Making up time for doing nothing

Q. I work for a consulting company. Most of the time I have nothing to do. Since our main client is the government, we have to fill out time sheets. I am allowed to make up time if I have to. My question is: how do I make up time for doing nothing? If I leave an hour early one day, do I have to stay longer the next day doing nothing? MH

A. Just think — if you had my job then you could count as work hours the time you spend trying to figure out the right thing to do.

Getting to the point, falsifying time sheets is unethical, not to mention illegal. I presume you’re wondering if it’s really “falsifying” to record the time you spend filing your nails at home, since you are legitimately allowed to record the time you spend filing your nails at work.

This is not an ethical question so much as a contractual one – what does the government demand of its contractors? I checked this out and it seems that you do indeed have to stay longer the next day doing nothing if you want to get paid for a full week of work. I guess the rationale is that if you’re getting paid to work, you can count hours spent at home if you’re doing your work there. But if you’re not doing any real work, then you are getting paid for showing your face at work and being on hand in case you may be needed.

Of course, you may want to consider if this job really involves the maximal use of your talents. God gives each person a unique potential, and the time we spend earning a living should also be part of our contribution to the world. Let’s strive to make the best possible use of our time.

Sources: Avot 2:15.