Mailing It In: 15 Ways to Fly Under the Radar Yet Still Get Promoted

Updated: May 10, 2010

It's a fact of life that there are times when work simply isn't on our minds. We sit in our offices, our cubicles, our swivel chairs and our boardrooms and we think about how nice it would be to just be somewhere else. The urge to flee is a normal one, but sadly it's not one that most of us can afford to entertain -- at least, not without getting caught. Well, luckily, it doesn't have to be that way. There are many ways to safely dodge work, even if for a short time, that can be pulled off easily by just about anyone. These 15 methods of faking work aren't just easy, they can apply to just about everyone -- from the worker in the cube-farm to the telecommuting pajama-exec.

By Use of Gadgets


iPads are all the rage right now, and at around $500 for a base model, they're not obscenely expensive, either. If you're one of the many new (and happy) owners of this gadget, you'll quickly learn that it's very good at something that isn't exactly in the tech specs: It grabs attention. Take an iPad, open up some sort of work-related document, and simply meander around the office as you please. Just make sure you move from point to point in an intent fashion, so that any superiors will think that you're busily comparing notes with other employees.

Bring Your Own Internet Connection

Most office-workers are stuck with one computer and one screen to use. The screen is usually too small to effectively multitask, and the network is usually policed pretty heavily, with many of the most desirable sites blocked by the IT department. This situation doesn't lend well to aimless Internet-surfing. You can solve this by bringing not only your own laptop or netbook, but also by spending that extra chunk each month to get a mobile WiFi hotspot from your wireless carrier. Stash the hotspot somewhere around your desk, and use your own computer to do all the stuff you can't do on your work machine. Just be sure to keep the screen from the prying eyes of your boss.

Smart Phones

It's amazing how many people still use basic phones nowadays, but if you've got a smart phone you're already a step ahead of the game. Smart phones are able to do many of the time-wasting tasks that larger computers are normally used for, but can do it much more stealthily. Their only real drawback is their size, and of course connection speed. Using your smart phone intelligently at work can help you get through an entire day without missing out on anything truly important -- like Facebook, Twitter, online comics, sports scores or Tumblr.

By Use of Software

Outlook and Email Scheduling

Nearly everyone in the modern world has had to use Outlook at some point, many on a daily basis. What most people don't know about this ubiquitous email suite is that it includes an option to schedule when an email actually gets sent. Why would this be useful for a slacker, you ask? Well, while this feature may seem like an obvious tool for overachievers, it can also be used by a time-savvy individual to make it appear to the entire company that he is still at work -- when he's actually been gone for half an hour. Learn how to use this feature and test it out next time you want to take that extended lunch.


Twitter is more than just a fad; it's nearly an addiction for millions. While it's not quite advisable for you to be tweeting while at work if your company has rules against it, there isn't any moral reason not to keep track of what's going on on the service. Unfortunately, most methods of viewing Twitter's feeds are pretty obvious-looking, which we want to avoid since this is at your work desk for all to see. Spreadtweet is an app that displays your Twitter feed as a spreadsheet, making it extremely office-friendly and very covert. The app runs on Adobe AIR, but if your work computers don't allow installation of AIR there is a quick HTML version that can still get the job done in a pinch.

Excel Games

Much like Outlook, Excel has been used by countless individuals who never knew its full potential. Did you know that Excel could run actual games? Well, it can, and we don't just mean simple stuff like Minesweeper. You can actually play full games like Sonic the Hedgehog and Super Mario World -- all you need is Excel on a computer with Flash installed. Check out some of the games available here, but there are many more out there.

By Technique

A Brisk Walk with Paperwork

A truly timeless method of minimizing time spent working while at work is the paperwork office jog. As silly as it sounds, this actually still works. All you need to do is have a bunch of papers, or folders, and carry them with you while you walk around the office. You can trek around the entire building and nobody will pay you any mind, because they all think you're running papers to another office. Don't discount the oldies, they still work.

