1. Location, Location, Location
The location of your desk determines how much effort you will actually need to put into looking busy. Medieval King's would build their castles on hills as the naturally elevated land would allow the easiest defence. You must do the same with your desk. Always look for the high-ground.
- Hidden screens. Only you should be able to see your screens- this speaks for itself. Your boss might not appreciate funny cat compilation videos as much as you do.
- Secluded location. You do not want to be next to a walkway, a kitchen, a printer or any other area which experiences high footfall. A separate point, but if you get stuck next to a printer not only will you have to endure annoying noise and regular incursions of your territorial waters by nosey colleagues, you will also become the de-facto maintenance help desk for the printer itself. God forbid you become known as the chap who "is good with technology".
- Easy escape and entry points. You want to be able to come and go without your bosses noticing. Being late is a non-issue if you can covertly make it to your desk by via a neighbouring emergency stairwell. Ideally combine this with a tactical knowledge of the building's back channels, this will allow you to easily escape on a Friday evening without running the risk of bumping into your superiors in the lobby.
Sadly this important tactic is likely to be completely out of your control, unless your office is embracing a culture of "hot-desking". In any event, always be prepared to move to a better desk if the opportunity presents itself. Keep personal belongings and clutter to a minimum. Depending the desk competition from your colleagues it may be an idea to keep a "bug out bag" to hand so you can evacuate your old desk and colonise a new one as efficiently as possible.
2. Have a good poker face
Always be as vague as possible when asked what you're working on. You never know whether you're going to be lumbered with a total "hospital pass" of a job or, conversely, given a really fun job. Being vague with your busyness levels gives you time to carry out some basic reconnaissance in order to decipher the true intentions of your boss. If you realise the job will be fun, accept it. If you realise it's going to destroy your soul/kill your evening or weekend, then amp up your busyness façade and the job should filter down to the next sucker who wasn't as well prepared as you.
Lastly, a good poker face is crucial when it comes to handling time scales and deadlines. The following approach will allow you to i) look super efficient and/or ii) bag some invaluable chill time.
If you're asked to give a projected time scale on when you can deliver something:
- Calculate the average required time for completion of the given task ("Genuine Time Estimate")
- Taking into consideration: i) the importance of task, ii) how busy you are, iii) how productive you are feeling and iv) how much you can realistically exaggerate, add 50-200% additional time to the Genuine Time Estimate ("Inflated Time Estimate").
- Report and commit to the Inflated Time Estimate with your superiors, clients etc.
- Under optimal conditions you will complete the task near to the Genuine Time Estimate. You can then chose between: i) looking super productive by beating your time estimate or ii) using your time surplus to sit back, chill, browse tinder, go to the gym or just frankly space out. I'd recommend a combination of both.
3. Always be armed with a pen and paper.
If you're serious about deception, invest in your equipment. In the vacuum like environment of the office, small subtleties can make a big difference. A leather bound notepad (and I'm thinking something along the lines of Tom Riddle's diary from the Harry Potter movies) will yield better results than an discount value, ring bound, 60gsm notepad.
4. Walk really really fast.
Be it to the printer (which, as we've already established, shouldn't be next to your desk) or to meetings (real or fake), your walking speed should be f*cking quick.
Unless you're creating air turbulence around you, you ain't going fast enough. Unsecured paper on nearby surfaces should be blown into the air as you pass.
Don't literally run, you don't want any beef with the overzealous health & safety brigade- one foot must be in connection with the ground at all times.
Your supersonic walking speed will add to the illusion of your busyness and will also decrease the likelihood of you being stopped by one of your bosses mid walk. You'll be power walking off over the horizon before their brain's language centre has had time to formulate words. Plus if you're walking at the correct speed, they aren't going to want to collide with you.