Working Hard At Looking Busy: An Office Worker’s Memorandum


I bet when you read the title to this article you became intrigued. Now you’re saying to yourself, ‘He’s right. I am intrigued! But why?’ The reason: we’ve all done it. We’ve all tried looking busy at work when we’ve had absolutely nothing to do. You pass papers back and forth across your desk at intermittent times throughout the day to make it seem as if you are reading important documents. We make multiple runs to the supply closet for our fourteenth bag of paperclips. How about swapping out random folders in the filing cabinet, regardless of whether you need them? Checking your Facebook on your iPhone and telling others you’re sending a work email because your computer is acting up. Or turning your screen so no one can see you’re doing the daily crossword on USAtoday.com.

Whether you do one of the tasks listed or all of them in one day, these are only a few of the tactics we employ to fool the upper echelons of our institutions. But for some of us, what we do goes far beyond paperclips and crosswords. It’s much more than that. It’s an art form to such an extent that if you’re not one who is trained in such skills, you would never know we were there just passing the time.

I’ve had the opportunity to work in an office for many years, in multiple jobs, doing many different things. There were times when I was really busy and I was actually accomplishing something. On those days I would go home feeling as if I have been a good citizen and contributed to the continual existence of mankind. But there were times I had to employ more unconventional methods to look as if I were beyond busy instead of collecting tax payer’s money to just sit there and look pretty. Not only have I had to do this myself but so have many of my counterparts. And it is here that I’ll start. If you think you can enter into one of these campaigns, with no one’s help, all the time, you’re wrong. It’s a good and wise thing for multiple individuals to be involved in one of these emergency procedures.

(DISCLAIMER: Please, please remember that these are tactics only to be used when you have absolutely NOTHING to do. It’s better to appear busy then than to look like a lazy bum.)

(Side observation: If you’re at work right now you may not realize it, but at this very moment, by reading this article you are participating in looking busy.)

Here’s a scenario. You and your accomplice are walking down the hall or sitting at a desk talking about this and that, when suddenly your manager walks within ear shot. Suddenly a casual conversation about home décor is turned into a more-than-important meeting about anything. Being able to shift topics on a whim is a skill that must be mastered before this tactic is used. If you do not master it before using it, you will be left saying a lot of ums and uhs that will be your eventual demise.

Having a few props at your disposal comes in handy as well. Carry a clipboard with paper or an open notebook. Use big words when your superior is walking by and do a lot of pointing. And always, always carry a pen. It’s probably the most important tool in your arsenal. The most effective use of this tool is to constantly click it as you lean back in your chair and stare at your computer screen. Those who walk by will see you are deep in thought about a most important situation.

If you work in a large office building with multiple floors you may see someone running down the hall or walking fast. These people are not going anywhere important. They just don’t have anything to do so they are exercising. But again, to the untrained eye they look as if there is something, someone or some place they need to get to immediately. Now that you know this you can look for the props. They are most likely carrying a clipboard or notebook. And I can guarantee there is a pen somewhere on that person.

There are also a few things you can do while you are at your desk. Not all of us have the luxury of a wall-facing computer. Many of us are exposed and anyone can see what we are doing at any time. Privacy screens are okay but still leave you exposed and aren’t a guarantee to privacy as the title of the product would have you believe. Try this. Open a file on your desktop and take a screen shot. Then replace your background photo with the screen shot you just took, so when you have nothing open on your computer you give the illusion that you are busy.

A Bluetooth earpiece is a wonderful prop technology has provided. Constantly having it in your ear prepares you for instant phone calls and over-the-phone meetings. Do not have a cluttered desk. It may lead your superiors to think you are a slob. Instead, change the appearance of what is on your desk every day or so. That way it always looks as if you’ve accomplished a slew of things over the week. And finally, one of my favorite tactics that has already helped me this very morning. Open up a Microsoft word document and write a blog, or in my case, an article for an exploration company that uses monikers for their writers. The product: your superiors will walk by and, from what they see, will think you are fast at work.

Remember, this is an art form. It isn’t something to be practiced by the faint of heart or the haphazardous. You fail in any area in any of these tasks and you’re liable to be put working with the janitor cleaning bathrooms, polishing your boss’s company awards, shredding paper or setting up Christmas trees and Christmas decorations around the office.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a pen that needs clicking.

Photo: Vali…

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Working Hard At Looking Busy: An Office Worker’s Memorandum

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