The "Boss Button"

Boss Buttons are becoming more and more prevalent on time-wasting sites across the Internet. The fad started with sites that provided live sports feeds, and grew from there to include just about anything, but if you're running Google Chrome you can actually install your own personal Boss Button right into the browser. These handy buttons allow you to quickly hide whatever it is that you're doing whenever your boss shows up -- with one mouse click.

Learn Your Keyboard Shortcuts

It's a basic thing that people 20 years ago learned without question, but today it's a sad fact that most people don't know a single keyboard shortcut. While it's a good idea to learn many of them just to make life easier, the one single biggest shortcut that Windows users can remember is ALT+TAB. Using this combo will allow you to quickly switch between running programs, and if you have them all set to full screen, you can be sure to have that spreadsheet up in less than a second when your boss shows up unexpectedly.

Use Phone Code

Chatting on the phone has always been a good way to break the monotony of the workplace, but it's also known for being one of the fastest ways to get on your boss's bad side. If you want to have your cake and eat it too, all you have to do is play it smart; talk on the phone all you want, but space it out over time. When you're talking to your buddies, be sure to sporadically interject work-like phrases into the conversation at a slightly higher volume. Have it worked out with your friends ahead of time so they're not weirded out by this odd behavior, and you can get away with phone calls much easier than you would have without. Another variation to this is have your friends call your actual work phone, using a business-like voice just in case somebody else picks up the line. People will think that you're actually taking business calls.

Stay Off of Social Networks

It's become key these days to keep your work-hour shenanigans out of your social networking status updates. People have actually been fired for the things they post on Facebook and Twitter, so if you're going to fake work, ditch work, or feel the need to talk about your boss, don't use social networks. Any pro will tell you; goofing off and slacking can be easy and rewarding, but half the success is not getting caught afterward.

Use Proxies

The dreaded IT department often has a stranglehold on the Internet connections in offices across the country, but there are ways around their filters. Clever IT teams will often block not only half the Internet, but also every proxy they can find as a preemptive measure against just this sort of thing, but they can't get them all. Find a proxy that works for your particular network, and you've got free reign to browse your favorite sites for as long as it stays unblocked. If none of the regular stuff seems to be work, there's always the ultimate fallback: Google Translate. Set it to some obscure language like Afrikaans, and have it "translate" any site you want to browse. It can't process cookies, but it can display the pages well enough to get the job done.

Screen All Phone Calls

Working from home can be a great thing, but it can also lead to massive setbacks and huge amounts of stress when time isn't managed right. That being said, if you're in a position where you want to manage your time badly, but have a boss who won't leave you alone for more than 10 minutes at a time, you need to gain the upper hand somehow. One good way to do this is to start screening all phone calls. If the office is calling, just don't answer. When you call them back, it's on your terms, and you can tell them anything you want if they ask why you didn't answer the first time.

The Fake Post-It Note Office Ditch

For a trick that sounds pretty elaborate, this is actually obscenely simple. Just leave a post-it note somewhere prominent, like dead-center on the front of your monitor, that has something like "MEETING" and a bogus time written in thick black ink on it. The bogus time should be somewhere between half an hour and one full hour after you intend to leave the office. Leave your desk in semi-disarray, and leave your computer on (screen locked, please). When your boss or curious co-workers pass by your desk, their immediate thought will be that you rushed off to an important meeting and will be back any time. You can actually get away with a solid 2-3 hours out of the office if you pull this off correctly -- just make sure you do come back at some point.

Change Your Chat Status

Another one for the work-at-home types that's just as important as screening phone calls; your chat status is extremely important. Most people don't even realize they can change their chat status manually, but it's a great trick to get not just your boss, but everyone off your back for the better part of a day. Just set your status permanently to "Busy" or "Away" and be sure to leave a message with it -- something like "I'm swamped with work today." Anybody who looks for you online (including your boss) will see that you're not "Available" and are actually quite busy, so busy that you're unable to chat. Meanwhile, you can happily go about your day.

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