This article, on Contractor Downtime, was sent to us by Paranoid Pete.
Dull Contracting Periods
One aspect of IT contracting that no one mentions is that there are periods, if not complete contracts, where you have nothing, zilch, nada, rien to do.
Most of the time, of course, you are busy, but these quiet periods do creep in for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the project is going into a different phase which may not start for another week or so.
Maybe system testing or post project implementation doesn‘t supply the volume of problems expected.
In my experience, most managers don‘t really care if you‘re idle as it‘s often a sign of things going well. They will want to keep you around for safety‘s sake or because a large team makes them look good.
Inform Team Leader
Obviously, you should inform your team leader that you‘ve nothing to do. However, you don‘t want to get stuck with something for the sake of it like tidying up cupboards.
Therefore it‘s best when you have a couple of hours to finish your task, to say that soon you‘ll have no work on.
The team leader will register this but forget about it after the couple of hours are up unless he or she has something important that they need you to complete. You‘ll have covered yourself in pointing the situation out but you won‘t get any rubbish work.
There are lots of things not to do when you‘re idle. Basically, you shouldn‘t hinder anyone else who‘s busy. Don‘t:-
- chat all day.
- cheat on your time.
- read the paper.
- play computer games.
- disappear to other parts of the building.
- spend all day on the Internet although it‘s permissible to check out ITContractor.com every now and then.
- go to the pub every lunchtime!
What should you do?
If you genuinely can‘t find any proper work to do, then you should at least make it look like you are working. Your manager will not like the big boss seeing his or her staff not occupied. The big boss might even wonder why he employed you if you‘re not contributing.
In the pre-PC days, which were only twelve or so years ago, not being busy was awful. I had a support contract where there were never any problems. I told the manager that I had nothing to do.
His answer was ‘˜Great – This means the system‘s working fine‘. I was literally on the point of getting an ulcer through screaming boredom but managed to find another contract instead.
Nowadays, the best idea is to learn new skills. Bring in that textbook that you haven‘t looked at. Explore the latest version of whatever software is your speciality.
Check what other stuff is installed that might be useful to you in future contracts. Study for interviews even if there‘s none coming up. This time is never wasted.
After all this, you could sort out your own personal paperwork as long as it‘s not too obvious, especially if it involves spreadsheets or whatever on your PC. This may not take long though.
By now you are probably fed up. More creativity is now called for.
Possibly you should look at what Gerry (who runs this site) might do. In the Grand Old Days of the 1980‘s, he had a system for playing cricket based on the values of hexadecimal characters in Cobol dumps.
All that anyone ever saw was him poring over a large listing and scribbling furiously.
Now if you‘re that desperate, get another contract!
Handle your downtime with care.
Editor‘s Note:- Any mention of what Gerry used to do in the eighties is alleged, and as Paranoid Pete has consumed very large quantities of alcohol since then, he may have befuddled memories of the period.