Having worked in a good number of offices and seen how they are run I’m pretty confident that most of what goes on in typical offices has nothing to do with getting work done. Not that people aren’t working or don’t want to work, but the way most offices are run actually prevent people from doing the work they are getting paid to do. I can’t count how many hours I must have wasted waiting for someone else to finish something crucial to a project I was working on that prevented me from doing anything further on it. Or how much time I spent trying to come up with descriptions for bosses about what I was working on so I’d have a good answer for them when they inevitably asked, rather than actually just working on what my job description said I should be doing.

Much of this combined with a few other things has let me to my current management technique that we use with Metblogs pretty effectively. That is set a goal and a deadline, and let the people working on it decide what is the best method to accomplish that goal and let them spend as much time on it as they feel they need to. They make their own hours and their own processes, we get the results we want. If we don’t get the results, we just ask different people next time. It’s painfully simple and works great for everyone. It’s the extreme opposite of micro managing and I love it. That said, I know most offices don’t do anything like it, and people are stuck sitting at a desk from ___ to ___ because some manager feels like that means they are working harder. That’s weaksauce and I feel bad for anyone who has to put up with it.

So, in efforts to make peoples lives better, I thought I’d throw out a few tried and tested techniques that will let the average person spend less time pretending to work and more time enjoying themselves. This will make the time the do spend working much more effective, will give better results to their bosses. Everyone wins!

  1. Get eyes in the back of your head. If you sit anywhere in which people can walk up behind you, rule number on is to get a blind spot mirror.  These are available at pretty much any auto store or isle in a department store like Target. Stick that bad boy on the corner of your monitor and no one will ever sneak up on you again.
  2. Perfect your reflexes. If you are running OS X 10.5+ make sure you are running Spaces. Keep in mind you can put a quicktime window or a web browser in a space that you can hide with one simple key command.
  3. Get out of there.You can’t be hounded if they can’t find you. Of course you can’t just not show up and expect to keep your job, so the trick is to make them think you just stepped away from your desk momentarily. Turn on your computer, put a jacket over your chair, and then get out of the building. You might want to test this with shorter periods of time once or twice a week to see how much you can pull off but I know people who have successfully used this technique 3-4 hours a day every single day of the week and never been caught.
  4. The above works even better if you have a mobile device that gets your work e-mail and can respond from the coffee shop down the street instead. It works not so well if you have a boss who is keen on writing on post it notes and then sticking them to your monitor where you can’t do any more work without moving them.
  5. Meetings are mostly bullshit. If you work in a large enough office decline to go to them by simply saying you already have to go to another one. If you work in a small enough office say you simply have too much work to do that won’t allow you to take an hour off talking about work, and ask if you can skip the meeting and have someone just give you the notes. The benefit from that is then you know everyone else is in the meeting and you can get the hell out.
  6. Make it hard for people to interrupt you. If you have a phone that is always ringing, set it to auto go to voice mail. Turn off your IM client. Stop checking e-mail. If your boss needs to physically get up to come ask you every single stupid question he/she will do it less often. If they complain point out that your work is serious business and requires concentration that is broken every time your phone rings.
  7. Bring a book, and hang out in the lunch room or employees lounge if your office has one. This might seem like a give away but actually I know a good number of folks who would sit reading for hours on end because no one would ever suspect they’d be slacking so publicly, so they’d assume they weren’t.
  8. If you have a boss that is constantly asking you what you are working on, beat them to the punch. Send them an e-mail with an over elaborate description of what you are working on every single morning when you get in. This will put their mind at ease in relation to you and they will spend their micromanaging efforts on the other employees leaving you in the clear.

I should note that in my means am I suggesting this stuff as a way to get out of doing work. By all means, you should do the work you were hired to do, but just on your schedule. Some people work better at night. Some work better before lunch. The idea that everyone should be sitting at a desk being busy between 9-5 is just plain silly. Get your work done, do it well, and then make the most out of the time you have left. As long as your work is done well and when it’s supposed to be, you should be able to implement many of these tactics and enjoy your office days much more.

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