Let me preface this by saying I’m a firm believer in hard work. There’s just no substitute for it, whatever the profession. Heck, you could be a fly on the wall with the sole responsibility of being a fly on the wall, but stop working hard and leave your post and all of a sudden you’re not a fly on the wall anymore and you’re fired. It’s as simple as that. That said, though, there are moments during any given day, or entire days for that matter, where you just don’t feel like doing any work (take anytime around the holidays, for example; or Friday’s; or Saturday’s where you get called in unexpectedly; or any day after 4; or that 30-minute grace period after lunch). And understandably so. However, that doesn’t mean you can expect to do nothing and get away with it. For that reason, I’ve provided a few ways to appear busy at work, while actually doing nothing constructive at all.
1. Stare off into space while stroking your chin thoughtfully. Staring off into space is perhaps the easiest way to get busted for doing nothing. And if you’re doing it without stroking your chin that’s exactly what will happen, because it’s quite apparent you’re just daydreaming. However, stare off into space while stroking your chin and you become somebody who is busy creating workplace magic.
2. Look at your co-workers and mimic their movements. Joanne’s crossing her legs? Do it. Trevor’s scratching his nose? Do it. Cindy’s raising an apple to her mouth? Take her apple and do it.
3. Refresh your email. That’s not to say you should read all of your emails. That would involve work, after all. Simply refresh them. Over and over and over again.
4. Organize your desk or work space. Is there a Post-it Note that seems to be crooked? Or a pen or pencil sitting at the wrong angle in your pen or pencil cup holder? Fix it. Oh, is your desk or work space in perfect order? Trash it. Spill coffee everywhere. Clumsily dump old paper files all over the place. Throw the computer monitor through a wall. Then fix it.
5. Look worryingly at your computer while taking a drink of something. Nothing says I’m solving a tough work complication like somebody drinking a Diet Mountain Dew while looking at their computer with a look of despair. The best part about this is you could be looking at anything on your monitor, too. Get caught up on the latest news by reading something from a well respected publication, or knock out a few minutes playing snake. It doesn’t matter. Just keep that brow furrowed and continue to sip away.
6. Sit on the toilet for an inordinate amount of time. Everybody loves going to the bathroom at work and getting paid for it. It’s one of the greater little pleasures of being on the job. So why not prolong the experience and sit there a little longer than you need to. Heck, go for an hour. See what you can get away with. If anybody calls you out, tell them you had bad Taco Bell last night and it’s a battlefield in there.
7. Make coffee. Coffee is to the workplace what cigarettes are to the movie version of prison. It doesn’t matter what time of day it is, people always want it, and Rebecca from three cubicles down isn’t above trading a week’s worth of lunches for a freshly brewed cup. So by being the guy making the coffee, you’re not only doing everybody a favor, but you’re also not doing any work at all. If there’s already a pot of freshly brewed coffee, dump it out and start again. Nobody has to know.
8. Look for something in your backpack or briefcase or purse or whatever it is you use to carry work documents. The main thing here is you’re looking for something that’s not there. That way you can never find it, and how much time you spend looking for it is totally up to you. Pro-tip: start rummaging through said item calmly, but become increasingly agitated as time passes to the point of losing all your composure and throwing said item against the wall. Now that you have everybody’s attention, tell them it wasn’t there and you’re going to go look for it in the car.
9. Take out the trash. This works similarly to making coffee. The main difference, however, is that it’s a thankless job. Nobody wants to take out the trash. There’s no real reward, and, to state the obvious, it doesn’t smell very good. Especially since Tony, your boss, likes to dispose of his half eaten tuna sandwich in it every single day. But that means there’s more opportunity for you. After all, there’s plenty of trash, but not enough willing bodies to take it out. So be the hero your workplace needs.