How to Survive Work

What is work, apart from a four-letter word? After very little consideration we declare it to be the exchanging of our time in order to be allowed to live. Thank you so much for allowing us to live.

It is our contention that most work is in fact a tool of subjugation: If you keep people on the work treadmill, concerned about food and shelter, worried about losing their job, then they are less likely to look around and ask themselves why they are doing it, less likely to rear up and give their leaders a poke in the eye. In this way, work detaches man from his essence, where ‘essence’ is either ‘messing about’, ‘the pub’ or some wondrous combination thereof and, hopefully, therein.

Until the Deserter Universal Basic Income is introduced, though, work is the reality for the great majority of us. In this article we explore some gambits to make it bearable, to make yourself look good and, crucially, to keep yourself amused.

Around the office

It goes without saying that you should carry documents with you everywhere. Never be seen without a printout of something or other, even if it’s just your Fantasy Football team. An office worker carrying nothing is obviously up to no good. Of course, you are up to no good, but this report is coming with you, for better or for worse.

You could, however, try jazzing this ploy up a bit. One ex-colleague of mine liked to carry around a printer maintenance unit, giving the impression that, though he might be late in every day, he was nevertheless both a practical and helpful member of staff. Another carried a pot plant claiming it helped him talk to girls. Oddly, he’s still single.

Practical, helpful, late
Practical, helpful, late

Another obvious rule is that when you ‘toilet break’, you should do it as far away from your desk as possible, preferably on another floor. Nothing good can come of being seen emerging from a cubicle by your immediate colleagues eight times a day, especially if you’ve been snoring. Some of my most successful toilet ‘re-animations’ occurred after tailgating people through the security door of the company based across the landing, where I could then happily drift away in foreign cubicles, out of corporate jurisdiction.

One more general office rule: If you have to walk, walk fast, preferably counting something on your fingers. This not only shows everyone how busy you are but also stops people firing questions at you that you have no idea how to answer, let alone the inclination.


In addition to the ‘double desk’ tactic mentioned previously in First Impressionism there is another simple visual trick to adding to your value without actually doing anything.

Bosses – the unreasonable, demanding shit-rockets – like to see tidy desks and yet they also want to see evidence of work being done. Yes, they want it all. The solution is to have a draw filled with files and folders which each morning, during coffee, you decant all over your desk. There they will stay all day, unmolested, until hometime when you clear them all away back into the drawer until tomorrow. Job done, quite literally.


Let it be known that when you really have to concentrate on something you wear your headphones. Make sure they are headphones, not earphones, and large and brightly coloured, You are not trying to be surreptitious here, you are making a statement: Look at me! Look how hard I’m working! Meanwhile, of course, you’re catching up on podcasts while you type random numbers into a spreadsheet you found on the Internet.

Classic untidy deskplay


Take your hour, wandering around the locale, shopping, having a massage, asleep in the lavs, etc, then return to your desk with your food. Now look at you – you’re so busy you take lunch at your desk. Bonus: Nobody will ask you questions with your mouth full.


Take copious notes. People will be impressed at your diligence and you have the ideal time to write your shopping list, poetry or practise your signature.

Corporate Deserter, I. Osman, likes to rattle off Venn diagrams, sometimes as many as 10 per meeting, and all utterly meaningless. My favourite was one that said ‘Venn’ in one circle, ‘Diagram’ in the other and ‘Venn Diagram’ in the overlapping section. There’s no arguing with that sort of genius.

Buzzwords can be useful, particularly if you’ve no idea what’s going on. Try pointing at the biscuits and announcing ‘The Internet of things!’ or ‘Now that’s what I call a return on investment’.

As a boss, though, you may wish to come down hard on learned ‘meeting talk’.

‘Let’s take a step back here,’ some bright spark might say, trying to look smart. Respond immediately with:

‘Hugo, thanks, but would you mind if we keep moving forward on this?’ Especially if the speaker is not called Hugo.

‘Perhaps it’s not about looking for answers,’ someone else might try, stalling for time. ‘Are we asking the right questions?’ 

‘Hugo,’ you should shoot back, ‘Here’s my question: If you have no answers, what the fuck are you doing here?’

Headphones say, ‘Busy’

A simple trick anyone can do is to create instant portmanteau words from buzzwords to show you are way ahead of the game. If someone says ‘Strategic Communication’, for example, you say ‘StratCom’, perhaps high-fiving the person next to you. If they say ‘Relationship Management’, you say ‘RelMan’. And so on, until one day someone says ‘Analytical Facetime’ and you spit out your coffee.

Meetings can often be flashpoints for disagreements. Make the most of this by asking during any minor argument: ‘Genuine question: Who’s in charge here?’

In the confused silence that follows lean forward and say, quite crossly, ‘Challenge. Option. Issue. Process.’ while making a chopping motion with one hand onto the palm of the other. Then stand up and leave.

Advanced gambit: The Half-life Opening. This simple ‘status signpost’ is suitable whenever a new face is present in a meeting – perhaps a new starter or an external supplier. Simply walk into the meeting room, look momentarily confused and say, ‘Who’s this cunt?’

The pure genius of I. Osman

Leaving work

Don’t be the person that leaves at 5.30 on the dot – however you play it, people will despise you. Either be long gone, or hang around doing your private correspondence, personal printing or order that pizza to meet you off the train. That way, by way of a bonus, you’ll also get to know the nicest people in the office: The cleaners

The overnighter

We have written previously about the various gambits for napping at work. But I. Osman, would take this to extremes by spending the whole night at work, sleeping under his desk.

It does require some preparation – a clean shirt, a razor, perhaps even a sleeping bag – but he’d appear to be first in, in the morning, when in actual fact he’d been last out of the pub the night before.

‘Morning!’ he’d call brightly to his line manager as she arrived.

‘Now that’s what I call a return on investment,’ she’d reply.


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Image credits: Main image by Jim Whimpey, used under this license; Practical, helpful, late by Naval Service Warriors, used under this license; Classic untidy deskplay by Alan Cleaver, used under this license; Headphones say, ‘Busy’ by zharth, used under this license; Venn (Venn diagram) diagram courtesy of I. Osman-Villa