“The opposite of happiness is not sadness—it’s boredom.”

~ Tim Feriss

If you’re like most employees, you complain when it’s too busy at the office, but dread it even more when there’s nothing to do. The truth is, the majority of us have a bit of Goldilocks Syndrome—wanting our work days to be just the right mix of productivity and freedom to talk about the latest Hollywood gossip with coworkers. With Alberta’s economy causing some major lulls, however, the latter may be happening more often than you’d prefer. The reality of layoffs, cutbacks and less work can create a tense environment that offers little dynamic to your day. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to utilize your free time that don’t involve stressing over what may happen next or talking about the Kardashians (though that can be so much fun, right?).

You’re probably expecting to find a list of valuable ways to make good use of your time, like partaking in team building exercises or working on those back burner projects you’ve accumulated. These are smart options that realistically, you should probably do. However, this list isn’t about being smart or even practical. It’s about offering a bit of relief from everything else going on around you. And that’s okay.

The world outside can be a stressful place. As adults, we are told to grab life by the horns and ride it out. Well, what if during this ride, we take a wide left and get a little wacky? Starting to scare you? Good. Maybe it’s time to leave behind the conventional lists and suggestions you’d expect in a blog, and see what other stuff you can do to fill your downtime at the office.

With that being said, here are 15 other things to explore when things are slow at work:

1. Track how many cups of coffee you can consume in one day.

The goal is to have enough that you are alert, astute and attentive to those around you, without being jittery, jumpy or just plain weird. Record your intake before your afternoon crash hits. Repeat this cycle daily until your coworkers confiscate all caffeine from you.

2. Evaluate your voicemail greeting.

Chances are, it’s been a while since you recorded your last custom greeting. Take this free time to record, listen, delete, re-record, listen, delete and re-record this crucial verbal salutation to missed callers. This process is sure to take up half your day, and your mom will love the new message when she calls to see if you’re still coming for Sunday dinner. Leave a lasting impression by adding a subtle background noise, such as raindrops, ocean waves or barnyard animals.

3. Take inventory of all the inspirational quotes you have.

These can be accumulated through desktop images, notepads, cards, pictures and other trinkets you’ve likely received as gifts from people who obviously don’t know you very well. As someone somewhere probably said, “You can never have too much inspiration.” Especially if it comes on a coffee mug.

4. Polish up on your hairdressing skills.

Everyone knows how challenging it can be sneak in an appointment with your stylist during work hours. Use your downtime to beautify your team members with modern cuts and styles they are sure to love. With supply room scissors and kitchen foil, you’ll have all the tools you’ll need to transform your coworkers into the models they were meant to be—plus make a little money on the side for your own professional haircut.


5. Update your screensaver.

This simple task is not as easy as it sounds. Your office’s lighting, monitor size and chair’s height play an (un)important role in determining what image you want to see in between missed emails and Facebook searches. Start by assessing your current mood, favourite colour, what you had for breakfast and last name of your high school sweetheart. Then select the cat in space image that best reflects none of that.


6. Team build with a parking lot car wash.

Nothing will bring you closer than a few buckets of soapy tepid water and angry neighbouring businesses annoyed over the congested parking area and splatters of water left on their already washed vehicles. Donate all proceeds from your car wash sales to those neighbours through greeting cards found in the “I’m Sorry” section of your nearest drugstore.


7. Improve on your portrait abilities.

If you have less to do than normal, chances are, so do some of your other coworkers. Use this valuable time to sketch portraits of them as keepsakes they can take home and place in their garbage cans there. You’ll score points for being thoughtful, and they’ll have a chance to nap with their eyes open while you draw them.


8. Catch up on your kegels.

This fun activity requires little participation from most of your body, and provides many long term benefits. Improve your body’s bottom bits while keeping your upper half free for other activities, such as juggling or holding a squirrel. For guys who are typing ‘kegel’ into their google search, just carry on to the next suggestion.


9. Network during a planned office yoga session.

With everyone else forced into awkward positions they have to hold for far too long, you’ll have the opportunity to build new relationships while also improving flexibility, balance and creepiness.


10. Educate yourself on the four major food groups with a game of “What Was That Once?”

Make this a team builder by having everyone take turns guessing what’s in the Tupperware container in the back of the bottom shelf. You’ll share in the laughter as at least two coworkers gag and heave from the funky smell. Oh the fun!


11. Refine your meme making abilities.

To avoid any guilt of working on this during office hours, make the memes of your coworkers. Not only will they get a good chuckle from you using personal photos off their Facebook and Instagram pages, but they’ll adore you for taking the time to craft up a passive aggressive saying about them and sharing it in a group staff email.

12. Organize an office scavenger hunt.

Your coworkers will have a blast finding clues that lead to the bounty—especially if the bounty is all their cell phones, keys and wallets that you stole and hid to make the scavenger hunt possible.

13. Do some papier-mâché.

This environmentally friendly activity allows you to use the 274 pieces of unnecessary paper you printed off this last week to transform random office supplies into spectacular office supplies covered in paper. Hot items sure to WOW your coworkers include papier-mâché keyboards, lamps and all cutlery from the kitchen.


14. Plan an office arm wrestling competition.

Showcase equal opportunity by eliminating weight classes and same gender face-offs. This will create a pleasant environment for when Big Bill loses to Tiny Tina from accounting. Present the winners with ribbons found from your local dollar store.


15. Read a blog (like this one!)

Blogs are a great way to inform, inspire and motivate you to take action. Or, if they’re anything like this one, they are a great way to keep you occupied on a slow day.


These suggestions are sure to keep you busy, and leave you feeling fulfilled and probably a little uncomfortable. Come to think of it, it’s probably (definitely) better to just catch up on your emails or something.

In all seriousness, take this time to breathe, stay positive and come together at the office, shop, site or wherever you call work. A little laughter can go a long way and remind us that together, we can get through the good and the not-so-good times.

For creative strategies that actually work for your business (and have nothing to do with the list above), contact us at g[squared]—where we offer out-of-the-box ideas that make perfect sense.

Photos/illustrations courtesy of flikr.com animated GIFs courtesy of giphy.com.