Waste Time at Work
Just because you're at work doesn't mean you can't take a break now and then. And there are solid reasons to goof off, too.
In particular, "leisure browsing" at work is a good thing, according to a 2009 study by the University of Melbourne. It found that people who spend up to 20 percent of their time at work surfing the Internet for fun are more productive by about 9 percent than people who don't. (No word on whether the dawdlers in the Australian study also put in up to 20 percent longer workdays, but it wouldn't surprise us.)
The boss may disagree, however, so remember to cite this study if you get caught doing personal stuff on company time. Then again, if you take the tips in this slideshow to heart, you may never be caught.
You should be working, but it's criminal for the boss to make you slave away while NCAA March Madness or the Summer Olympics' badminton quarterfinals are streaming live. Watch from work if you dare, but hedge your bets by employing a boss key. CBS Sports' famous (or infamous) Boss Button, for instance, is a longtime favorite of hoops fans in the workplace. When you click it, a fake spreadsheet appears and the game vanishes.
Boss keys harken back to personal computing's Stone Age, when gamers could tap a key combo to plaster a fake DOS prompt on screen. A good panic button like Efreesky Software's Magic Boss Key hides all active windows and mutes the audio. The most important thing is not to use the same switcheroo app that your boss uses.
Tweet Tweet Goes the Spreadsheet
Just how tasty was that lunch burrito? Did she really wear that to the staff meeting? The Twitterverse eagerly awaits your latest pithy observation, so why let a workplace ban on social networking stop you? Install Spreadtweet, a free Twitter client disguised as a spreadsheet, and tweet to your heart's content. Though it's not the most intuitive or attractive Twitter tool--remember, it's dull for a reason--Spreadtweet may shelter Twitterholics from the watchful eye of management.
A computer game is hard to hide from the boss, unless it looks like (yes, you guessed it) a spreadsheet. Recognizing your need for discretion, the subversive CantYouSeeImBusy.com offers a trio of simple games disguised as office productivity apps. These time-tested timewasters include Breakdown, a paddle-and-ball Breakout clone that zaps text in a faux word processor; Leadership, where you use the keypad to steer a spaceship through a treacherous spreadsheet graph; and Cost Cutter, another sham spreadsheet that challenges you to click combinations of two or more blocks of the same color. If the boss appears, just hit the spacebar; all of the game elements will vanish, but the fake office app will remain.
The Great Phone Escape
Ever wanted to hang up on a boring conference call, but weren't sure how to exit gracefully? Or had to field a call from the boss on the road demanding a status update on your TPS reports? Well, SorryGottaGo.com is here to help. This free site features dozens of audio clips that, when played in the background, provide easy means of egress from annoying work calls. The site's Business Office section includes 16 slacker-friendly background noises, including a ringing cell or office phone, an office party, and even a beeping pager (if you find yourself stuck in the '80s).
Imagine for a moment that management has banned your favorite Websites. Can you still access them from the work? Possibly. Try using a free anonymous proxy such as The Cloak. Go to one of these Websites and enter the URL of the verboten site you'd like to access, such as Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
A few caveats: The proxy may be slower than a direct connection, and it may limit you to one free session for a specific period of time. Some sites that you connect to, such as Facebook, may detect that you're logging on from a strange location, and ask you to verify your identify by answering security questions or by providing other personal information. And finally, be careful when choosing a free anonymous proxy, as many are fronts for identity thieves who hope to steal your personal information.
Catch ‘Em Sneaking Up Behind You
How can you goof off when your back is to the boss? C.H.I.M.P., which stands for "Chimp Has Invincible Monkey Powers" (which makes no sense to us either), is an $8 rearview mirror that attaches to the side of your monitor. Velcro fasteners are included in the kit. No more surprise (and distracting!) shoulder taps when you're engrossed in Hulu clips or updating your résumé. The only problem with C.H.I.M.P. is that a not-too-dense supervisor may deduce why you have a mirror strategically placed on your monitor. Nevertheless, with your newfound monkey powers, you should be able to come up with some clever excuse.
Secret Windows, Secret Lives
Moonlighting on company time? It's wise to keep offenses that constitute just cause for dismissal on the down-low. Virtual desktops can save your paycheck by creating mini-workspaces, each one running its own suite of apps. Think of them as parallel universes for your PC. Mac OS X (starting with version 10.5), Linux, and Unix all provide native support for virtual desktops. Windows users should seek out a third-party utility such as WindowsPager, which integrates nicely with the Windows taskbar. (To jump to a new window, simply click its icon in the taskbar.) Other virtual desktops include Desktops, Dexpot, and VirtuaWin.
If you're in the middle of a book you can't put down, why endure 8 hours of gratification deferred? The secret is to avoid physical books and start reading e-books instead. Download e-book software such as Amazon's free Kindle for PC, and then start reading books on your work computer. (E-reading apps for smartphones and tablets are too risky in the office. It's smarter to stare at your work screen while devouring a page-turner.) If the boss stops by, simply click over to another open app and frown slightly as you look intently at the screen.
For some odd reason, the powers that be tend to frown on napping at work.But if you have an iPhone and a spare 99 cents, SilentLogic Studios' iNap@Work can help disguise your office snooze sessions by playing random office sounds while you take forty winks.
As you sleep off last night's bender, iNap delivers a cacophony of bogus workplace productivity: Keyboard typing, mouse clicking, paper shuffling, pencil sharpening, and even human sounds like sniffling and throat clearing. Of course, loud snoring will still come through; and if the boss stops by your desk and catches you in dreamland, well, you're on your own.
Keep It Simple
Even if you pass on all of the previous suggestions, don't forget the easiest way to bail out of incriminating on-screen activity: The humble hotkey combo. In Windows, of course, the keyboard shortcut is Alt-Tab, which hides your bad behavior by switching to the open window you were in prior to your R&R break. Just make sure that the previous window wasn't open to a job-hunting site, a résumé builder, an e-book, a video game, or a slideshow of your tipsy boss stumbling around at a recent office bash.
Today's Best Tech Deals
Picked by PCWorld's Editors