For a conscientious employee, not having enough to do can be just as worrisome as too much work.
Newly appointed manager Annie found her team required minimal input and wisely decided not to micro-manage them. But that left a problem. Annie's days involved checking in with the team, meeting with the chief executive officer and the other managers. This only took a few hours and she had plenty of time to herself.
"From the outside it looks like I have the perfect job," says Annie.
"But I feel like a fraud - what should I do?"
In some ways this problem is a good one to have. Annie runs a department and doesn't have to work too hard. But she's right in thinking that coasting is not what her company pays her to do. It's also smart to recognise that her team is functioning well without her interference and that she should leave them alone to handle their own jobs.
For tips to assist Annie we approached Auckland HR specialists Caroline Sandford of the Career Clinic, and Jonathan Moy of the Career Specialists.
"Make sure you are covering all of the responsibilities that you are supposed to," says Caroline.
"Communicate openly with your manager as well as your staff. Are there extra duties that you can take from either of them? What else does your manager want you to do?
"Early in my career an old boss gave me a really good tip, 'you can truly see the character of a person at work, not when they are busy, but when they have little to do'. What do they spend their time doing?
"If you are covering everything that you are supposed to and your manager and staff cannot offload anything extra, I'd suggest some positive strategies. Rather than relax and take it easy, this is the perfect opportunity to shine."
Caroline suggests Annie identify and develop skills needed to take her career and organisation forward.
"What are the skills that your organisation will need in the future? Is it technical, management, people skills? Maybe you can take some formal training, or identify a mentor to help you develop these."
Caroline says Annie could also identify and complete projects needed in the organisation, such as introducing new technology, setting up a social media campaign, developing training for staff and identifying inefficiencies.
Jonathan Moy sees an obvious mismatch between tasks and duties assigned to people in Annie's position and the time they have been given to complete them.
"Maybe they've increased efficiency and reduced the amount of time they need to complete tasks, as would be expected with the increasing experience and proficiency they develop over the establishment stage of a new job," he says.
"However, they should not become complacent. A recent report by the Productivity Commission finds New Zealand significantly lags behind other countries in actual work accomplished per hour. It's likely that Annie's employer will be looking at ways to improve productivity, either by cutting staff or optimising what they do."
Jonathan says under-worked employees can take the initiative by pro-actively "job-crafting" their position.
"Job-crafting involves identifying all the tasks and relationships you are required to manage then to actively pursue or change them so as to improve job satisfaction (visit careerology.co.nz/job-crafting). Instead of waiting to be managed, this shows the employer their work ethic and can improve their position in the business for negotiating better pay or a promotion," he says.
"The job may involve more than Annie realises and she could be underperforming. If you've just started a new job, it pays to make sure you're actually doing all that is expected of you. There may be imminent human-resource changes in the organisation that may make your position redundant.
"If there has been a recent unusual change in the amount of work you have been given, or if tasks/projects have been shuffled around, this may herald an impending change to positions and roles in your department. This subtle rejigging could signal to you to intensify your efforts and contributions so that your manager or employer takes notice of your value to the business," says Jonathan.
"Sometimes, highlighting or showcasing previously under-utilised skills that you could apply in other areas of the business could be helpful to you keeping a job; but if you are looking to change jobs anyway this could be a good time to start sprucing up your CV."