8

I'm looking for a word to describe sitting at my desk, doing things that look like work, but not actually achieving anything. Something like a verb form of "busywork".

As in:

It's an hour before quitting time, but I've finished all my work. Can I go now, or do I need to keep [word]?

Or,

My boss asked me to look into this, but I've investigated, and there's definitely no problem. Should I just keep [word]?

6
  • 4
    looking busy”...
    – Jim
    Aug 12 '16 at 17:19
  • 1
    What @Jim said. Or if you really meaning doing busywork instead of just looking busy, then say that: do I need to keep doing busywork?
    – Drew
    Aug 12 '16 at 18:25
  • How to do it correctly
    – Lior Kogan
    Aug 12 '16 at 19:13
  • How well do you know the employer? Describing your activity as "looking busy" to a strict employer could make you seem lazy and deceptive; describing your tasks as "busywork" to a strict employer could be insulting. Unless you are certain they see things in the same way, or are on friendly terms with them, then what you were doing is working, whether that's real or a polite fiction, everyone agrees you were working, so there's no need to say "should I keep working", and the polite question implies that any work they have is real work. "Is there more work for today? If not, may I leave?" Aug 12 '16 at 19:15
  • Building a time card is the common term in the construction trades. Oddly, I can't find a single citation for this.
    – Phil Sweet
    Aug 15 '16 at 15:55
2

Idling. As a verb:

to spend time doing nothing or nothing useful
of an engine or vehicle : to run without being connected for doing useful work

As Jim said in the comments, "looking busy" is also a good grammatical fit for the example sentence. "Standing by" might work depending on the job, especially if you could be called into action on short notice if you're there. ("Looking into it" or "training" or "taking care of other tasks" might be rated a better answer if this were posted on Workplace.SE).

2

I'm gonna say there is not a single-word verb form of busywork. I have candidates such as occupying oneself, keeping busy, and the like, which have connotations of nonsignificance -- but I can't really come up with a single word.

In your examples I would simply use find something [else] to do instead of keep {blank}ing.

It's an hour before quitting time, but I've finished all my work. Can I go now, or do I need to find something else to do?

My boss asked me to look into this, but I've investigated, and there's definitely no problem. Should I just find something else to do?

1

putter, or to putter around

(Oxford)
v. 1. occupy oneself in a desultory but pleasant manner, doing a number of small tasks or not concentrating on anything particular:
"early morning is the best time of the day to putter around in the garden"
2. move or go in a casual, unhurried way:
"the duck putters on the surface of the pond"

1

piddle

(Dictionary.com/Thesaurus.com) verb (used without object), piddled, piddling.

1. to spend time in a wasteful, trifling, or ineffective way; dawdle (often followed by around):
He wasted the day piddling around.

3. to waste (time, money, etc.); fail to utilize (usually followed by away).

Origin of piddle 1535-45; uncertain

2
  • Or, for a bit more vulgar spice to it: piddlefart.
    – kirkpatt
    Aug 12 '16 at 22:14
  • @kirkpatt #2 was similar to that.
    – Stan
    Aug 12 '16 at 22:30
0

I am assuming that this is a question which one may have at a new workplace (else, they would most likely know the work culture already, including the answer to this question).

One may then say (probably to a friendly senior coworker):

It's an hour before quitting time, but I've finished all my work. Can I go now, or do I still need to [put in]/[clock up] my 8 hours?

From TFD:

put in

  1. To spend (time) at a location or job: I put in eight hours at the office.

clock up

vb (tr, adverb) to record or register: this car has clocked up 80 000 miles.

3
  • There's a difference between "I'm doing work" and "I'm doing busywork" - your example implies that I would be working, I'm looking for a word that implies I would not be doing anything.
    – Benubird
    Aug 15 '16 at 9:40
  • My example implies that the person in question would spend the remaining hour in office. The first part already clarified that they finished all their work (for that day, presumably). Aug 15 '16 at 9:45
  • I added the word still (in bold) in the example to clarify it further. Aug 15 '16 at 9:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.