We're all for productivity, but some days you just need to find a way to de-stress and relax a little bit. Unfortunately, goofing off at work makes you look bad and can get you in a lot of trouble. Here are some ways you can pass the time on a slow day and keep Sauron's eye off of you.
Why "Slacking Off" Is Necessary
Working nonstop for eight hours a day is sure to burn you out, and taking a little break time can refresh your mind. In fact, you probably already know that taking a bit of slacking off can make you more productive. Here's the problem: the times when you need to take a breather don't always line up with your scheduled break time.
Plus, many of us are in offices that are pretty strict and won't approve of these breaks. The tips in this post, when used responsibly, can help you de-fry your brain and recharge your batteries without incurring the wrath of your boss.
Keep the Boss Off Your Trail
First and foremost, you need to look like you're busy doing your work. You don't necessarily have to be slacking off. You may have other things you need to get done that just isn't applicable to your job at that time. Either way, you need to master the art of looking busy.
Get the big important stuff out of the way. Get ready to update the boss on your work at the drop of a hat. Always know what you're working on. Keep a desk that doesn't look completely unused. Things like this will help you maintain your "busy" illusion, and give you a good reputation with your supervisor(s).
Browse the Web Like a Ninja
Guaranteed to be the number one time-waster at most jobs, browsing the internet is quickly becoming our favourite pastime. Whether you're on your phone or your work computer, you're probably guilty of this every day (it's OK, we all are). If you're going to do it though, at least do it right. Here are some tips to keep it on the down low:
- Find a good mirror to put on top of your monitor (or next to it). Some places might not allow them, but you'll be able to see if someone is approaching your desk.
- Don Reisinger at CNET suggests resizing your browser window to fit in with another program that you should have open, like your email. You may not get to see as much, but if someone sees your screen, it will look like part of what you're working on.
- Make sure you know your keyboard shortcuts. If you're not sure what to learn, start with the shortcut to minimise whatever window you have open. You can also create a master "boss key" that hides everything you're doing with a single keystroke — very handy when someone's approaching your desk.
- Dudley Dawson at the Examiner recommends turning down the brightness level of your monitor. This doesn't draw any attention to you and it makes it much more difficult for passerbys to see what's on your screen.
When you're browsing, be aware of your surroundings. Don't get caught because you were absorbed in a great article. It doesn't hurt to do a little visual angle recon either. When no one's around, take some time to figure out what monitor positions and angles give passerbys the least amount of vision.
Get Your Game On
Tired of browsing the web? If you're feeling daring, you can play some games. The trouble here is that your IT department probably has your machine locked down so you can't install software or open up your Steam client and download your library. Those kinds of games aren't very inconspicuous, anyway. To keep from getting busted, you're going to need to get creative.
There are lots of free browser-based games out there, but here are some of the best ones for work. Why? Because they make it look like you're working.
- CantYouSeeImBusy has a collection of games that look like normal work programs. From a spaceship flying along a line graph to a Breakout clone that plays in a fake word processor, you're bound to find something here to occupy the fun part of your brain.
- Another site that pulls a "looky lou" is 1cup1coffee. When you get to the site, you pick a resolution, then it opens up a fake Windows directory filled with "files." The files are actually games you can play, and if someone starts to creep on you, hitting the backspace key backs you out to the boring file directory.
- If you're after something with a little more depth, take a look at this complete RPG that was made entirely in an Excel spreadsheet by Cary Walkin. That's not the only game you can play in Excel either. Check out ExcelTrick to find a huge list of games that can be played within Excel. Make sure you have macros enabled, though, or many of them will not work.
Alternatively, play something secretly on your smartphone. Load up your device with games and bust it out when things get slow. Some jobs don't care if you have your phone, but many enforce a strict "no phone" policy, so be careful. In some cases, staring down at your phone might be more obvious than looking at your monitor. If you want to get your game on, but still be productive, why not take a look at the ways you can gamify your life?
Nap It Out
If you had a late night or a really exhausting morning, grabbing a little shuteye might be in order. We know that sleep is essential to maintaining productivity, so it's really to help you work better. Right?
Sleeping on the job looks really bad, so you'll need to be extra careful. Truthfully, your best option is to try to grab a few winks during your lunch break and then eat at your desk. If that's not an option, there are still a few things you can do. If you're going to sleep, make it a power nap and time it correctly. Sleep no more than 20 minutes, because oversleeping can mess with you in more ways than one.
You need to find a good spot too, and sometimes hiding is your only option. If you're going to disappear though, take your phone with you. Set an alarm for how long you think you can slip away unnoticed or have an accomplice that will text you the moment your boss starts wondering where you are. For a comprehensive look at how to rest the ol' eyes on the clock, check out our guide on sleeping at work.
Have Some Good Excuses Ready for When You Get Caught
At some point you're going to get busted, especially if you abuse these tips. It doesn't have to be game over though. Keeping a handful of solid excuses up your sleeve can save your skin if you're caught napping or screwing around. Just make sure it's true. Honesty is the best policy here.
Bad excuses, as outlined by eFinancialCareers, are things that make you look worse than you already do. Make sure your excuse doesn't insinuate any more irresponsibility than is already visible, and make sure your excuse explains the amount of time you've used up well. If you absolutely must lie, stick to something that is related to your health and isn't too serious (like food poisoning). If you're not sure if your cataloged excuses are good enough, take a look from a different perspective and examine your own reaction to them.
We're not suggesting you use these tips to slack off all day — that would be irresponsible (and would probably put your job on the line). Life, however, is not always black or white. Sometimes you need to find a way to recharge your batteries so you can get back to being productive. When the day is dragging you down, it's OK to find a little "me time". Just make sure you actually get your work done too!