While every job has its pros and cons, the types of jobs where you’re logging countless hours behind a computer screen every day have one particular advantage over blue collar employment – you can fairly easily make it look like you’re working really hard without actually having to work hard.
Everyone will notice if you spend all day at the mechanic lounging around and not actually working on any cars. In an office environment, where people are often busy working on projects individually, no one is going to notice if you spend all day virtually wasting time (obviously, provided it’s an occasional occurrence – even the most lax boss will eventually realize if you haven’t actually done anything productive in a month).
Sometimes, you just don’t feel like working hard. You’re tired, you’re not feeling the greatest, and you just want a day to relax a little bit without actually having to take a sick day or vacation day for the privilege. Enter this list, the solution to all your problems, your shining light on those days when you just don’t want to work… here are 15 ways to make it appear as if you’re hard at work when really you’re not doing much at all. George Costanza would be so proud.
15. Have A Cup Of Coffee Near You, Always
Everyone knows that most people turn to caffeine when they need a little bit of an extra energy boost to get through their monster to-do list. While a ton of people have a cup of morning joe to help kick start their day, if you’re sipping a latte at 3 o’clock in the afternoon, that signals that you need constant energy bursts to deal with all the tasks on your plate that need to get done. If you’re getting something from an actual coffee shop and not just the sludge from your office coffee machine, make sure to ask for an extra shot – if they know you’re drinking a coffee extra strong, surely they’ll assume you’ve got a lot to do in order to require all that espresso. Forget about tea – while many teas do contain caffeine just like coffee, overall as a beverage, tea is a lot more zen. A mug of earl grey makes it seem like you’re in the middle of a leisurely day; a venti extra shot latte makes it seem like you’re powering through.
14. Send An E-Mail At A Crazy Hour
Unless your boss is constantly hovering over your shoulder, he or she has no idea whether you’re at inbox zero, or how quickly you’re responding to any e-mail queries you may be receiving. What they do notice is the time stamp on your e-mail. Sending an e-mail at 10:00 am or 1:00 pm, sometime right in the middle of regular working hours, just shows you’re doing your job – admirable, but nothing to be particularly impressed about. However, if they check an e-mail from you during working hours and notice you sent it at 5:00 am or at 10:00 pm – oh, man, they’re going to think you’re working so hard. I mean, it shows that you’re thinking about work and sending off e-mails when you’re not even at work! Of course, the e-mail contents actually need to be relevant, but no one’s saying you need to come up with a brilliant idea in the middle of the night – just set it up during your working hours and press send when everyone else is off duty. Simple.
13. Check Your Phone During A Conversation
If you constantly check your phone when you’re having dinner with friends or trying to impress a potential partner on a date, it’s just kind of rude and makes it seem like you don’t value their company. However, with the invention of smart phones, you’re not just looking to see if someone has called or texted – you could potentially be checking your e-mails, checking your company’s social media accounts if that’s in your job description, looking up a particular detail that might be relevant to your discussion, etc. If you’re constantly scrolling through your e-mail inbox, it’ll seem like your mind is always on work and on making sure you don’t miss that important e-mail you’ve been waiting for, when in actuality, you’re just scrolling mindlessly. Just make sure you don’t open a promo e-mail, no matter how much the subject line advertises a killer sale at your favourite store – there will without doubt be big, splashy images and text that’ll make it obvious you’re checking something non-work related.
12. Leave Tons Of Programs Open
Sure, in reality, most people work best when they can give their undivided attention and focus to a particular task – but having one lone window open makes it seem like you have all the time in the world, since you can afford to just focus on one thing at a time. If you want to create the illusion of working super hard on an endless task list, you need to make sure you have a ton of programs open. Have a to-do list in a Word file, have a calculator open, an Excel spreadsheet, a few web browser windows with relevant information, etc. It’ll obviously depend on your particular job field (if you don’t work with numbers, ever, it’ll be a little weird if you have a spreadsheet filled with numerical data open) but having tons going on on your screen will make it seem like you’re working hard to anyone who passes by your desk.
