty flexible and easy-going manager. He doesn’t mind if I read during my shift as long as I keep the book out of customer view while they are at the counter. And in addition as long as I’m not ignoring customers in favor of the book.
But honestly, it doesn’t matter that much to me. I usually put the book down when people come towards the counter (I slip up once in a while but other than that…) and I usually greet people when they come in even if I have the book. And again, none of the customers have ever complained. This is most likely another case of management projecting their own rules or preferences on to everyone else.
I don’t just do this though because I’m a Dirty No Good Slacker/Commie/Pinko/Terrorist* who definitely hates your freedom. (*kidding about that last part, FBI)
I do it for my health.
I’ve mentioned mental health a few times now (see here and more recently here) but there’s a sense that working in some other way might hinder my overall sense of wellness. That is, not just my mental health but also my physical and health and the other components to me as well.
I’ve pulled muscles before walking back and forth to walk. I’ve strained my ability to cope with the outside world for work and have gone through a few times where I was having mild disassociation and sensory overloads. Generally speaking, these things are all unpleasant and I’d like to avoid them if possible.
If that means working less hard than you’re damn right that that’s what I’m going to do.
But some folks don’t get that as pointed out by an article on The Conversation called, “No, it’s not you: why ‘wellness’ isn’t the answer to overwork“:
Many of the people who visit me in my therapy practice spend time talking about work. How much work there is, how they never seem to be able to get it all done, how many hours they spend at work, how tired they are all the time and how fearful they are about losing their jobs. They’ve read articles telling them how they can improve their work/life balance. They’ve delegated and relegated, meditated and ruminated.
Have a look at the lifestyle section of any major newspaper and you’ll find a host of articles on how to stay well in a life that’s too busy to live in. But the facts are plainer than we’re being led to believe. Many of us simply work too much to really be well.
The author’s solution? Work less.
There’s no magic bullet, pill or yoga exercise that’s going to make you feel less overworked. Working less more than just about anything else is liable to get you there a lot faster than your favorite energy drink, stimulant or sporadic all-nighters so you can “get more rest”.
Because eventually all of this becomes a vicious cycle.
You need to pull all-nighters so you can get more rest in the future but the “future” keeps being made out of these all-nighters. Then you need to keep spending money on “relaxation techniques” and “meetings about your work” as well as pills, energy drinks and coffee. And eventually you might need to work more to help you get these things that supposedly help you work more efficiently so you can work less.
Maybe bringing this up to management might not be such a good idea either:
In the last month or so I’ve had several clients raise the issue of overwork with their managers, with the following results.
One had a consultant brought in to assess her team’s workloads against their position descriptions. Each member was found to be working at between 130 and 160% of their load. So the load was reset and anyone working at below 150% was told they weren’t pulling their weight.
Another workplace appointed an organisational psychologist to assess the team’s interpersonal relationships as a way of responding to a workload complaint. As a result, my client was told his personal commitment to reasonable working hours was putting his team at risk and he was put on a program of performance management.
Another was simply told not to come in again.
The management doesn’t really want to hear that they’re basically failing at managing by overworking you. Instead, they’ll probably say that what you’re doing is normal or (perhaps more horrifyingly) that it’s superlative and should be the norm.
Now that they know you can work that hard, well, why can’t everyone else?
So talking to your manager about how much your working may actually just cause the rest of your coworkers to suffer as well.
Given all of this it might seem like the chance for working less is futile.
But remember there are almost always a way to slack off at work. I’ve gone through some ideas before and will continue to try to find ways to highlight taking more control over your life and pushing work out of the way.
Because, as the professional Dr. Steve Brule says, it’s “for your health”!