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'Productivity paranoia' is a term coined by Microsoft chief Satya Nadella, and it describes the not-so-new concern that workers who perform their duties at home aren't as effective or honest.

In fact, around 85% of leaders in a survey from September 2022 said hybrid arrangements make it hard for them to be confident that expectations are met.

But the joke's on them. Many are faking it in the office, too. There's a viral thread on Reddit where people have been revealing their go-to ways to "look busy" when they feel like taking it easy, and the abundance of replies make it clear that this practice is pretty universal.

#1

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes Former manager here (went back to consulting because it’s more fun.)

Just get your job done. I told my employees as much. Hell I spend 30-40% of my day on non work stuff but it helps me recharge and then I get more done in a half day than many of my peers do in a week.

ChinaIsAssh0e , Alex Kotliarskyi Report

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#2

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes Been 5 years since I worked in an office but these:

In a call centre I’d dial a number I knew would not connect (ie leave last digit off). The line registered as busy so my ‘busy on a call’ stats were always very high. Just had to remember to cover the phone light with something if I walked away to make a coffee or something.

Always leave something on the computer screen that is an excel document with lots of data etc. remember to scroll from time to time and don’t use a screen saver. Ideally your screen should be not seen by others walking past but this is for when you can’t control that.

Tell others how busy you are. Needs to be done carefully so you aren’t seen as a drama queen. Just time to time and slightly under your breath comments ‘well anyway got to get back to my desk, lots on’. Or in staff meetings or with your manager praise the team. ‘Thanks everyone for all the hard work getting done, this is a great team’

Always carry documents with you when walking around the office. A folder or just any papers. Great for going to a chat with a coworker. From afar.. if you are seen holding papers you look busy and it must be about work right.

Thinking on that last point. Walk with purpose. Walk slightly faster than normal from A to B.

Stay 5 mins later than others leaving office for the day. Come to work 5 mins before they do. Leave empty coffee mugs on your desk in the morning. Make a coffee. But have one with dregs as a spare prop. You’ve ‘been in for ages’ at a glance.

Ohhh I’m having a bit too much fun with this. Lol.

CheeryCherryCheeky , Berkeley Communications Report

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#3

Find another job.

If I need to "look busy" rather than "be productive," I'm working for an idiot.

anon Report

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Monday
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

All depends on the pay. If you expect me to be productive you have to pay me a productive wage...and that's something that's hard to come by in this economy. If I'm going to be making s**t pay either way I'd rather just look busy.

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#4

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes I’m a cleaner/janitor in a warehouse complex

I just grab a broom or a bucket

Can walk laps of the place for hours without doing anything if I want

82recluse82 , Verne Ho Report

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G M
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1 year ago (edited) DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

When I worked at Toys R Us I spent at least half of my shift walking around the parking lot “looking for” shopping carts to bring back inside.

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#5

I have no idea how you guys can do nothing with so much dedication and intensity.

I get twitchy if I don't have a problem to solve or something to focus on, so how the f**k can you manage to last 8 HOURS while doing nothing but staring at nothing on your screens?

I really don't get it. I think I was born broken.

LegoMySplunk Report

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#6

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes If my Boss starts giving me the side eye tomorrow while I'm scowling at my computer screen, constantly running to the office scanner, and leaping from my desk and into the hallway with a folder and a pen, I'll know he follows this sub.

cats_inthewindow , Maksym Kaharlytskyi Report

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#7

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes Just look frustrated with whatever you're doing.

Squint at your computer screen, shake your head, let out an occasional sigh, have a bunch of papers on your desk you can rifle through periodically.

You don't want to look so frustrated that you might need some help, but if you do this right everybody will think you're already too busy with something to be bothered.

J-Dizzle42 , Tim Gouw Report

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#8

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes I frequently write emails to myself. Could be my grocery list, to-dos for after work, ideas that I don’t want to forget, or planning the upcoming weekend. It’s a great way to make my free time more efficient and organized while killing time at work.

Mole_kid , Solen Feyissa Report

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LesAnimaux
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1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I had a job as a seo/blog writer once. I got a lot of work done in a day, just not *constantly*. I can't turn my creativity on and off during office hours. My boss, however, seemed to think I should be typing consistently for 8+ hours a day. He'd check if I was actually typing, not what I was typing. Super toxic, glad to be away from that job. Anyway that's how I wrote a stage play and two novels.