11. Send Out A Ton Of E-mails
Here’s the thing about e-mails – unless someone is literally standing behind you and monitoring what you type (which would make for a super toxic work environment, to be honest), no one really knows what you’re writing in an e-mail. That’s because, with computers, you can easily delete your faux e-mail. If you’re looking to waste time but give the illusion that you’re working hard, type up a few fake e-mails and simply delete them from your drafts folder a few seconds later. It’ll provide a little bit of entertainment for you, as you come up with creative fake e-mails to amuse yourself, and it makes it seem like you’re constantly communicating with other team members about important work-related things. Just make sure to never fill out the sender portion of the e-mail for a fake e-mail, because when you’re tired, the chances of you accidentally hitting the send button are much higher, and you may mistakenly send a humorous faux e-mail to someone important.
10. Walk Around Quickly, With Purpose
If you’re meandering around the office, strolling from cubicle to cubicle, wandering back from the kitchen with your cup of coffee, you give the appearance of someone who has all the time in the world – or, worse, someone who is avoiding their duties by staying away from their desk. You don’t want that. Instead, when you have to go somewhere in the office, move quickly and with a sense of purpose. If you’re heading to a meeting in that way, everyone will think you’re just so excited to get started that you need to get there ASAP. However, walking in that fashion gives you an air of ‘I cannot be disturbed, I’m very busy,’ even if you’re just heading to the bathroom or to get a bit of an afternoon snack because you’re feeling peckish. Obviously, you can’t just be walking around the office all day, so this is a tip to pull out periodically.
9. Stare At Your Computer Screen
Ever had one of those days where your mind is just hitting a wall, where you’re just so exhausted for some reason that you can’t seem to focus? Well, this is the perfect tip for those kinds of days when you don’t want to call in sick or take a day off, but you also don’t really want to work very hard. Just stare at your computer screen. Obviously, don’t be stupid about it – don’t just stare blankly at a black screen, or people at your office will think you’ve lost it. However, if you have a Word document or Excel spreadsheet open and you’re just looking at it, people won’t necessarily assume you’re zoned out and daydreaming about a vacation somewhere tropical. They’ll just think you’re really pondering something, working through a difficult problem in your brain, crunching all that data. They don’t know what’s going on in your mind – they just see you totally engrossed in some type of work-related file.
8. Be The First One In And The Last One Out
Okay, this tip depends a bit on your office situation. If you work in an open floor plan office where everyone can see what you’re doing at all times, then you’ll be limited to the ways you can waste time and appear like you’re actually working. However, if you have a separate office you can retreat to, you are one lucky employee. You see, even though everyone knows it’s possible to be present and utterly unproductive, there’s still the overarching belief that if your butt is plopped in your desk chair, you are working. So, the easiest way to make it seem like you’re working very hard is simply to be there. Show up first, head to your office, and scroll through your social media accounts on your phone while sipping your morning coffee. Stick around while everyone else is leaving and they’ll pass your occupied office impressed, thinking that you’re clocking in extra hours – when in actuality, you’re just updating your fantasy football team.
7. Organize Papers
This one is a bit tougher in the digital age, since more and more things are moving to a digital format, but most offices still have a ton of things that need to be handled on physical paper. Thus, your opportunity to slack arises. When you’re feeling burned out but want to make it seem like you’re working really hard, just start organizing your papers. Move things around in your filing cabinet. Straighten the stacks on your desk. Take a few paper clips off of a stack, flip through it, re-file them somewhere. Throw a few sheets in the garbage after assessing them very carefully. Staple some things together. Jot down a note on the top of a sheet. There are an endless amount of ways to can mess around with your papers to make it seem like you’re incredibly busy – just make sure that you know where you’ve put things, otherwise you’ll look really foolish digging through the files you spent an hour organizing because you for some reason can’t find the one someone requested.
