If there's one part of working that you have mastered, it's the valuable technique of not working.
Anybody can go to a job and be productive. It takes a very special person to go to a job and be invisible.
Yet, invisibility is what you need if you want to make the most money possible doing the least possible amount of work. To accomplish this worthy goal, you have scoured your workplace to discover all the hidey-holes in which a devious soul can secret herself.
Oh, the places you've found!
For the foodie in you, positioning yourself behind the snack machine gives you privacy and first dibs at the gourmet treats your co-workers stash in the breakroom fridge. Then there's the supply closet, where you can idle away endless billable hours making paper-clip chains and playing with colored pencils.
But now, all these in-office vacation destinations are lost to you.
Suddenly, you are forced to work at home -- trapped in a location where there is nowhere to hide and no excuse for not being that productive little employee drone they pay you to be.
Face it; such a situation could drive you around the bend.
Even worse, it can leave you parked at the bend feeling lonely. It's hard to believe, I know, but you may not actually start to miss having managers to mock and work-friends to sabotage.
Which brings us to Olivia Judson, whose recent New York Times article, "Working at Home? Self-Isolation Doesn't Have to Be Lonely," reveals how joining a "virtual co-working group" can provide the "esprit de corps" of working with others.
Judson's co-working group, run by life-and-business coach Megan Taylor Morrison, meets in an online meeting space provided by a web conferencing company called Zoom. I don't know who would think the word "zoom" could apply to the glacial pace of the endless meetings in a company like yours, so I imagine they chose the name to be able to call their virtual conference space a "Zoom Room."
Now, that's cool.
How does a co-working group work?
"The idea is that at fixed times of the day, you log onto Zoom, Skype or some other tool for online video conferencing," Judson explains. "Other people log on too, and after a couple of minutes of structured chat ... everyone hits 'mute' on their microphones and the session begins. Video on, sound off."
You can see the brilliance of this technology, of course. With no manager yammering at you, you remove the pain of a meeting. All you have to do is pretend to look interested, and you're good at that.
The fact that people will be looking at you as you look like you're working is, I admit, a little creepy. But remember -- you are also looking at them. Turn off your video feed, unleash your frustration and you are free to make fun of your virtual co-working pals. It's the kind of behavior that has gotten you in trouble in the real office, but in a virtual workplace, there will be no blowback. (There will be consequences, however, so be prepared to budget extra time for scrapping spitballs off your screen.)
As much as I like the virtual co-working group concept, there is one aspect of Morrison's group that discourages me -- the "structured chat" that starts every session.
"She likes to start each session by asking everyone what they plan to work on and by posing some other question or challenge," Judson reports. The examples provided include "What attitude do you want to bring to your work today?" and "Where do you want to direct your power?"
For me and thee, this second question would be difficult to answer, though it would be truthful to say, "I don't know where I would direct my power, but if I ever get any, I'll let you know."
As to the attitude you bring to your work, that's easy -- "pure desperation and a sense of infinite hopelessness."
If that doesn't get you booted from your co-working group, I don't know what will.
And if you do get the boot, come co-work with me. My Zoom Room will be open from 9 to 5. Whenever you join, you can watch me do the thing I do best -- nap.
You're invited to nap with me or to just look on in disgust. No matter how little you are accomplishing, watching me do so much less is sure to make you feel a whole lot better.
Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at email@example.com. To find out more about Bob Goldman and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.