The following article is in no way based on personal experience.
Here are some tried and trusted activities to occupy your time in the office. They all have the advantage of seeming like work to the casual passer-by:
Wikipedia. Not only is Wikipedia (allegedly) informative, its relatively plain page design means that you can browse it at leisure. Just be careful to keep the window shrunk to about one third of your monitor screen, just in case you scroll down to a glaringly obvious picture (articles on superheroes are particular giveaways).
Making a trip to the coffee machine. Or even better, a trip downstairs to the coffee shop. The acceptable alternative to cigarette breaks or trips to the loo, the coffee break can easily take up to five minutes, ten if you take the stairs instead of the lift. Plus, it’s a great way to meet people in the queue.
Role-playing character design. With the ever increasing complexity of tabletop systems, especially Dungeons and Dragons and offshoots like Pathfinder, the task of generating characters has become a number crunching task of legendary proportions. Needless to say, this has resulted in any number of electronic tools being written by technically minded role-players, to assist the rest of us. These automated aids frequently come in the form of Excel spreadsheets, ideal for tinkering with at work, due to their passing resemblance to project work plans and performance feedback forms. Again, be careful to keep your window shrunk down to a size where text like “4th Level Half-Elf Assassin” doesn’t shriek out too much.
Checking the pigeon holes for post. If you are lucky enough to work in a large office, there may be several locations for post to arrive, so there’s plenty of opportunity to ‘do the rounds’ of each post room, trawling for mail. Don’t forget to look for colleagues’ mail as well as your own – you will not only look useful within the team, but also increase the chance of finding some post to hold in your hand as you circumnavigate the office. A handful of envelopes is ideal work-camouflage.
Cleaning out your email. If like me, you delete from your Inbox as you go, you won’t find much distraction there. But in all likelihood, your Sent Items and Deleted Items folders will be a treasure trove of candidates for filing and/or binning. A variant on this activity is ‘Stripping out big email attachments’ – usually prompted by a ‘Your mailbox is over its size limit’ notification.
Taking stuff to the bin. If you have the pleasure of working in a modern ‘advanced’ office environment, you may be required to take all your rubbish to designated ‘refuse pods’, located strategically around the office, often in proximity to the mail rooms. Like taking a trip to the coffee machine, this too can consume five much-needed minutes, especially if you have built up a small display of used cardboard coffee cups on your desk throughout the day.
Writing a blog. Or indeed, any non-work writing activity. Blogs have the advantage of looking just like work reports, especially if you take the care to write them in Word documents, with appropriately official numbered headings and corporate fonts. Take care though not to type too fast or for too long. Unless someone is writing a particularly long email or report, they are unlikely to rhythmically bang away on the keyboard for several minutes without taking a break (like Jessica Fletcher in the title sequence of Murder She Wrote). So remember to pause in your typing at least every thirty seconds, and pretend to look over at some papers on your desk.