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#9

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes Find something to read that they can’t tell isn’t work if they don’t look close. Like did you know the script of the Truman show is online somewhere? That was a fun day.

Jenslosingit , Sincerely Media Report

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Schlay van Gay
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1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Did you know you can open your kindle library in a web browser? Just type read.amazon.com

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#10

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes If you work in a big enough building, you just put something important looking in one hand (papers, a clipboard works perfectly, etc) and scurry intensely from one random place to the next. Make friends in different areas, stop to chat briefly. Find the good clean remote restroom and use it. Grab a cup of coffee. Help somebody else with work that's more interesting than yours, etc. Rinse, repeat.

As long as you're holding something official looking (change it up) and *hurrying semi-urgently* from place to place you can go like this right up to your yearly review. Hopefully you managed to get some actual amazing s**t done here and there along the way.

Congenital0ptimist , Daria Pimkina Report

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#11

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes Some of the work I do involves engineering maps.

Pull up a complicated-looking map, put on headphones with audiobook, let my eyes glaze over for an hour or 2 looking at the map.

People walk by and assume I'm trying to do some sort of complicated logistics/planning in my head. In reality I'm on book 12 of the Dresden Files.

FedRishFlueBish , Kelly Sikkema Report

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#12

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes - Downloaded PDF version of a book and open it up

- Split screen with an excel sheet

- Read

I powered through the Game of Thrones book series in 2-3 months at my last job. It's my go to way to kill time and look busy at work.

uhnoinenoine , Andrew Neel Report

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ggus44
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1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I did that! I read the 3 Maze Runner books in the office 🤣

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#13

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes I have a steady flow of work these days, but when I first started, my position was brand new. So there was not a lot to do, and it's actually the reason I joined reddit. Figured I could stay current with all the free time I had.



But yeah those first few months were rough, so I started emailing myself really long articles and short stories. I'd then either just read them straight from email, or I'd past them into an Excel/Word/Publisher document.


A lot of the articles came from here: https://kk.org/cooltools/best-magazine-articles-ever/

meltedlaundry , Tech Daily Report

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#14

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes I'm a social media manager, so I can just browse through instagram and pretend I'm looking for inspiration, influencers or the competition.

anon , Gabrielle Henderson Report

#15

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes I've had the same spreadsheet open for 4 days, no one has said anything, and I still got paid so I guess it's working.

CitizenHuman , Campaign Creators Report

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JoNo
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1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Wouldn't a supervisor or boss expect some output, something to show you are working? Surely sooner or later someone would be questioning what work you've done?

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#16

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes Open up various tools for system monitoring and look at them. If something went tits up we'd get an email so I don't really need to do that, but it looks busy and maybe I'll notice something important.

Otherwise I take some training courses or something. Most aren't very good but it's fuel for my self evaluation come mid year.

TetrisCannibal , Tim van der Kuip Report

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Kitty 🥀
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1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

THIS. The second one. I did so much training stuff and archived webinars while working from home.

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#17

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes Sit at my desk for 15 minutes, walk to the file cabinet room, pull out a random file, make three copies, walk through the hall so everyone sees me with paperwork in my hand, slip out the side door, go to my truck, take a 30 minute nap, walk back through the hallway with my paperwork, shred it, go back to my desk. If anybody asks I just tell them I'm cleaning up paperwork before the end of the billing cycle. I can repeat this all day long if I need to.

bluecheetos , Impact Hub Report

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#18

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes Open an excel spreadsheet ...start filling it..my boss backs away lol

coolmommabear , Collin Anderson Report

#19

When I was in the culinary field, anytime I wanted a short break, I'd just grab a random container and walk around with it. No one bothers you if you do haha.

As for my current office gig, I recently started writing fan fiction with word or notepad during free time. Anyone who glances over at me sees me pounding away on the keyboard so they think I'm busy as f**k. In reality I'm writing away about people getting their a*s kicked or fighting monsters.

mysticbooka Report

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Krd
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1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Be careful. If you use company resources (especially a computer with writing software) to write ANYTHING, even including whole novels that were only partly written on company property, is owned by that company. So good rule of thumb, don't do anything that can be monetized (like writing, coding, and the like) on devices you don't own or directly rent/lease (public resources, like the libraries computer should also be OK to use).

