My office runs, usually, about a dozen individual projects at any given time. It's been as high as eighteen, and dropped as low as six, but as a rule, around a dozen projects.
If you've never worked as a government contractor, you may not know this, but the way you spend the money on those contracts is extremely specific and controlled by a ridiculous number of laws. What it comes down to is this: at the end of each day, I have to divide my time very carefully into a number of buckets, depending on what task I was working on for which project. Occasionally, due to the nature of my particular job, my work can't be neatly divided. Sometimes my work equally benefits all our projects, or it's support work for the office as a whole and doesn't benefit any of the projects themselves.
Those tasks get charged to one of a number of special buckets that I'll lump together (because there's about six of them, and even I have trouble figuring out which is which) as "overhead." This is basically money that the company sets aside to cover these non-specific support type tasks. I'm one of our office's biggest overhead users, but I'm not the only one.
This year, the company -- in an effort to Improve Shareholder Value -- decided to drastically slash the amount of overhead money we're allowed to use. Which means that time charged to overhead beyond the small amount they gave us is coming directly out of our profit. Spending profit does not Improve Shareholder Value, as you may have guessed.
So right now, we're in a bit of a dry spell. We only have eight projects, and most of them don't have a lot of actual work at the moment. Looking at the calendar, we've got about a month ahead of us where there just isn't a lot of work, before some of the new contracts we just got kick in. Once those contracts kick in, we'll be all kinds of busy.
But in the meantime, we've got a month to kill... and we've already burned through most of our overhead for the quarter. If the Corporate Pinheads check their bottom lines and notice that we're burning profit, they will come down here and yell and scream at my boss and then demand that he lay some people off. Even though we've got work lined up. Because that's how Corporate Pinheads think. At least, around here.
My boss is trying to prevent this. He does not like it when Corporate so much as remembers this office even exists, much less starts trying to "help" us. So he's asking us to please do whatever we can to limit our overhead charging. Up to and including taking vacation time.
My schedule has been a little sparse for the last couple of weeks, and next week, has only a single delivery. So I'll be taking two or three days off, to help out our overhead situation.
Now I just have to decide what to do with it...