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5 Ways to be Productive without Looking Busy

5 Ways to be Productive without Looking Busy

Many employees fear they need to always look busy, even if they are taking a short break or silently thinking through a work issue.

Workers feel the pressure to look busy even if they are faking it. This pressure to look busy is not the answer to corporate performance.

The corporate world tries to create mindless employees who simply follow rules and the status-quo. Looking busy is better than innovating their way to the top.

That’s why companies like Google, SAS and Zappos are extremely successful; employees are allowed to enjoy life while they work and do not fear losing their jobs.

Here are five possible examples where employees could be developing the next business break-through, yet don’t look busy, according to our outdated cubicle-dwelling mindset.


A marketing manager of a small manufacturing firm is drinking coffee at the local Starbucks and writes a marketing plan outline on a napkin. The company later goes international and is wildly successful, thanks to quiet time at Starbucks.


The purchasing agent of a paper mill is trying to save costs and takes time to go eat lunch at a park and watch birds finding worms, building nests and small children playing with their parents nearby. He develops a simple solution while in the midst of nature.  His picnic inspired idea proves to be successful and saves the company millions of dollars.


In the middle of a weekday afternoon, the human resource director takes two fellow employees to a documentary movie about the new world of work.  They are watching the documentary, eating popcorn and drinking Coca-cola.  Doesn’t look like work. But the outing turned into a serious planning session on preparing the company for the workforce of the future.


A CEO instructs two rival vice presidents who run separate divisions that are always clashing and causing destructive turf wars to join professional climbers on a Friday afternoon. Their assignment? Help each other scale down from the top of a forty-five story building with ropes and other climbing equipment. Suddenly, a sincere trust develops between these once rivaling executives when they safely make it to the ground.  Did that look like normal work?


The CEO of a large corporation learns how to smoke ribs and chicken and regularly helps serve over one-thousand employees during afternoon picnics.  He chats and laughs with employees as they get their food and as he mingles among the crowd.  Was this traditional work? No, but it led to an exponential increase in productivity, teamwork and problem-solving.

Sometimes not working is productive and working is not productive.  We all know that trying to look busy is not working.  Live your life and work your work.

Kevin Kennemer is founder of The People Group based in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Kevin is driven by his passion for company owners and their need to earn a profit, employees' desire for a positive and fulfilling work experience, and the community that benefits when both groups do well.


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