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#20

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes Photocopy blank paper. Not my trick, but I used to love watching one of my coworkers do this for hours on end.

notyouraverageturd , Solomon203 Report

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Tuna Fish
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1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

That's wasteful and expensive. Where I work we pay for service calls based on copy count.

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#21

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes My coworkers don't really know computers like I do, and since my job is 90% on the computer, I just load up 3 or 4 explorer windows over a random Excel spreadsheet, and stare intently at it.

GrilledStuffedDragon , Carlos Muza Report

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#22

I get in around 9:30 and usually zone out for an hour in front of my computer, but it looks like I'm working. I then zone out for another hour after lunch too. In fact, in a given day, I'd say I do fifteen minutes, of real, actual work.

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#23

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes Reviewing. Going over work you did for the day "just to make sure I did everything right".

Vyzantinist , Bench Accounting Report

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#24

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes When you look annoyed all the time, people think you’re busy

BlinkRogue1 , Adrian Swancar Report

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#25

If it's a job I care about and enjoy, I don't. If I'm not busy, I go and ask for more work.

My first job out of college, I worked at a company that treated all of its employees like garbage. 17/24 people quit in the three months that I was there. There, I listened to audiobooks and pretended to click on Excel files. Good dental insurance, though. I got my first cavities ever while I was there, maybe from increase in alcohol to deal with the job, and I only had to pay like $100 to get all of them fixed and replace my retainer.

balletaurelie Report

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Salty Sasquatch
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

My husband got his first full-time job doing that. He worked at temp jobs, and if he finished one particular job he'd go to the supervisor and ask for more work. The one company kept finding more and more things for him to do and ended up hiring him as a permanent position.

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#26

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes If I need to be unavailable urgently, I will pick up the phone and call my work center's voice mail. I'll listen or re-listen to every single second of every single voice prompt and message. People don't usually bother me if they see I'm on the phone.

Chicken_Korma , David Hahn Report

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Jake B
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1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

When they come by say "I'm on hold, but what do you need?" They will leave or if not, say "Sorry..." point at the phone and start randomly talking. Works well.

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#27

I know many people use this- (look like msoutllok but is really reddit)


http://pcottle.github.io/MSOutlookit//

kcg5 Report

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#28

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes I always keep a separate tab open with work related stuff to quickly change to and look at intently if someone walks by

Viiibrations , Lee Campbell Report

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#29

I'm a machinist but I have a desk so, not an office worker but this applies to me.

I will browse MSC or McMaster-Carr and look at tools if a manager is around. When they ask what I am doing I reply with "spending company money".

Sirhc978 Report

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JoJo Anisko
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1 year ago (edited) DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

McMaster-Carr is still around? WOW! When I was a buyer for a maintenance department in the early 80s, that was whose catalog EVERYONE sourced their needs from.

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#30

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes Training videos. Always look like you are trying to better yourself

CJamesEd , Wes Hicks Report

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Heather Vandegrift
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1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

You can even pull up Ted Talks if you're company doesn't restrict YouTube, learn about whatever with headphones, and tell whoever sees you that it's something about how to improve productivity and worker satisfaction without spending more on salary!

#31

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes Type responses to reddit if they can't see my screen, type out ideas for a book if they can

Stop_Sign , LinkedIn Sales Solutions Report

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#32

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes Play games on the laptop. A girl sitting at a reception desk focused on a computer screen. Good enough.

Miss971 , Aurelien Thomas Report

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Lynette Vella
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1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

In my last job, when I was done with my work and started feeling antsy, online Yahtzee was my savior - I can get in the zone and play that game with my eyes closed (well, almost)!

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#33

I open up Excel and type random work words into the cells (ex: overtime, PTO, budget) I don't even know how to work Excel, but the higher ups appreciate all the work I'm doing lol

daejane1 Report

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Justin Rogers
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1 year ago

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Waste of flesh and money. Thanks for being part of the problem

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#34

I prep content for my D&d games. Taxpayers money well spent in my opinion.

Simplyaddwater Report

#35

35 Ingenious Things These People Do To Look Busy At Work, And You May Want To Take Notes tip your chair over, they normally call the hospital immediately

anon , Ayesh Rathnayake Report

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Heather Vandegrift
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Bad idea, you could actually get hurt and (of you are in the US) you can get charged for the ambulance coming out, even if they don't take you to the hospital, PLUS this is taking an ambulance crew away from REAL emergencies. Don't be an A-hole. Find another way to not do work at work

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