6. Put Things On Post-it Notes
A computer monitor with post-it notes littered all along the borders is a computer monitor of someone working very hard, right? Use that to your advantage. There are some things that you likely have memorized at your job after doing them so many times, but write a few post-its to keep around to make it look like you have so much to remember that you need a few visual cues. Jot down a few post-its to stick as inspiration hits you; it’ll make it seem like you have so much going on that you need to write things down constantly lest the important things get lost in the busy jumble of your workday. Just make sure that the ones with information not actually related to work are thrown out at the end of the day, or you may run into a sticky situation when your boss asks why your bulletin board is covered with notes saying which bars have happy hour specials after work and what new items of clothing you’re looking to purchase on the weekend.
5. Bring Files Home At The End Of The Night
Obviously, this piece of advice only works if you work in a field where you’re allowed to peruse things outside of the office. If you work someplace where the files are confidential, containing top secret pieces of information, trying to sneak them out won’t make it look like you’re working hard – it’ll just look slightly suspicious. However, if you work at an average desk job where the material you’re dealing with isn’t particularly sensitive, just stick a few files in your bag to take home at the end of the day, making it understood that you’ll take a look at them in the evening. You don’t have to actually take a look at them once you leave the office – in fact, you don’t even need to take them out of your bag. The process just makes it seem like you’re so devoted and dedicated that you’re willing to sacrifice some of your time off the clock to make sure the job is done right.
4. Keep Your Desk Messy
Everyone works differently. Some people do their best work when their surroundings are pristine and so clean you could perform surgery on their desk, while other people prefer to have everything on hand, even if that just means in endless piles around them. However, a too-clean desk practically invites someone to drop more files on your desk because you look like you don’t have a lot going on. A desk overflowing with papers, old to-go coffee cups, documents, post-it notes sprinkled amidst them, a calendar that’s so full of tasks it’s almost blacked out… that’s someone who you don’t really want to bother. So, before you start tidying up your desk at the end of a long work day, pause for a moment and maybe leave the clutter for a little while longer – it’ll make it seem like you’ve got a ton on your plate, and consequently, people will be less likely to ask you to help them on their own tasks.
3. Eat Lunch At Your Desk
Every now and then, you may need to meet a client or co-worker for lunch somewhere to go over some information. However, for the most part, the lunch hour is a fairly flexible part of your day. Most people tend to go out for lunch or eat the lunch they’ve brought in the office kitchen/break room, to get a bit of a break from sitting at their desk all day, a change of scenery. While a change of scenery is proven to actually be beneficial in helping you be more productive throughout the day, when you’re trying to look busy, there’s no better way to do it than by eating lunch at your desk. I mean, it sends the message that you certainly don’t have time to gallivant around town going to lunch, or even just waste a half hour eating your brown bagged lunch in the break room. Instead, you’re eating while working on things on your computer – that’s how busy and dedicated you are.
2. Have A Decoy Desk Jacket
Every office has a different dress code, but whether you’re required to wear a full suit and tie or just some type of office casual wear every day, one thing remains consistent – with all that air conditioning indoors, you’ll likely need some type of a jacket or sweater. However, if you want to move beyond the realm of merely keeping warm and into the realm of keeping up the illusion that you’re hard at work, we have a simply solution for you – the desk jacket. Have a jacket or sweater to hang on the back of your chair, which you can then leave there as you take an extra long coffee break or walk to clear your head a bit. After all, if you’ve left your coat or sweater, chances are you just stepped away from your desk for a moment to take a file elsewhere or grab something from a coworker, right? That’s what you want everyone else to think, anyway.
1. Always Have Meetings Scheduled
Everyone knows that meetings are generally a bit of a time waster. Sure, there’s usually one or two important points to cover in a meeting. However, for the most part, the time gets filled up with endless chit chat and too much time spent dwelling on things that were dealt with long ago. So, if you want to make it seem like you’re working very hard but don’t want to actually have to exert too much brain power, scheduling meetings might be the perfect solution for you. If your schedule shows that you have back to back meetings all morning, it makes it seem like you’re extremely hard at work, when in actuality, you’re probably spending the majority of your morning sipping coffee, re-hashing things with co-workers, making small talk, and only grappling with one or two actual problems or matters to be addressed. Plus, you can always use the excuse that a meeting you had ran long, and that’s a beautiful thing.