Working at Not Working


Have you ever  worked in a place where nobody works?  They have jobs… they just don’t work.  How do they do it?  Somehow they have figured out a way to slide through the day, seeming busy while doing nothing and getting other people, who haven’t figured it out, to do their work and cover for them.

I think what it boils down to is:  1) nobody cares, or;  2) the people in charge are not working either.  After all, to know that the workers are not on the job, somebody has to be watching.  Everybody is so busy doing nothing and looking busy that no one notices that nothing is getting done.

The main job, when anything is done, is  answering complaints.  Complaints about what?  Well, complaints that nobody is doing anything.  If it were not for the complaints, there would be nothing to do.  Except, of course, have meetings.  Meetings that accomplish what?  Well…nothing…what else?

Some people manage to consistently come to the office at about 9 or 10 o’clock in the morning.  They slip in by the back elevator and pretend that they have been there all the time, busy at their desks.  Occasionally, they may even call to say that they are “running late” and will be in a bit late.  That means, “Don’t look for me before noon.  I stayed out late and overslept this morning.”

In the meantime, the fools that did show up answer their phones, take their messages and explain to everyone that so-and-so is “running late.”  Why doesn’t the boss notice?  Well, because these people keep up with the boss’ schedule.  Like hawks, they have a second sense that lets them know when the boss is out of town, has an early meeting elsewhere, or is “running late” too.

These people are absolutely indispensable to the organization.  They are the busiest workers they have.  Of course, they are busy.  If they came to work, they might have time to get things done.  If they do, by some quirk of fate, get noticed for not being present, they instantly come up with a project that they were “working on at home.”  It has to be something essential and absolutely impossible to work on in the office due to the interruptions.  Revising policy is popular.

Computers and telecommuting have helped non-workers tremendously.  Funny how they usually have nothing to show for all the work they’ve done at home.  They are also masters at avoiding taking leave.  They work part time, but never take any time off.  I can’t figure out how they get by with it.  Actually, they are not often missed.  They are not depended on to do much since they are never there.

It must really take practice to become good at doing nothing.  I just can’t seem to get the hang of it.  If I tried it, I would be caught the first morning.  Some of us seem doomed to work and cover for others.  It takes practice, cunning and skill to be good at not working.  I wonder sometimes if not working is really worth the trouble, or if it might be more work than just actually working.

©1998 Sheila Moss

Do you know any non-workers?  What do you do, complain to management or do your own job and let it go?

About Sheila Moss

My stories are about daily life and the funny things that happen to all of us. My columns have been published in numerous newspapers, magazines, anthologies, and websites.
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16 Responses to Working at Not Working

  1. lam0beaner says:

    I’ve worked where more is required from everyone except one area. Ive worked where those who don’t do much get the same pay as those who do more. I’ve worked and taken regular lunch hours while others take extended lunches. Some work places seem so unfair. Thats not to say that weathering the storm won’t be worth it. 😜😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. timkeen40 says:

    Doesn’t seem very fulfilling, but I have them in my office as well. Just getting through the day with little to no contribution to the cause of keeping the company they are working for afloat.


    Liked by 1 person

  3. Rachel says:

    Ha! I know exactly what you’re talking about here. Now I work from a home office, so the ones not working are my cats. But they of course still get paid well in pets and treats.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. George says:

    Doing nothing is an art form and some people have perfected it.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I work hard at not working, but it always fails and makes me bitter.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. energywriter says:

    So true! My cubicle always seemed to be on the main aisle so I had to be working all the time. One woman bought her house online – on work time. Another guy played video games. Others were always in meetings or giving presentations. That’s one reason I retired early. sd

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I had a job with little to no work. I lasted nine months and left the company. It wasn’t the whole company just my department which was overstaffed. One other thing to note is that often those same people who know when the boss is in, will stay later to demonstrate their dedication (to doing nothing). Somehow they always get credit for staying 3 minutes longer than the boss.

    Liked by 1 person

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