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Avoiding Work : 10 ways to look busy in the office

Since finishing your work is the best way to be given more to do, an essential skill in the modern workplace is that of avoiding being productive. However, the art lies in looking like you’re busy when you’re actually just skiving. You know, like your boss does. Here’s ten ways to keep your manager and colleagues convinced that you’re a Very Busy Person:

  1. Email

The gift of the gods as far as work avoidance is concerned, email is without a doubt the most flexible method of being unproductive. Hunt around your employer’s website and find group newsletters, regular updates, procedural mailing lists and anything else that you can subscribe to for delivery by email. If it takes 15-30 seconds to read a mail and you get over 100 every morning, that’s nearly an hour gone already. And that’s without even starting on the joys of forwarding “useful information” to anyone who might be even vaguely interested, responding to questions you know nothing about (“Sorry, can’t help you, but I’ll forward this round my team and see if anyone else knows”) and performing general housekeeping tasks on your now-humongous mailbox so that the network people are happy.

  1. Go places!

Not only good for avoiding work but also good for your health, walking is a splendid way to look busy. Always remember to carry a few sheets of paper with something printed on them, a notebook and a pen: this way, you can always tell people that you’re headed to a meeting (which will, of course, be “cancelled”), when you’re actually just wandering aimlessly. That’s another thing – look determined, no matter how aimless you are. Few people will stop and question someone who’s obviously on their way to something important.

  1. Reports and Memos

Nobody reads memos or reports. Not even managers. They’re just an excuse to spend the stationery budget. Just think, though: if you actually sit and read all those notes from the directors instead of binning them, how much time would it take? And if you added that 75-page report from Human Resources on the strategic principles of careful forward planning in the lemming-shaped boot industry? The hours can whiz by and, as a bonus, any managers who see you reading this stuff will be scared out of their skin – they’ll assume you actually care and could threaten their job!

  1. The Corporate Website

Keeping yourself informed on the company’s new strategic long-term goals in the current business ecosystem is important. Well, it might be, if you understood what that nonsense is supposed to mean. Regardless of that, the corporate website is a superb tool for wasting time. Not only can you hunt down new email lists for subscriptions, but you can spend hours reading new procedures, catching up on the news in other departments and having a good laugh at the directors’ attempts to sound like friendly people (while explaining why the people who are actually working hard are going to be fired next month).

  1. Training

Whoever it was in Human Resources who decided that corporate image would be vastly improved by including “continuous personal development” in every employee’s contract deserves a medal. I’ll bet they didn’t do much work, either. On-the-job training is a boon for those days when you just can’t face actually putting your mind to anything. Few are the companies that will deny you the time to learn a new software package or to read the latest process-oriented business system manual. They’ll even applaud you for bettering yourself, despite the fact that all you’ll learn is to speak more like a manager than a normal human being.

  1. Ride the lifts, walk the stairs

In a large company with several coffee machines, you can take that determined walk around the building a step further (excuse the pun). Papers in hand, ride up in the elevators a few floors. You can always pretend you’re looking for someone in particular and that they’re not where you thought they were. Stop at the coffee machine and spend a few minutes collecting your thoughts, then head back to your desk – don’t take the elevator, though: take the stairs. It’s slightly longer and if anyone asks, you can tell them it’s your new healthy resolution to always use the stairs in one direction per journey!

  1. Look for a meeting room

Since you’re off and about, wandering the corridors of your business, why not extend your stay in other areas? An excellent excuse for dawdling with less determination is that you are looking for a free meeting room. Again, the meeting will never happen, but the time it takes to go round every possible room in the building could be pretty extensive. And if you find a room with no windows, you could always have a bit of a sit-down: after all, you ARE waiting for a meeting. It’s not your fault if the others don’t turn up. Give them another five minutes. Maybe they’ll be along.

  1. Mess around in Excel

Back in the days when Excel was really just a spreadsheet, it wasn’t much use outside of the grey, grey walls of accounting. These days, however, it’s a great big toy box full of fun! Just think of all the non-projects you can create in there: you could automate a bunch of silly quizzes, work out your monthly beer budget, build little database applications to store the phone numbers of all your friends – the possibilities are endless. And then, when you’re done building, you can run all that data through a bunch of pivot tables, just to see what happens!

  1. Watch the dramatic gopher

Does your company have Internet access? Good. You should now go and watch the Dramatic Gopher (or prairie dog, or whatever it’s being called today). No matter how many times you see this, it will still make you chuckle. And while you’re there, why not just watch one of those videos listed down in the corner? Or maybe two. Hmm, perhaps just one more, eh?

  1. The loo

Terribly overlooked in the fight against the injustice of normal working hours is the one room in the building which will always be your friend: the toilet. It’s just so simple to go off there and nobody will question you. Calculate five to ten minutes per visit, two to three times per day and you’ll be fine, especially if you can time the visits so that no individual colleague sees more than two per day. I mean, how many bosses are actually going to come in looking for you? You could probably sue them for invasion of anal privacy or something. Even better, if you can manage it, is to actually sleep in the loo. Carry your mobile phone, set to vibration mode, and put the alarm on. Ten minutes of snoozing and you’ll be set up for another hour of avoiding work. Hey, don’t knock it: both Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher used to “power-nap” when they were Prime Minister. The only disadvantage is that it ages you prematurely, apparently – though whether it ages you more than actually working would, I can’t say.

[Note: This is humor. Don’t do any of these things. And don’t blame me if you do, and then get fired, arrested, committed to an asylum, promoted or anything else.]

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