With current economic conditions, it is imperative to keep your job. But right now, work is slow. The Boss has got their eye out for slackers. If you are lacking work around the office, your next best bet is to look like your plate is full of tasks. Here are some tips on how to look busy around the office:
Schedule all your work
I learned this as a project management tool, but it also is very helpful to make your schedule look packed. In your scheduling software, block off time for every task you have: scheduling, e-mail, meetings, returning calls, and even scheduling to send an e-mail about a returning phone calls meeting. Block off all that time. Anyone looking to schedule a meeting with you will look at your schedule and say, “Damn, they’re getting shit done!”
Carry stuff around
Busy people have paperwork. Busy people don’t have empty hands. I suggest keeping your hands full while walking from point A to point B in the office. Even if you are taking a few sheets of paper down to the recycling bin, keep those hands full. Heck, paperclip two different piles of papers and use two hands to professionally deliver your paper to recycling. Oh, and make sure you take a few sheets OUT of the recycling bin on your way back to your desk as props.
Prop out your desk
If your desk is neat, it might mean that you are a clean, organized worker (2% chance) or that you have nothing going on in your job (98% chance). Your desk is a great location to stage work. Keep a few files on your desk. Always keep some work in the IN box and some work in the OUT box. Leave papers with highlighter and post-its on them piled in a stack. Make sure you stamp everything with DRAFT so that people know you’ve got more work ahead. Half empty coffee cups also help to sell that you are not only busy, but burning the midnight oil.
Ask about office supplies
Busy people go through things like post-it notes, DRAFT stamps and highlighers. Ask the office manager or assistant about getting more supplies or report binders. Ask your co-workers if you can steal some of their staples or binder clips. Leave an e-mail with the computer help desk that the letters on your keyboard are wearing off. Especially the P R O F I and T keys. Word will get around.
Abuse the interoffice envelope system
Busy people get internal documents. I suggest you get your hands on a few of those beautiful, yellow bastards and begin sending yourself mail from different divisions in the building. (Don’t fake send documents from individuals.) Drop in a filled out vacation form, sign HR in the FROM column and your name in the TO column. Drop in a black check request and send it from FINANCE to yourself. Then, drop the envelopes off in other parts of the office. If the envelope does accidentally get delivered to HR or FINANCE, all they see is a form. But what should happen is that you’ll receive several interoffice envelopes a day. Make sure you spread out your envelopes and exchange them with other departments so that your name doesn’t appear ten times in a row.
Have lots of real mail sent to you
Busy people get snail mail. Sign up for catalogs from shipping companies or art supply distributors. Start signing up on-line for Project Management or Excel course and your mailbox will overflow with offers for 10 – 12 other courses in Anger Management or The Four Conversations or How to Look Busy. A full mailbox means a busy worker who shouldn't get fired.
Book a meeting room to get regular work completed
If your office is anything like mine, there are limited meeting room resources thoughout most of the day. I suggest scheduling the meeting room during fringe times and use the room to get your regular work done. Sit at the table where anyone peeking in through the door will see you in there. They will assume you are running a meeting. If someone does pop in the room or if you have one of those really cool glass meeting rooms, just say that you are waiting for an outside client. If they never show up… reschedule the “meeting.”
Envelope photo courtesy of adrianblack