Some people play hard. Others work hard. And then there are those who look as though they are working hard while they play. For this group, the digital age is increasingly becoming a boon.
A string of new tech companies and online outlets is targeting the cubicle set with software and computer games that make it easier to goof off at work without getting caught.
And with March Madness now in full swing, and all of the NCAA games available for the first time via live streaming, many of these companies are sure to see increased traffic.
A new Web site called Cantyouseeimbusy.com helps oppressed cubicle dwellers waste time discreetly by offering computer games disguised as spreadsheets.
"When the boss surprises you or sneaks up behind you, he'll think you're actually working," the company boasts on its Web site.
For Twitter fans, new software called SpreadTweet hides your Twitter stream in what looks like an Excel window. It displays everything in plain text to make it look like a real spreadsheet.
"It's sure to fool any boss," the owners say on their site.
The site 1cup1coffee.com looks like a Windows Explorer pane, but all those Word documents and PowerPoint presentations are actually a collection of Flash games. By clicking on one of the "files" you can play a game in what looks like your Windows Explorer window. If you hear your boss, you can hit the back button and you'll be brought back to the file listing.
Some new computer games are even including a so-called "boss key." It's a keyboard shortcut that quickly hides a gaming program by displaying work-like screens on your computer such as spreadsheets and Word documents.
Then there's Anonymizer.com, software that helps to fool the IT folks at work. The software redirects your Web traffic through its servers to not only safeguard your IP from outside sources, but also to get your employer's IT people off your trail.
Free Pass to Goof Off?
Though technology abounds to help employees redirect their energies at work, career counselors and other job experts offer a few words of caution.
"Obviously you need to take breaks throughout the workday so your eyes don't cross and you don't implode from the stress," says author Michelle Goodman, who writes a weekly column on career development for ABCNews.com.
But "you don't want to look like a slacker this year, not when jobs are so much harder to come by and workers are constantly having to prove that they're worthy of their company keeping them on."
Of course, not all employers are giving workers a free pass to goof off, particularly during the NCAA basketball tournaments.
Though CBS is making it easier than ever for daytime workers to watch NCAA basketball games on office computers this year, some small- and mid-sized businesses have concerns that widespread viewing of live streaming video of games by employees will slow, or crash computer networks.
Thomas Hunniger manages an office of about 14 employees at a medical devices sales office in Denver. He's asked his employees to refrain from streaming basketball games at work for fear that it will hurt the company's computer network.
If workers don't heed the warning, Hunniger says he will resort to using tools to block online coverage.
"We completely understand that workers need a release from the daily routine," says Hunniger. "But we can't have everybody streaming stuff at once or it will kill or (computer) system and directly affect doing business."
And for those intrepid employees still willing to risk irking the boss, Goodman has this to say:
"We all need to blow off steam somehow, whether that means succumbing to March Madness, taking a brisk walk across the parking lot, or watching a goat in a surfboard on YouTube," says Goodman. "I don't think getting caught goofing off is the worst offense in the world. I think lying about it is worse."