As Memorial Day approaches there are going to be plenty of days when your boss will be jetsetting someplace fabulous while you're stuck in your cubicle. Feel free to celebrate, but here are some rules to make it go smoothly.
You know that nothing is going to get accomplished when your boss is away, but you can't get caught slacking off. Also, if there is a disaster and you're not around to put out the fire, you're going to be in deep doo-doo when the evil overlord gets back into town. Here are some great ways to hedge your bets, have a good time, and make the most of the cat being away.
Do Not Call Out Sick: We've warned you before that calling out sick when the boss is gone could be a disaster. On the one hand, it's the perfect time to sit at home and catch up on your DVR backlog but if there is a huge catastrophe and you're gone someone might get in touch with your boss and then your cover is blown. The best thing to do is take a "work from home" day. We all know that "work from home" consists mainly of browsing porn and watching The Price Is Right while sending the occasional email, so it's a small sacrifice to make.
Do One Thing Really Well: You're pretty much going to spend the entire day G-chatting with your friends and reading silly blog posts (and maybe buying something cute at Gilt Group) but you must have at least one accomplishment for the day so when your boss gets back you can say, "I finally finished the Peterson proposal." Make sure you focus for like an hour and dot all the I's and cross all the T's and all the other cliches that you are actually paying attention to your work. Once your decoy assignment is done, the whole internet is out there just waiting for you. Go explore, my friends.
Entertain Your Coworkers: Luckily, you are not alone in having a day of light occupation and heavy slackitude. There is probably a whole bunch of people who want to be as lazy as you. Go over and chat with your office buddy. People might think you're actually talking about something work related when you're really theorizing on Lost or talking about that hot piece of tail you scored at the sales conference in Miami or [something that ladies talk about]. Also, this is the best time to pull out your impersonation of your boss because you know he's not going to walk up behind you while you're in the middle of it, sitcom style.
Take a Leisurely Lunch: So many of us make the deadly mistake of eating at our desks day after day. Well, today is your day to try out that nice restaurant around the corner from the office or take your usual turkey sandwich and spice it up by eating it in the park. And don't just spend your time eating. Feel free to shop, run errands, or talk on the phone to your mail order bride. If you're feeling really decadent, have yourself a Don Draper special: a nooner with your current floozy followed by a delicious and fattening steak with two Old-Fashioneds. Do it with a client (the lunch, not the floozy), and you can expense that shit!
Email Is Your Friend: Not only is the time without a boss a great opportunity to catch up on your personal correspondence, you can do just about anything as long as you are reachable by email. Christ, take your Blackberry to the movie and intermittently check throughout the feature (just sit in the back of the theater so you don't annoy people with your bright-ass screen). If anyone wants to check how productive you were during the day, they're going to look at the electronic paper trial of your emails. Don't go more than 30 minutes without sending one even if it's about the office bowling team or how people need to be neater in the bathroom. Do this and everyone will think that you were diligently working away the whole time at your desk, even if you were sunning yourself on a park bench or mastering the Sudoku or whatever. Oh, and conversely, it's Facebook and Twitter that will give you away. Make no mentions of slacking off, not doing work, or where you're actually going, because someone will find out.
Leave On Time: Most overworked office drones stay far later than they're supposed to, so leaving on time is actually a treat. If you're supposed to work until 6, then leave at 6. Don't leave early, because everyone will go, "Oh, her boss is away and she's trying to sneak out" or "That guy is so lazy, just looking for an excuse to get out of here." Don't give them anything to make lame jokes about. Also, you're not going to be doing shit at your desk anyway, so why try to leave early? You're just going to get stuck in traffic either way.
Do Something You've Always Wanted to Do: This could range anywhere from starting that pet project the higher-ups keep stalling to farting in your boss' chair (juvenile, but so much fun). No one is there to tell you "No" and once your favorite assignment is started (or completed, see above) no one is going to stop you. Take that pro bono case! Give all that money to a deserving charity! Post pictures of hot guys holding kittens! Whatever you want, just be sure it's nothing so severe that you'll lose your job over it. Accomplishing your professional dreams is nice and noble, but feel free to get out your petty grievances too. If your superior has a pet peeve about dress code infractions, eating at your desk, or leaning back in your chair. Do all those things. Then fart in the boss' chair. Trust us. It's good.
Do Not Make Any Major Decisions: Do not! Under any circumstances. The occasion will arise when some go-getter who is actually doing something productive or someone from another department will need someone senior to make a decision. Do not be that person. If they want you to make decisions, they'll make you a decider—like George W. Bush!—and pay you decider money. Until then, just say, "Oh, well you really need to talk to [fill in boss' name] about that." You can also throw the responsibility onto that coworker that you hate. "Sorry, Joe, I wasn't really in on those discussions, but I think [insert coworker's name you hate, like Adrian Chen] is up to speed." Sure you could look like a hero if you make the right decision, but if you make the wrong one, you'll be cleaning up a BP oil slick-sized problem for weeks. Don't even mess with decisions, man. It's your day off!