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I work in a software startup where one of the co-founders, who works remotely, is my boss. Usually he is the one who assigns tasks to all the developers, and we contact him when we finish our assigned work.

In the past 3-4 weeks he has not assigned any work for me, which has happened before but never for this length of time. As a result, I have a lot of free time and I am losing motivation at work. I try to fix bugs, or help QA, but it's not enough, and not very interesting/motivating to do everyday.

Now I am facing two problems. Yesterday my HR approached me because I leave early (because I have nothing to do). Second I suffer from mental illnesses and being unoccupied is not very healthy for me (weekends in general are very difficult for me too).

I have written my boss a few times already about this, but nothing has changed. I am thinking of writing a formal E-Mail about this CC'ing both founders, but I feel I might offend my boss.

Note. I am 100% sure I am not being made redundant because it has happened in the past too (for few days at a time), and I also received a raise recently.

How do I approach my boss to give me more work?

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    Sending an email, asking for something to do unless this position is completely remote, isn’t really doing enough. Go and talk to the person. Are you sure the expectation of your boss isn’t that you will keep yourself busy with work even if your not assigned a specific task? – Donald Feb 1 '19 at 8:00
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It sounds like you have done a lot of what can be done to try to get your boss to proactively assign you more work. You can feel free to keep mentioning it to him, but here are two other things to do in the meantime:

  1. Look at other projects that people in the company are doing, and offer to help on ones that are most interesting to you. If this startup is normal at all, then there are overworked people who would love extra help, and lots of opportunities for you to contribute.
  2. Use what you know about the companies goals / codebase / projects to look for something else to work on. If you can find something you think will be valuable and interesting, propose it to your boss. Some of the most valuable things I've done in my career have been things I've proposed to people.
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Managers hate people going to them with problems, go to your boss with a problem and a solution, even better, give him a solution to a problem he does not know he has. 'I know you're busy, but I have run out of work, can you give me more. Until you get back to me, I will use the time productively working on improving XYZ"

Find a pain point in the business that also 'spins you wheels' to fix - something that always seems to crop up, but is always in the 'Valuable but we have got more important things to worry about".

Look around, who many things do you or others wish "somebody" would fix... This is you opportunity to be "somebody".

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You can consider this period as an opportunity to step-up and prepare task-list for yourself, sending it to your supervisor for "priority evaluation"

If nothing else, it would give you another chance to reach out for assignment without looking idle.

And in case of delayed response, starting on the task #1 in the list compiled :)

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  • What do you mean by "task-list"? – DrAnonymous Jan 31 '19 at 20:46
  • @DrAnonymous What this answer is proposing is that you come up with a list of interesting tasks you could do and send that to your boss to prioritize/signoff on the work. – jcmack Jan 31 '19 at 20:54
  • @jcmack Thank you, was afk to answer. Yes, its exactly what i am proposing – Strader Jan 31 '19 at 22:31
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Honestly, this seems to be a fairly common experience for early career jobs.

I've been in the same position, and I found it disheartening.

The trick is - just learn some stuff. You probably paid lots of money for your university degree - and now you're being paid to learn!

Now I found myself feeling guilty for working on stuff that 'wasn't strictly work related'. But reframe it - understanding technology is part of the job and is going to make you a more valuable employee.

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You contact the other developers who have jobs and ask them what needs doing, since your boss doesn't assign anything to you. If you came to me, I'd have 100s of things that need doing. Many of low priority, which is why I'm not doing them, but better you do useful low priority things than sitting around doing nothing. Or things at medium priority, that can be assigned to someone without experience without risk.

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