9 fun things to do when bored at work (& still look busy!)
Practical Ideas & Useful Links/rated by Stealth & Entertainment Value
We’ve all been there – it’s Friday afternoon and you’re bored at work. You can’t face picking up any more work, but the clock is just not winding down to home time. The more you stare at the clock, the slower it goes.
You’ve read the entire internet, twice. Played solitaire until you nodded off. And now you’re thinking the unthinkable. Answering some long-festering emails…
Fear not my fellow procrastinator, we have some ideas to help make those lingering minutes hours fly by. All without leaving your desk.
To help you kill time at work, we’ve considered 2 all-important factors.
- Stealth – Most of us can’t just kick back and relax and word. Unless you’re the boss. However, all the entries on our list can be done while sitting at your desk. Bonus points are awarded the time-waster will fool your boss into thinking you’re actually doing something productive.
Be careful, computer activity can be tracked via network activity logs. It’s easy for your boss to check what websites you’ve spent time on, if they want to. Some companies even use monitoring software, be ready with your excuses!
- Fun Factor – We’ll assume you’re looking for fun things to do at work. Otherwise you might as well just do some work. Everything on our list are fun time killers. But we’ve tried to find something for everybody.
Finally, everything here is free to play. There is no point getting paid to (not) work, if you then end up spending your hard (un) earned.
Oh, and if you’re wondering how to get away with not doing your work without alerting the boss, check out ‘How to look busy at work – Tips & Tricks’.
With that in mind, here’s our exhaustive list of things to do when you’re bored at work.
#1 Flash-based Browser Games
A throwback to simpler times, when the WWW was a wild frontier of creative fun and bold colours. With Flash soon to be obsolete, enjoy these games while you can. They were one of the reasons that we all fell in love with the Web, back before everyone was slinging vitriol at each other on social media.
Stealth: (2 / 5)
Bright, brash games – A direct view of your screen will have the boss over in in a (ahem) flash. Easily tracked via accessiblity logs. Not a problem for homeworkers, solo workers or anyone who who no longer cares!
Entertainment Value: (5 / 5)
What you lose in discretion, you gain in sheer playability. The very definition of ‘bored at work games’, this an easy way to wind the clock down. The options are huge with many indie titles, plenty of retro vibes alongside knock-off versions of popular games. Great fun, if you can get away with it…
Best sources for Flash-based Browser Games:
- Miniclip – Perhaps the foremost source for flash-based browser games, boasting 900+ games. It’s been helping people kill time at work since 2001 and remains amongst the best sources for no-pay, download-free, online gaming.
- Kongregate – A giant of the online gaming world, boasting 110,000 + games.
- Newgrounds – More than just a game site, but a great resource for online games.
- Armor Games – A huge choice of games, with a particularly good selection of strategy games, tower defence games & other thinking games to help pass the time at work.
NB: Flash is a security headache for many companies – many have blocked it. Partly because of this, Flash will no longer be supported from 2020, so expect this particular method of time-wasting to disappear in the next couple of years. But don’t worry, there are other internet games to help kill time at work.
#2 Non-Flash Online Games
Online games, but without the critical security issues. There are pay2play games and some that are just plain free. All the creative genius that was once spent on Flash games is now found here.
Stealth: (3 / 5)
Less of a security headache than flash games and less likely to be blocked (the URL needs to be blocked individually). They can be played directly in browsers, although this means they will show up in activity logs. Needless to say, it will be obvious you’re not working should anyone look over your shoulder.
Entertainment Value: (4 / 5)
Plenty of fun to be had, but fewer options and (arguably) less playability than many Flash browser games. Still a lot more fun than playing solitaire when you’re bored at work though.
Best sources for non-Flash Browser Games (Free – no need to pay to progress):
Look out for .io games – .io is the suffix for Indian Ocean, but also recognised as ‘input/output’. This has become the go-to domain registry for free online games.
- Crazygames – A well-stocked repository for online games, including a healthy collection of .io games.
- Google Doodles (games) – Simple, basic fun that you can access through Google. Possibly one website that won’t ring too many alarm bells with IT. As an added bonus, you can often learn a bit a more about global history and even play with internationally famous icons, such as Pac-Man or Doctor Who.
- IO Games – Does what is says on the tin, a useful place to find .io games.
#3 Office Application Games
Excel, Powerpoint, Word…Yep, these might be the bane of your working life. But if you’re looking for fun things to do at work, you can ditch the spreadsheet and do something even less productive. Play games, right there in your Office application.
The best part? It might look like you’re actually getting on with some work, even when everyone else has switched off for the weekend. As long as nobody looks too closely…
NB: Some Excel games are simply based on formulas and formatting (ideal for tenuously claiming you’re trying to improve your Excel skills if you’re ever rumbled). Other more advanced games rely on VBA (Visual Basic for Applications), i.e. Macros, which may be blocked as potential malware.
Stealth: (4 / 5)
First up, this will not show up in activity logs (unless your employer uses monitoring software). With one exception, you need to download the templates to get started. Still, you can argue you were trying to get something fresh to liven up your next presentation. Downloads can be problematic for some employers though, so be prepared with your excuses.
From a distance, it may look like you’re preparing a particularly colourful presentation/report. If you’re rumbled, you could say you’re sharpening your office skills…
Entertainment Value: (2 / 5)
These games are based on formulas, formatting etc. In other words, they’re quite limited. But if you’re desperately looking for things to do at work when bored, this could be the solution. What’s more, you might sharpen your Office skills and discover ways to liven up dull meetings.
Best sources for Office Application games:
- Excel Tricks – A resource for all sorts of Excel tips, tricks and essential info. But forget the useful stuff, you can also find 50+ Excel games listed here.
- PowerPoint Games UK – Great selection of PowerPoint games and useful slides for interactive presentations
- Rusnak Creative – A resource for free, Game-show PowerPoint Slides. Not so much games to play, but fun slides to fool about with while pretending to prepare for that important presentation.
#4 Online Quizzes, Word Games, Crosswords, Sudoku, etc
A back-to-basics approach to killing time at work. If you’re looking for a more seadte way to wind the clock down, this could be for you. Plus, you’ll still be keeping your brain cells active for when you get back to actual work.
Stealth: (2.5 / 5)
Unless you work in newspaper publishing or write quiz books, you’re unlikely to convince anyone you’re doing work.
If you’re lucky though, your IT department may not have blocked them. And at least you’re exercising your brain…
Entertainment Value: (4 / 5)
Sudoku, quizzes, crosswords. Timeless forms of entertainment. They pre-date the internet and will likely remain popular long into the future. Not the full-on fun of browser games but they never get boring.
Best sources for online Quizzes, Word games and more
- Trivia Plaza (quizzes)- As a quiz nerd, I love this site. It’s quick, easy to use (no registration required) and has interesting quizzes from a broad range of topics. You instantly find out if you’re correct (unlike many sites where you submit your answers at the end). Plus, ads are not intrusive on this site.
- Sporcle (quizzes) – This takes a slightly more unorthodox approach to quiz questions, with timers and many quizzes that compare your answers to that of others (i.e. name the least known US state, compared to other people who answered the question). It has more picture-based quizzes, but also is less straightforward to use than a simple multiple-choice quiz. Frequently, it feels like your spelling is also being tested!).
- Arkadium (Word Games/Crosswords/Sudoku) – A smorgasbord of free online games, including word games, crosswords, sudoku and more. Sure, you have to watch a quick advert, but the choice of games and the simplicity of use (no need to register) makes it worthwhile.
- Sudoku Kingdom (Sudoku) – Just entering Sudoku in Google will bring up a bunch of very similar Sudoku sites. Our vote goes to this one as it is bright, clean and can you start playing straightaway. No intrusive ads. Beware the ‘Very Hard’ level…
#5 Online Books, Short Stories & Long Reads
You might be looking for things to do at work when bored. But popping your feet up onto the desk and getting a well-thumbed book out is a sure-fire way to get yourself a HR meeting. But for bibliophiles, there are more discrete ways to get your reading fix.
There are several approaches to this, depending on what you want to read.
- Download an e-reader – many office workers will struggle to get around download restrictions. But if you can get a suitable app onto your PC, this is the ticket to easy reading from your desk. The beauty of this option: you’re not restricted with reading choices; even the latest books are available.
- Take advantage of many free books available online. These tend to be either old classics with an expired copyright, or completely fresh offerings from aspiring authors. You can also find non-fiction works on a mind-boggling array of topics. Frequently these are available in PDF or even Word formats. But you can also read plenty in your browser without a download.
- Short stories by email – stories you can finish between workloads delivered to your inbox. Super-convenient, easy to hide.
- Drain some printer ink and print off some stories – Creative types could re-title it something like, “Financials – 2018“, or some other catchy report-type title. That should throw suspicious bosses off the scent. Just be careful not to mix it up with the real report…
Stealth: (4.5 / 5)
Stories by email. Stories in PDF format. Outlook skins to disguise your Reddit browsing. All this makes helps disguise your slacking off. The only reason we can’t give it 5/5 is that sometimes you need a download first and some sites may well be blocked by your employers.
Entertainment Value: (3.5 / 5)
Another timeless way to unwind. Short stories are ideal when you’re bored at work, especially if you struggle to put down a good read. Plus, you get to broaden your mind, especially if can find time for an old classic. However, you won’t find many books from the bestseller list. Well, not for this year anyway…
Best sources for free eBooks
- Project Gutenberg – The premier space for free eBooks. As of 2019, it boasts 59,000+ books to download. Just choosing what to read will help to kill time at work! You can read directly in your web browser or via (free) eBook readers. With the noble aim of offering free books to everyone, there is bound to be something of interest here.
- Free Editorial – Another space for free eBooks. Great for timeless classics with expired copyright.
- PDF Drive – Lots of free eBooks, including a huge choice of non-fiction books. As the name suggests, these are available in PDF format, so require a download. But once on your PC, your reading material will simply look like a minutes from the world’s longest meeting.
Other Sources for Online Reading
- Long Reads – long-form articles, with plenty of eye-opening stories. Sign-up to the email for a digest of the best new stories. Ideal for filling a gap at work and learning more about the crazy world we live in.
- Poop Fiction – Not a pile of poop, just really short stories you can finish quicker than a toilet break. Helpfully, you can choose the length of story, from tiny to long.
- Morning Short – Receive a short story via email every day. Super easy to pretend you’re reading yet another dull office circular. You can then forward onto other bored colleagues, to really bring the office productivity crashing down!
- Reddit/shortstories – Amateur short stores to amuse, divert and inspire you to become a write yourself.
Here’s the clever part though – access it via a Reddit skin designed to look like Outlook email. Everyone will assume you’re checking your email, for hours on end…A prefect solution for going down any other Reddit rabbit holes too. Word has it that many companies have got wise to this trick, so it may be blocked. And don’t forget, ‘Alt-Tab’ if you need to get back to your real inbox quickly…
- Freda (eBook reader) – Free, easy to use and, best of all, integrates with Project Gutenberg, which offers access to thousands of free eBooks.
- Amazon’s Kindle reader is also great, it works with all eBooks and you don’t need to be an Amazon customer. But you will get a few, barely intrusive ads, for Amazon eBooks. You can find the app on the relevant app store for your device.
#6 Silent Movies, Animated Shorts, Movies with Subtitles
Of all the things to do at work when you’re bored, this one is bit of an acquired taste. But you can find a wealth of free silent movies and short films online.
The great thing with silent movies is that you lose nothing by having your computer sound muted.
Stealth: (1 / 5)
Hard to convince anyone you’re doing something productive with a grainy black & white movie playing in the background.
Another negative is the fact most free videos are hosted on the 2 video hosting giants, YouTube and Vimeo. Sadly, for avowed time-wasters these sites are frequently blocked by employers. If you’re bored at work, you might need to find alternative ways to procrastinate.
Entertainment Value: (2.5 / 5)
Not exactly the latest Game of Thrones. But if you’re looking for things to do at work when bored and you can get away with it, there are worse ways to wind the clock down.
You can find plenty of important movies that were highly original in their day (such as Nosferatu of Battleship Potemkin). Alternatively, you can discover highly original and modern shorts from aspiring producers.
Best sources for free online movies/silent movies
- Open Culture – More than just a movie website, they boast of a catalogue of 1,150 movies. This includes some all-time silent classics, such as Battleship Potemkin, Nosferatu and Charlie Chaplin. Often the site links to YouTube, but there are plenty of movies you can watch without leaving the site. Plus, there are a bunch of other (non-silent) movies you can still enjoy without any volume, such as low-budget martial arts movies.
- Bloop Animation – A tiny but quality collection of animated shorts. If you feel inspired, you can sign up to a ‘make your own’ animated movie course
- Vimeo – An obvious one, but providing it is not blocked you can find a wealth of amateur films and animated shorts here. Channels for animated shorts, short films and silent movies are worth checking out.
- Finally, here’s a few websites with curated lists of short films and silent movies. You don’t need to visit YouTube or Vimeo directly, but the films are hosted there.
- Short of the Week (mostly YouTube)
- Internet Archive (Vimeo) – A bewildering choice of archived films, shorts and silent movies. And, literally, millions of other time-wasting distractions from this non-profit library.
- Film School Rejects (YouTube) – A thoughtful list of 30 memorable silent movies, including some you can watch without leaving the site.
#7 Office Games
Strictly for when the boss is at the golf course. This is a Friday afternoon activity that requires pretty much everyone in the office to down tools in solidarity.
Alternatively, you can try and work them into an extended meeting disguised as an ice breaker…
Stealth: (0 / 5)
Office chaos involving multiple employees will definitely push your boss’s buttons. Telling your boss you had tun out of work might not cut much ice.
On the other hand, if you can convince your boss (or if you are the boss), then pitching this as a team building exercise for the greater good might get you somewhere. Good luck with that…
Entertainment Value: (5 / 5)
All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And team building is a tried and tested way to kill time at work. Perhaps you’ll even discover another side to your co-workers, which can’t be a bad thing. Usually…
Clever Ideas for Office Games & Workplace Ice breakers
- Ice Breaker Ideas – 22 office games and a host of other ideas for simple, easy-to-arrange games that can be played in groups.
- Make Use Of – There are some absolutely daft games here. Just the type of game to persuade your co-workers do drop what they’re doing and let their hair down at work.
- Planday – 100 ideas here. Something for every office, handily rated by activity levels, cost and equipment required.
#8 Games by Email (yes, still a thing)
A complete throwback to a time when Email felt revolutionary. Taking their inspiration from classic games like Chess, Tic-Tac-Toe, Chequers and board games like Risk, this is a gentle, play-when-you-can form of entertainment.
A step up from pre-internet era games by correspondence, this is as low-key as it gets. You need at least one opponent who enjoys playing games with zero urgency, but otherwise you have a safe-for-work way to wind the clock down.
There’s even an (highly unoriginal) name for it. PBeM. Play by email. A name that takes its inspiration from its pre-computing predecessor, PBM (Play by Mail).
Stealth: (5 / 5)
As undercover as it gets – Just another email clogging up your inbox, except this one you might actually want to reply to. Hard to see how you could get rumbled playing this, unless you’re forced to go through your inbox by an impatient boss.
Entertainment Value: (4 / 5)
Strangely addictive. You will be surprised how much you can enjoy playing a game of chess by email. Plus, it’s all on your own schedule. Well, you have to wait for your opponent, potentially for days. But this is a fun way to fill a lazy 5 minutes without getting too distracted.
Best sites for playing games by email
It is entirely possible to set this up manually. After all, it’s an idea from the age of snail mail. But though its popularity is fading, there are still sites than can help you manage your PBeM effectively.
- Games By Email – Does precisely what it says on the tin. The website may be have a nostalgic feel, but it’s reassuringly in-keeping with the theme. Plus, they have a good choice of games and it really helps to organise your game through a central site.
- Richard’s Play by Email Server – Sticking with the internet 1.0 theme, this has a super-extensive list of games with all the (often complicated) rules explained. A great place to get started with PBeM.
- It’s your Turn – Not strictly PBeM, as the game is played through a browser. However, notifications are sent by email and game moves can take days (the minimum you have to agree to is 3 days!). You can also play against like-minded strangers or with signed-up friends. A lot of classic (and free) games for when you’re bored at work, including Battleships, Connect4, Othello. You only pay if you want to play more than 20 games at once.
#9 Creative Stationery Fun
Our final suggestion for things to do at work when you’re bored is another timeless classic. Except this time, you can ditch the computer entirely. And not only will this help you kill time at work, but you can also milk the company stationery budget too.
But there is more to playing around with stationery than just creating the biggest rubber band ball possible. We’ve picked out some of the most creative ways to make use of the stationery lying at the back of your desk drawer.
Stealth: (2.5 / 5)
Unless you work for an art studio, it’ll be difficult to claim you’re doing anything productive when your co-workers see your latest paperclip creation. But on the upside, there will be no activity on a network log. In fact, there might not any activity at all, which may ring a few alarm bells…
Entertainment Value: (2.5 / 5)
If you like creating things, this could be a fun way to pass time at work. If you don’t have an artistic bone in your body though, this could quickly become frustrating. Still, if you manage to get a paperclip crossbow working, winding your colleagues might be reward enough!
Inspiration & instructions for creative stationery use
- Instructables – Pages of ideas & instructions for making use of office supplies. A particular favourite are the various instructions for making DIY weapons with everyday stationery here. Ideal for discouraging annoying colleagues from visiting your desk.
- YouTube – ok, we’ve already covered the fact YouTube may not be accessible at work. But you don’t need it open at work, just get the ideas and then get to work on your company’s dime the next day. The best stuff to search for; paperclip art.
- Rubber Band ball on WikiHow – The all-time best use for rubber bands – Watch it grow as your career blossoms/flounders (delete as appropriate). The instructions on WikiHow, like so many of their guides, are clear and complete.
- Paperclip art on Pinterest – If you’re looking for inspiration to make something different to the norm, Pinterest is the place to go. Many ideas are original one-offs and Pinterest provides an inspirational catalogue of everything from miniature paper clip art through to grand, elaborate creations.