How to look busy at work

According to statistics only 15% of employees are engaged in their work. Then what about the rest 85% of workers who find their jobs boring? Some of them consider leaving the company whenever they have a chance and some just kill their time in the office trying to look busy or browsing popular job boards.

This article is for those of you who need to produce a busy-bee impression at work and also for the employers who want to be aware of who is really working hard and who is only trying to create the right impression.

Don’t take it too seriously though, this is not a “how-to” guide, but rather an ironic way to look at ourselves and the teams around us.

Tips on how to look busy at work

So here are 20 ways to look busy at work and produce an impression of a workaholic on your boss and the team.

Imitate an important phone call

Imitate a phone call

This is an easy and very effective one — pretend your phone is calling and imitate a talk. Mind your facial expression: it should be serious and puzzled as if something bad happened. Say something empathic: like how frustrated you are. Promise to sort the things out as soon as possible and call back when everything is fixed. When the imaginary phone call is over, start desperately typing something in an email, with a very alarmed face, your task is to look focused and concerned.

In a while lay back satisfied and go grab a glass of water. When you are back, take the phone and imitate a call, saying that you did all that you could and everything should be fine now. Apologize once again and swear to be available 24/7 in case of trouble. The tip is especially useful for those working with clients. Alternatively, you can have a real talk with a client, provided you make it so loud that everybody in the room knows you are working right now.

Never say you are leaving

Always have a spare jacket at your office chair, make sure you have your table lamp on, and notepad open in the middle of some writing. Leave a cup of tea which you have just made and go home without saying anyone goodbye. Let your colleagues think you’ll be back soon, and have just left to grab a chocolate bar or a sandwich to keep your energy level up as you have to work late tonight.

Make a mess on your desk

Mess up your desk

When people are in the middle of their creative process, they usually have notes with graphs, stats, and schemes at their desks. Make several printouts of the docs related to the project you are currently working on. Spread them around your desk, take a highlighter, and mark everything you like, dislike, or consider important. Feel free to use some memo stickers, sort the docs into piles, or leave them as they are on the table. Go and spend some time photocopying things. Don’t forget to count to yourself while working with papers or mumble something inaudible. Then continue on the computer with a face of a person who has just invented penicillin (or a Coronavirus vaccine).

Rub your eyes and massage your temple

Rub your eyes to look tired

Working that hard you naturally get tired. You do deserve some time of relaxation and rest. So if you wear glasses, take them off and rub your eyes, so that everybody sees how focused you have been at your tasks that even your eyes need a break from staring at the computer screen.

Mix this exercise with massaging your temple, your face should look as if you are having a severe headache or a migraine attack. Show no relief after you have finished. As these easy fixes don’t help, just go back to your work as if you are condemned. Sigh loudly, so that people look in your direction and ask if you need help.

Always eat your lunch at your desk

Don’t waste your precious time in a cafe or your office canteen. Always eat it at your desk if this is allowed in your team. Yes, the smell of food may disturb the people around you. But who cares when you’ve got that much to be done urgently.

Don’t show that you enjoy your meal, you are too focused on the corporate messenger or an email on the screen. Leave your dirty plate and leftovers on the desk for as long as possible, you need things to be done, the deadlines are not waiting, while a dirty plate can. The same rule applies to drinking coffee, always have it at your desk and sip it without taking your eyes off the screen. Don’t blink!

Keep as many tabs on the screen as possible

Keep multitasking and show it on your desktop. Open numerous windows and tabs to demonstrate that you are answering an email, checking on the stats, creating a new blog post, and monitoring the latest news at the same time. When somebody approaches you to say something, just raise your hand and say:

Just a moment, sorry, let me finish this one.


Is it urgent, can you give me some time to tackle this issue, I will get back to you as soon as I am done.

Do some exercise


Even if you feel totally well, do some stretching, everyone knows that back and shoulders can get strained when working hard. Stretch your arms without standing up from your chair, move your neck to the right, and to the left, holding your head with your hand. Then stand up and give some exercise to your back, do a couple of sit-ups, bend down to your feet. Even if your acrobatics is left unnoticed and uncommented, you will get some physical exercise and will make your blood run faster as well as your working day.

Schedule meetings

Think of all possible reasons to arrange a meeting with your teammates. If you really have nothing to discuss, just create virtual meetings in the online calendar with your clients, partners, colleagues from other offices. So that whenever anyone decides to look into your schedule they see it crystal clear you are the one who is getting things done. Besides, a calendar well filled with events will prevent people from adding more tasks to your plate.

Move around the office with a speed of a fireball

Imagine you only have 30 seconds to get to the cooler and back. If you don’t make it, your desk and chair will be occupied by another player. Pace around the office quickly, but not too often. Look with open disrespect at all those procrastinators who move around taking their time and wasting the company’s money.

