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I think this is a real problem if you're in a a job that leaves you slightly underemployed. Every time you find yourself with a few idle moments, you instinctively reset to energy saving mode and that makes starting up again when new work comes in much harder.

I really hate the practice of "make work", where bosses give unavoidably underemployed staff some menial and degrading pointless task just so they aren't sat around looking bored, but perhaps there is some logic in that madness after all?

All the same, I can't help thinking there are better uses for that time, some sort of team social activity like a day off and a picnic, for example, would ease the problem of idleness by keeping people occupied, whilst at the same time giving a reward for past good work and cementing the social bonds that keep a good team working well together.

There's also research that I read somewhere a long time ago (possibly here in fact), that showed rewards can help increase productivity but, counter-intuitively, only if they come as a surprise and after the task has been completed once. If you use the available free time for something like that, then you are killing two birds with one stone.

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