The Art of Looking Busy

The Art of Looking Busy

Andrea Freedman

As many of us who have been in the workforce for many years know, between the advancement of technology, bosses actually learning to use their own computers, and tough economic times, things are not quite what they used to be.

If there is not enough work to keep us busy, even make-work projects, what are we to do? That is the question I ask myself as I read the news on the Internet for the fiftieth time on any given day, minimizing my screen every time someone walks by.

While I am relaxing on the one hand, I am stressing myself out at the same time, worrying about whether anyone notices how little work I seem to have to do and whether I will forget any skills that I have left by the time I actually do have something to do. For those of you who may be having the same experience at work, I have compiled a few basic tips to help you get busy looking busy:

Adapt a serious facial expression
• This gives off a no-nonsense impression. A serious facial expression can come particularly in handy when your boss or other superior is speaking to you and will ensure to that person that you are really listening to them.

Stand up and be counted
• Instead of spending the entire day sitting in a chair, stand up and move around, do some things around your desk, whether it be cleaning your computer screen or some type of organizational task. When you stand up and move around, not only are you getting your blood and circulation flowing after having sat in a chair for much of the day, you will also be visible to others around you, sending a subtle message that a) you are in fact there, and b) that you are not just sitting lazily in your chair all day but are actively doing something.

Hold a pen
• Somehow this one utensil can instantly create a businesslike, even authoritative, aura about oneself. Holding a pen while speaking to a boss with a serious facial expression, as mentioned above, can be a useful prop. Reading while holding a pen makes it look as though you might be about to revise something at any minute.

Dress the part
• I find that just the act of putting on a jacket magically transforms me into looking life a professional and I find it easier to get into the role. Dress as nicely as you would if you were motivated and maybe you will be.

• Posture is more important than one might think. If you slouch at your desk or lean your face on one hand, not only will you most likely hurt your back and neck in the long run, but bad posture at work also gives the impression that you are not alert and are disinterested in whatever it is, if anything, you may be working on.

Walk Boldly
• When going from place to place in the office, walk with confidence. If you have to make just a little noise with your heels, go ahead. Walk with your head held high, not sheepishly like someone who did not have any work to do and is nervous that he or she is about to be found out.

Hold File Folders and Documents Visibly
• Walk around the office with a sense of purpose, holding file folders. A simple stroll around the office is one thing, but the minute you pick up a file folder, that’s when you’ll get noticed. You must be working on something or why else would you be walking around with a file folder (of course, adorning a serious facial expression)?

Every hour or so, staple something
• The sound of the stapler is unmistakable. By using a stapler strategically every now and then throughout the work day, you will ensure that people close by will undoubtedly hear you at some point or another or see you when they walk by your desk several times on any given day. If you’ve got paper to staple, you must be working on something.

Remind them that you are there for them
• A simple “Is there anything I can do for you before I go to lunch?” can go a long way, especially if your boss has all but forgotten about you for most of the morning. (not that this is entirely a bad thing). If you are going on a coffee break, offering to get your boss a coffee will be appreciated and seen as a nice gesture, even if they decline the offer.

• It is surprising how much time can be wasted simply by going to the washroom several times a day. If you are fortunate enough to have a coffee station or kitchen where you work, walking to and from that spot and preparing your coffee can not only pass some time, it can also aid in the need for the extra trips to the washroom.

Take a Smoke Break
• There are times at work where I almost wish I smoked, just so that I would have an excuse to take a couple of breaks during the day, besides the hour I get for lunch. Whether you smoke or not, a short break in the morning and another in the afternoon can be refreshing and rejuvenating and not only does it take up some time and break up the monotony of the day, it can also lead to doing a better job at any work we do have, in the long run.

• Above all, and perhaps the most difficult, don’t look like you are bored. When someone asks if you are busy, act as if that were the most natural question in the world – rather than bursting out laughing and saying “That’s a good one. As if I’m ever busy.” Don’t advertise being idle at the office, even to co-workers who you believe to be harmless. Office gossip doesn’t take long to spread, and the last thing you want is for the wrong person to get wind of the fact that their company is paying you just to be a body occupying space.

Answer the phone right up until the end of the day
• You never know who will call for your boss even at the end of the day on a Friday and even if your boss is “working from home” that day. As much as we don’t like to think negatively of our employers, it is entirely possible that a superior at work could solicit a friend to call in on the pretence of speaking to him or her with the intent of finding out if that person’s employee is still loyally at their desk or whether they have skipped out early.

Don’t be the one to suggest leaving early
• After all, you’re too important to go home early! As far as you are concerned, unless someone says “Take the rest of the day off”, you are there until the end of the day. Asking if you can leave early brings your lack of work, as well as lack of enthusiasm for being at work, glaringly to light to an employer if it was not obvious already.

It is not always easy to sit and do nothing at work; in fact, at times it can be more difficult than being busy. By remembering some simple tools, we can not only pass the time more quickly at work while giving the impression that we are in fact working, but also have a few laughs with ourselves in the process.♦

Copyright © Andrea Freedman 2012


About andfreed

I am a Toronto based writer of articles, columns, essays and novels.

Posted on December 5, 2012, in Weekly Thoughts and Observations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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