10 things to do when you don’t feel like working (Employee Level)

September 6, 2007, 5:00 PM UTC
  1. snooze.jpgHave an apple at your desk. Nobody will interrupt a person who is eating an apple. An apple a day keeps the bosses away.
  2. Get three of the huge binders that financial people use to house their long, tedious spreadsheets. Put them under your arm and walk around the hallways with them. This may be a little tiresome after a while, but it beats working, right? Better still, people after a while will think you are actually a financial person and definitely leave you alone.
  3. Find a meeting that marginally concerns you, or perhaps not even. Make sure it contains more than six people and, if possible, is badly lit because somebody is doing a Powerpoint presentation. Slide into a chair at the far end of the table, lean over to the person next to you and say, “Sorry I’m late.” Then sit for the duration of the meeting without saying anything, while taking notes. This is appropriate behavior for a person whose function at the meeting is unclear to everybody. After the meeting, hang around for a while straightening up your notes, saying hi, shaking hands, etc. When you return to your space, you can tell people you were “at a meeting,” and it will have been the truth. If your boss asks you why you were at a meeting about building security when you are actually in Information Technology, you say that you don’t know, really, and you have no intention of getting roped into another again. This will work.
  4. Eat a banana at your desk. Nobody ever bothered anybody who was eating a banana. If the banana is your second piece of fruit for the day, make sure to have a document in front of you or something like that. You don’t want people think that all you do is sit around eating fruit all day like a monkey.
  5. Defragment your hard drive. This takes several hours and incapacitates your computer for business use. It’s also good digital hygiene. If you work in a system that won’t allow you to defrag your hardware, try doing a complete system scan of some sort. You can then tell people you are annoyed at how long it is taking.
  6. Some techniques that work for management (see yesterday’s entry) may work for you also. This includes the use of coffee. The only difference between you and an executive is how far you are allowed to ramble with your cup. Do NOT go off the floor. Stay relatively close to home and make sure you have a sheaf of paper in one hand so you can lean over the desk of a fellow goof-off and regard the documentation when necessary.
  7. Don’t forget to take lunch. Everybody deserves a lunch. You have a right to it. So do not waste your lunch time by working at your desk unless you have a door. If you have a door, you can have lunch delivered, close your door and be perceived to be a hardworking person so busy that you don’t even have time to go out.
  8. While it is very hard for sub-management to take naps, it can be done. While a simple associate, I used to sleep in my office on the floor with head against my closed door. That way if anybody opened the door it would hit me in the head, waking me dramatically so that I could then flip over and go about on my hands and knees muttering something like, “where’s that paperclip?” or something like that. Incredibly, I never got caught, perhaps because my bosses were napping at the same time. Another good technique is to sleep with your feet up on your desk only until the telephone rings. On busy days, that may be just two minutes. On quiet summer Fridays, however, you may need a bib.
  9. Gatherings of like-minded associates in a public location — like the nearest conference room — often give the impression of business activity while involving very little. Obviously, on days when all the bosses are at boondoggles, getaways or other forms of executive indolence, your standards can be adjusted accordingly.
  10. Don’t ever forget that, as a responsible employee, your right to goof off is directly proportional to your ability to deliver the goods on time, under budget, every time. Only the most superb performers can consistently goof off and get away with it. So sometimes, when you don’t really feel like working? Work anyhow, okay?