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Can’t You See I’m Busy?

Topics: Lifestyle & Culture | Add A CommentBy admin | March 10, 2010

It’s interesting that in both boom AND bust times LOOKING like you’re doing work is more important than actually DOING it.


This woman understood the importance
of fake spreadsheets on the computer
screen, but lost her job shortly after this
photo was taken. Why? She forgot to
generate fake desktop clutter.

We used to have a weekly feature called Monday Demotivators in which we featured Flash-based games and puzzles to help you avoid actually (gasp) doing work on Monday morning. During the boom economy of a few years ago, I couldn’t help noticing that – as an aspiring entrepeneurial type – I often worked 60-70 hours a week, while my friends with “real” jobs spent an awful lot of time calling me during the day to fill time while they shopped on line or sent friends stupid links they found on Fark, or doing just about anything but their actual job. This not only had a big impact on my understanding of things like the 20-60-20 rule and the logic of overseas outsourcing, but eventually led to my amusement with spending time working to find ways to help others avoid working. Given the unemployment figures of the last year however, we decided to discontinue our little Monday feature. I mean, if you don’t have a job, you don’t have any work to avoid, right? The other day though, I received an e-mail in which the visitor said “I know this sounds crazy, but I miss your Monday Demotivators. Not because I’m trying to avoid work, but because of force reductions, I’m afraid I’ll get cut because I don’t look busy enough.” Yes, in the bizarre world of corporate employment, if you’re not the CEO that gets a bonus for running your company into the ground, you’re just a commodity that risks being shipped overseas if you’re not perceived as an asset as the ship sinks. And one of the best ways to be perceived as an asset is to not actually be an asset, but to look like one. So we’re here to help. It’s funny that “looking busy” was a valuable skill during boom times because your employer was oblivious to the same inefficiency that led to the staff cuts that now make “looking busy” a crucial skill again. Your Guide to Looking Busy at Work from 2003 is a slightly humorous piece that’s all about frittering away your surplus work hours with high-tech approaches, but last month’s NYT piece Working Hard to Look Busy was all about the new busywork, the kind that helps you keep the job that you were always avoiding. Decent management is hip to the more obvious “furrowing of the brow while clacking on your keyboard and faking a phone call” methods, so you have to get clever. This article gets down to the finer points like “abusing the interoffice envelope system” and “propping out your desk”. Following the simple suggestions in that peice should have you looking Busier than a one-legged man in a butt kickin’ contest in no time. Once you’ve successfully created the illusion of busy-ness, it still may be hard to get back to the more obvious nonsense like first-person shooter games, so you might want to try the games over at CantYouSeeImBusy.com, which are all designed to look like common office programs. Like Leadership, which appears to be a quarterly progress report, but is in fact a “navigate your rocket through the alien terrain” game. You could also resort to things like creating a fake desktop with lots of programs open (see below). Just remember that it IS fake if the boss wanders in; you’ll look pretty stupid if you start trying to drag around fake program windows. Got any tips of your own for looking busy? I have to get back to work now.

A screenshot of Leadership from CantYouSeeImBusy.com:

If you create a fake desktop background, be sure to include lots of colorful graphs: