If you want to look busy at work without actually doing anything, just look around. You’re sure to find handfuls of people doing just that. No, no, don’t bother looking at the other grunts like you. These people work their butts off day in and day out. They know they can just as easily be replaced like an old desk or a worn chair.
If you want to appear to be working, but actually not accomplishing much, you need to look at and mirror the higher ups. It’s no secret that middle management and higher often do little to no work around the office.
Position your glasses into the thinker's pose
If you have glasses, wear them at the tip of your nose. It’ll make you look like you’re trying to read two or more things. No smiling. Busy people don’t smile. You need to keep a permanent “serious” face on at all times. Or at least when people walk by your desk. You will be the last person to be suspected of not pulling his weight.
Even propping your head up by the chin in the thinker’s pose will make you appear as if you’re in complete contemplation about your next big move. In reality, you’re just waiting around till lunch.
Walk around the office with some kind of prop
Do you ever notice how you’ll catch middle management cronies running through the office, never really going somewhere? They have the appearance that they’re trying to make a meeting, but they’re probably just trying to catch the lunch truck downstairs.
Do what they do. Grab a folder, and fill it with papers. Fill a mug half way up with coffee. Now speed walk through the office with your folder tucked under one arm, struggling to hold the coffee mug in your other hand. Do this two or three times every couple of hours. People will think you’re really “going places” in the company.
Practice your industry's mindless jargon
During your day, make sure to hit the water cooler a few times. Remember to have that trusty folder and cup of coffee. Now, all you have to do is find one unlucky victim to start a conversation with. It doesn’t matter who. Ask them what they’re working on. When they ask you what’s on your plate, simply fill their ears with business like words that don’t really mean much.
Make sure to throw in terms like “acquisition”, “merger”, or “consolidation”. Remember, the more “business-y” you sound, the better. If you’re good, you can squeeze a fifteen to 20 minute conversation out of everyone you talk to, and the beauty is you won’t be working on a thing.
Make the computer look as busy and messy as possible
It is most imperative that your computer be turned on, with multiple windows opened. A few of them should be half worked spreadsheets. Another window should be your company website. Then, have three or four other windows open with “research material” for the big project you’re working on. Oh, by the way, have a file folder open under your computer at all times.
It’s all for show. You don’t actually have to do anything. You can write a simple batch script to open all of your decoy work windows and files at once.
Your desk too
In order to look busy, your desk has to look like a hurricane hit it. Print out a bunch of spreadsheets and stack them on one side of your desk. Grab a few file folders and indiscriminately pile them somewhere near the spreadsheets. Manuals littering the top of your desk are a must as well. Unopened letters, more files, printed emails, anything you can think that looks like work material should make an appearance.