Make to-do lists

Make to-do lists

Begin your day by creating a list of things you plan to complete by the end of the day. Make sure the list consists of at least 10 points, even if they include cleaning your cup after coffee or watering your office flowers. Keep the list on your desk, so everyone can see the numbers, but no one can really read what you wrote there. Cross out things you have already accomplished with a satisfied smile, a sigh of relief, or with a comment: “Another job well done”.

Refuse to help your colleagues

Use the list you have created at the beginning of the day to explain to your teammates why you cannot help them, at least not now. Make an exhausted and a guilty look, so they understand that you really wish to help, but simply do not know where to fit them in. Promise to get back to them as soon as you are a bit less overloaded, which as you know will never happen.

Always answer messages and emails at once

Be it midnight or early morning, whenever you get a message shoot a reply, even if it only contains a couple of sentences saying that you will look into the issue the next day. Your boss and colleagues will see that you are not having any other interests in life than your occupation and you are always within reach whenever needed.

Take more time to complete tasks

Think well before announcing when this or that task will be ready, add about 25% to the time you think it will take. Never hand in tasks in advance. Otherwise, everyone will know that you can handle more assignments and maybe you don’t have enough on your plate. Don’t break the deadlines either, on the day of the deadline look concerned and concentrated, so that everyone understands, you’ve been having some hard times with the project, but you’ve finally made it.

Act as if you are always stressed

Acting stressed always proves you are doing your best at work. When you are in the office be irritable, moody, and anxious. When you are approached react a bit inadequately, raising your voice and saying: “What?” on hearing your name. You won’t have to do it often as soon people will start avoiding you, leaving you alone with your work. Watch a video by Betches if you need inspiration here.

Wear your headphones when working

This is an obvious one. Why do people wear headphones in the office? To get a better focus, not to get disturbed, and to be more productive in general. So even if you do not like music, insert your AirPods and look busy as a beaver just staring at your screen.

Never do a small talk, laugh, or smile

You are not one of those lazy guys who come to the office just for a chat or a good laugh. You can’t work hard and have fun at the same time. So a puzzled facial expression, no giggling, or accidental smiles. Your life is hard, your job is exhausting, you are an industrious employee and not a human being.

Always talk about your numerous and complicated tasks

If there is no chance to avoid a conversation, the topic you can discuss safely is how many things you’ve got to do. Mention all the difficulties you face, how you overcome obstacles, be very detailed on how much time each step takes you and we promise the talk won’t last long. If anyone asks whether you have plans for the weekend, with an offended look say something: “Do you really believe I have time for anything, but my project?”.

Take some docs home

Pretend you work in the evenings

Never leave the office empty-handed. Take a folder with papers, books, or merchandise (depends on the type of your work), and leave as if you plan to stay up late getting things done before tomorrow. The next morning you are supposed to look tired, so keep yawning, drink one cup of coffee after another, practice annoyed comments about any external noises.

Quickly type something or switch between the tabs

Quick blind typing is a great skill, not only it lets you key in texts with a blink of an eye, but it also produces the impression that you are really productive. To add even more value to it, learn some hotkeys to switch between the tabs, to format text, to manage your browser windows. When your boss sees how confident and fast you are with your laptop, they will have no doubts that you are worth your salary and even more.

Ask questions at the meetings

Productive people are active, so whenever you have a chance, demonstrate your curiosity and involvement. Be it a new project discussion, planning for the future, making an incident postmortem, listen actively, ask questions, make comments, express your opinions. Do it as long as you are noticed by everybody in the room. Do not be afraid to look clingy. It is absolutely ok if you want to produce the right impression.

This was our evil advice, try not to follow any of it unless you want to get dismissed. For more productivity tips (not evil ones) refer to our recent blog posts.

If you found the above tips useful or recognized yourself, try to ask yourself why you. It can be that you are not enjoying your current position and it is time to look for something more motivating and rewarding. At FarFarJob you can find a fresh collection of remote and on-site jobs in design, programming, marketing, customer support, copywriting, management, and more.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you tell someone you're busy without being rude?

How do you tell someone you’re busy without being rude?

If you work as a designer or as a programmer or if you are occupied with any job that requires an uninterrupted process and several hours of concentration, you need to be able to protect your borders. The easiest way to do it is true to have hours open for meetings in your calendar and hours or days booked for getting some proper work done. As written above having a to-do list right at your desk is a working tip, just show to your colleagues what you are up to right now, and tell them when you can discuss what they want.

What do you call a person who works a lot?

Someone who has no other interests in life and spends most of their time working is called a workaholic. If you mean just a hard working person, who has to do their living working a lot and putting much efforts, you can say that this person is a work horse. Another informal way to describe someone working hard is to call them a wonk.

Who is the hardest working person in the world?

There are many people who proved to be real workaholics on their way to success. One of them is Nissan and Renault CEO Carlos Ghosn. He works more than 65 hours a week and his turnaround of Nissan arouses the interest of many business analysts. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is another example of an industrious personality, she starts work at 7 AM and continues to get things done even after her kids are in bed.

There are many super-productive and hard-working people among sportsmen. Michael Jordan is known to take hundreds of jump shots every day during his offseasons.

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