15 Productive Ways to Slack Off at Work

Learn how to take some time to yourself without getting in trouble.

Reviewed by Hayley Ramsey

Employee finding productive ways to slack off at work

Many professional jobs tend to ebb and flow between busy and slow periods. And during the slow periods, like near a holiday, it can be common for workers to slack off a bit. One study even showed that Americans slack off for an average of 50 minutes during their workday.

But just because you’re slacking off doesn’t mean you can’t still be productive. So, if you’re wondering how to slack off at work — but productively — we’ve compiled the top 15 ways to do just that.

1. Learn a new skill

Why not kill time and slack off by upskilling? Even if you aren’t developing skills that are directly relevant to your current job, learning any new skill can be a productive use of time. And with all the free courses and educational websites available online, there’s no reason not to.

Coursera, Udemy and Code Academy all offer free courses in a wide range of professional skills. However, if you don’t want to commit to an entire course, simply watching YouTube videos is another free and easy way to learn a range of new skills.

2. Have a coffee chat

Although chatting with coworkers about non-work-related topics is considered slacking off, it can still be a productive activity. After all, networking benefits your career. And socializing comes with health benefits as well.

So, if you’re wondering how to kill time at work, ask a coworker if they’d like to meet for a coffee. Who knows? They might not have much to do at work either and be eager to pass the time productively.

3. Watch a TED Talk

TED, which stands for technology, entertainment and design, is a nonprofit organization that holds conferences devoted to spreading knowledge and sharing ideas. These conferences, known as TED Talks, feature expert speakers from a range of domains. If you’re looking for a productive way to slack off at work, watching a TED Talk could be worthwhile.

Simply check out the TED Talks website to browse through over 4,000 videos of recorded talks. You can find many TED Talks on YouTube as well. All you have to do is click play, sit back and soak in the inspiration and knowledge.

4. Do some life admin

Life admin involves doing personal administrative tasks that are required to effectively manage your life and household. These include paying bills, scheduling appointments and answering personal emails. If you’ve run out of tasks to do at work, why not cross some personal items off your to-do list?

If you do take care of personal tasks at work, make sure to it without getting noticed by making personal phone calls away from your desk. It’s also a good idea to check your company’s policy to ensure accessing certain websites and checking your personal email during work isn’t prohibited.

5. Shop online

Shopping online as a way to pass time at work can be productive if you are shopping for an intended purpose, like a gift or necessity. Since we all need to shop for items once in a while, doing it while you have downtime at work can be productive.

However, if you’re frequently shopping as a way to slack off at work and stave off boredom, then this could turn into a problem. Notice if you begin to shop so much that you’re overspending, which would then be an unproductive way to slack off.

6. Daydream

Although daydreaming may have led to being reprimanded in your school days, studies have shown that there are actually some surprising benefits of letting your mind wander. One such benefit is increased levels of creativity.

While daydreaming at work is a perfect example of slacking off, it is not entirely unproductive. And you could find that getting lost in your thoughts may actually improve your work through generating creative ideas.

7. Read articles

The internet provides vast sources of articles on nearly an infinite number of unique topics. And while reading about the latest celebrity scandal might not be the most productive use of your time, reading educational articles could be.

Content curation sites, like Flipboard or Feedly, can be helpful for finding relevant articles in topics you’re interested in. These tools sift through articles for you, so you don’t have to spend time searching. Or, while you're here, you could flick through our pages of articles to find something interesting (and helpful!).

8. Plan ahead

If you don’t have much to do in the present moment, making plans for the future can be a productive way to pass the time. And if you don’t have any job-related planning that needs to be done, you could make life and career plans.

For example, making a five-year career plan, researching where you want to spend your vacation next year or creating a financial plan can all be productive ways to pass time at work.

9. Journal

There are various advantages to journaling, such as improving self-confidence, developing writing skills, and reducing stress. So, why not journal? While it may not be the most suitable environment to journal about sensitive, personal topics, you could journal about work-related topics.

Some examples of journal prompts are three things you are grateful for at work, what your dream career looks like or what the greatest challenges in your career thus far were. Who knows? Through journaling, you may discover previously unknown aspects about yourself.

10. Work on something different

We’ve all met our good friend procrastination, right? Now is the time to utilize this wonderfully subjective “skill”. If you’re finding yourself losing interest in one area of work, try switching it up and work on something else that you need to get finished. You might find it reignites your creative juices for when it’s time to go back to your original task.

11. Meditate

Practicing meditation and mindfulness at work has many benefits, such as lowering levels of stress, increasing self-awareness and even lowering blood pressure. Sounds great, right? If the benefits are true, it’s definitely worth giving meditation a try if you need to pass time at work.

To get started, it’s helpful if you have an empty meeting room or a spare room at work. However, it’s also possible to meditate at your desk. You don’t even need to close your eyes to experience the benefits. Simply try staying in the present moment and focusing on your breath. If your mind starts to wander, just bring your focus back to your breath and start over again.

12. Go on a walk

Walking has a number of significant benefits, like increasing energy levels, improving mood, boosting your immune system and reducing stress. And for these reasons, it can be a productive way to slack off at work.

Your colleagues may not even notice that you’ve gone for a walk and may just assume you’re away from your desk in a meeting. To make walking even more productive, you could add some socializing into it by asking a colleague if they’d like to join for an impromptu “work meeting”.

13. Listen to a podcast

With over 4 million different podcasts that have been published, there is no shortage of selection or variety — and listening to a podcast can still be productive. And while some podcasts are more for entertainment purposes, some can be highly educational or inspirational.

For example, podcasts can be a great resource for career development advice. These podcasts, which are usually hosted by recruiters, career coaches or HR leaders, provide expert career advice without having to pay for a private consultation.

14. Take a career test

Well, this is kinda productive. If you’re trying to pass some time at work, take our six-stage CareerHunter test to see if you’re in the right career. It asks questions about your interests, skills and personality and matches you to over 250 careers, so you can see which career path would be the best choice for you. Who knows, you might be trying to pass time at work because you’re not well suited to the role. Try it and see!

15. Update your résumé

Since the average time employees stay at their jobs is currently around four years, it’s necessary nowadays to keep an updated résumé. If you feel like you’re often slacking off at work, then it is even more important to ensure your résumé is up to date, as you might end up trying to find a job you’re passionate about instead.

Your frequent slacking could be due to boredom or lack of engagement, which are both indicators that the job may not be the best fit. But even if you are satisfied with your job, keeping your résumé current never hurts.

Final thoughts

Many professional jobs nowadays are based on performance and results — and not on hours worked. Therefore, as long as you’re keeping your performance up and it’s not becoming a habit, slacking off from time to time most likely won’t derail your career.

However, if you are going to slack off at work, there are still ways to do it productively. And with the 15 tips above, you can make sure you’re not wasting time — even when you’re slacking off.

Still slacking off and feeling bored? Check out how to overcome boredom at work by watching this video:

How do you (productively) slack off in the office? Let us know your tricks in the comments below!


Originally published 25 October 2015.