How to Watch TV at Work

by Adam Frucci

TV is wonderful and full of so many delights these days! The second golden age of TV stretches on — we are spoiled with television’s wider scope and room to breathe, which allows characters to feel much more real than any movie could allow.

Which means there’s more good stuff on TV than any normal non-shut-in could possibly view at night, when all that TV is on. But it’s crazily easy to watch said good TV when and where you want — and when and where would be a better time and place than at work, provided you can get away with it?

We think you can. Quit staying up late to watch Sons of Anarchy and start procrastinating with a purpose at work, leaving your evenings to go out and be social. (Or stay in and watch even more TV. The world is your oyster, and I’m not here to judge.)

In order to become someone who is able to scam someone into paying you to watch TV at work, you need to formulate a plan. You also need to be willing to give up some things (possibly, for instance, career advancement).

First things first, you need to get comfortable with watching TV online. Here’s a relatively comprehensive list of places to stream TV online without resorting to piracy (piracy is often difficult to manage on a work computer, unless you work in one of those fancy offices with Apple computers, in which case, you’re gold).

The network sites are so-so: CBS, for example, is pretty stingy. Showtime most often only has random sample episodes — right now, they have about one episode each available of each of their shows. HBO Go requires you to sign up, but you can watch the entire second season of Bored to Death (now with more Office Space hero Ajay Naidu!) and a whole lot more. And at Comedy Central, you should know that all of “Strangers With Candy” is just sitting there waiting for you!

Obviously, Hulu is key: from “News Radio” to “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” there’s a wealth of TV in them there hills.

Knowing this, the first step is to figure out where you normally procrastinate during the day, be it at the coffee machine or on Tumblr. Isolate that, and then say goodbye to it. After all, you still need to do some work as to keep from getting fired.

So then once you’ve cleared up some time in your day, you need to squeeze that TV watching in there. If you work in a non-open plan office, this shouldn’t be too difficult. Obviously, if you work from home or have your own office, you’re set. Though here’s our rule: you get only 15-minute chunks with your DVR or Hulu or network of choice, as a reward for doing some real work. But still: those who work at home shouldn’t feel too bad. People who work in offices spend half their day running errands and shooting the breeze, so why shouldn’t you have a little break?

For people who work at the offices of real corporate entities, yes: your computer usage is very likely being monitored, if not net-nannied. You really want to get a sense of how closely you’re being watched. Are you being keylogged? It’s possible! Here’s a handy guide from the Privacy Rights Clearing House which explains your rights on the job, which, in short? You have very few. Basically you have a right to not have cameras record you… in the bathroom and that’s about it.

The best thing you can do at work to help yourself is to buddy up to the IT guys. Stop ignoring them and make them your pals. From them, you can get a sense at least of just how much digital privacy your company allows. (Their answers may surprise and even horrify you.)

For some, deep surveillance is a given. People in financial services — particularly people who get an annual document compliance review, in which case, well, at least you get a week off a year to watch TV at home! — need either a smartphone or a tablet device, not only to watch TV and browse the web but to access things like Gmail. The good news: it doesn’t freak out anyone too much these days to see someone in an open-plan office staring into their iPhone or even iPad at their desk.

For those in the ever-popular open-plan office, take a look at the sightlines to your computer. It helps to actually draw a little diagram! Turn around. Sit with your back to your computer and take a look at what you see from there. Well, that’s who can see around the back of your head to get a look at your screen.

In these cases, it’s best to get a little tricky. Obviously, you will be wearing headphones. You may have to resort to using a tiny stand-alone window for your TV viewing. There are also some important technological breakthroughs — for instance, Double Vision (Windows only), which makes your TV window transparent, and also has a quick-hide key combo.

But maybe you work in one of those horrible corners where people pop up behind you all the time? Then you’re basically hosed.

Or maybe not. Radical action time! The only plan left then is basically to watch TV on your phone, using headphones, in a bathroom stall. (I never claimed this plan would be without sacrifice!) It is a good idea to stick to the same 15-minute increments plan. Start slowly, watching a 22-minute sitcom in two sessions per day. Then you can slowly work your way up from there. See who notices your absences. Nobody? Great, you can probably squeeze in a full hour-long network show (really just 42 minutes!) or even a real full-hour HBO show in a day in the comfort of your private screening stall. Soon enough you’ll be all caught-up on “In Treatment.”

If you’re not comfortable camping out in the bathroom for hours a day, there are other ways to squeeze some viewing time in. Accomplices actually help! Reserve a conference room — or take over the breast milk pumping station! — and get some like-minded co-workers in on your con for some weekly screenings of a show you want to watch together. Remember: No one asks questions about people in the pumping station. Otherwise, you all can definitely come up with a boring-sounding yet plausible potential weekly meeting.

So: identify the challenges, be they technological, office culture-related or supervisory. Slacking off requires, ironically, doing some work around the restrictions of your workplace. But keep your eyes on the prize. If you don’t want it badly enough, you won’t make it happen.

This post brought to you by Xfinity from Comcast. The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Comcast or its partners.

Adam Frucci is the editor of Splitsider, where he watches TV all day long.