Be a Time Killer Queen

Open plan offices are wonderful things.  They encourage people to interact with each other, make us stick to our clear desk and hot desk policies and force us to stay off some more interesting corners of the internet.

What they also do is allow us to become a team of office curtain twitchers, keeping a corner of an eye on what people are doing or looking at.

It’s this ability which recently drew my attention to a colleague.  He was sitting opposite his line manager, so his screen couldn’t be seen by them.  What he didn’t know however was that I was making use of the aforementioned hot desking policy, and was sitting a few desks behind him.  This allowed me to observe as he spent at least ten to fifteen minutes looking intently at his screen whilst opening and then closing folders and files.  He didn’t read them, he didn’t organise them; he spent that long just opening and closing them.

We can all waste time on occasion, and sometimes it’s really valuable to take a break and think about something different (which is where our excellent list of reasons that you know you’ve been in local government too long came from).  Here are some of my favourite ways that I’ve seen local authority staff waste time.

Have a meeting

I have seen meetings set up to discuss what would be said at a pre-meeting, which would decide the agenda for an agenda setting meeting for a final meeting with three people attending.

Meetings are a wonderful way of wasting time, usually in one hour chunks, where you can sit in plain sight but out of hearing and have a chat about the weather, all the while knowing that everyone around you thinks you are working hard.  You can even attend a larger meeting and just drift off into your own thoughts.

Meetings: where minutes are kept, but hours are lost.

Walk quickly from place to place

This works best if you can combine carrying a pile of papers with a look of mild annoyance.  Sometimes reading some of the papers en route also adds a certain (as the French would say) I don’t know what.  This is good for a while, but is often only used by fit officers.

Just don’t carry too many pens with you as you go:  you need to look on important business so you aren’t stopped, and generally how important you are perceived to be is inversely proportional to how many pens you carry.

Walk slowly from place to place

Similar to the option above, this is used by those less fit individuals, and works best if you can have a face which looks like you really don’t want to go to wherever it is you’re pretending to go to.

Ask about something

Look around you: if you are also in local government you should be able to spot several teams of people, most of whom you’ve never met or that you don’t even know what they do.  Fear not, they probably don’t know either.

Go over to them and ask them what their role is.  Use this as an opportunity to practice your active listening skills, but be prepared should they somehow find a way to link their work and yours.

Note: this tip may not work in six months time due to the fact that most of those teams will not exist and you will probably have their workloads.


Why not read a blog or two?  Doesn’t matter if it’s work related or not, as long as there are no pictures all text looks the same from a distance.

Leave a comment or two on them as well, just to show you care (hint, hint).

In the spirit of Big Society, I’m going to ask you all to contribute here:  Have you got any other ideas to share?  What are your favourite ways of killing a little time in the workplace?

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4 Comments on “Be a Time Killer Queen”

  1. localgov Says:

    Forgot to add two more.

    I’ve seen making a cup of tea take one person almost half an hour, once they had taken a team order, gone to the kitchen, come back to get some money, bought some milk, rechecked what people want, made it, forgot one person, made theirs and finally sat down.

    And toilet breaks – we all need to go, but for THAT long?!

  2. […] know, I know – you will no doubt point to our very own site, which looked at a number of different ways of wasting time – and you would not be 100% wrong to do so.  However, that article was actually some general […]

  3. Krin Says:

    I recently had to counsel a colleague on how to fill in gaps in her workload so she wasn’t given piles of work to do that were stressing her. She’s incredibly efficient and does an excellent job, but had no idea what to do in those occasional gaps that occur between projects.

    Best tip, particularly to ease into the idea that some mental downtime is OK and perhaps good: Reports! Go find a huge government or NGO report that is within your field of interest (either directly related or peripheral to your job), print it out, take a highlighter and start reading/highlighting.

    Sure, this sounds like work, and it is useful, but it’s also possibly not what a line manager would consider appropriate use of time.

    Secondary tip: compose long emails to nearest and dearest in a word document, or text document. Looks like you are writing a long report from a distance, but a quick copy and paste will ensure it goes into the freebie email account you have open in a browser window elsewhere, without sitting with that obvious logo open for a long period of time.

  4. […] the form of a brilliantly worded e-mail, other times it can be a little more simple and anonymous.As previously blogged, technically we hot desk on a daily basis even though most people end up sitting in the same place […]

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