The Interesting Ways Malaysians Procrastinate at Work

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If procrastination had an Instagram, you would spot familiar faces.

There’s Leonardo Da Vinci who took over a decade to complete the Mona Lisa. Next to him, author Margaret Atwood who famously procrastinated before she writes.

Scroll further down and you’d find me, the lazy one who hasn’t spring cleaned since Chinese New Year.

Procrastination happens to the best of us.

It’s a delaying tactic we use to avoid a task we dread and a chore we hate. Sometimes, a five-minute smoking break can turn into an hour of work rant. Other times, a short nap is a code for a full-on snooze fest.

Do Malaysians procrastinate often?

Of course, we do.

We are not some well-oiled assembly robots in a Tesla factory. As a matter of fact, we are barely-oiled nine-to-fivers who regularly cope with daily stresses from the jobs we hate. For that reason, procrastination is normal.

So how do Malaysians procrastinate at work?

We’re about to find out.

“I spend way too long in the cubicle”

Similar to most jobs, working in the property field meant endless pressures and frequent burnouts. Property managers like Alice* know this all too well. Every day, she leads a department that consists of three colleagues. When a stressful situation hits, one of her teammates (let’s call him Alex*) would mysteriously disappear for long breaks.

How did she find out? Alex’s rumoured misbehaviours were often brought up by her teammates. “I heard Alex would take a long ‘dump’ timeout to catch a nap or watch a movie,” she shares. Since it was purely gossip (for now), she decided to treat it as a one-off thing. “It’s all speculation until proven guilty right?”

Guess who else is guilty of procrastinating at work?

“I shopped all day”

For videographer Terrence Phung*, shopping is more than just retail therapy. During working hours, he does it to take his mind off things.

The first company he worked for was in a developed business district, which meant a lot of shops, restaurants, cafes and shopping malls to tempt him.

Whenever he was assigned to purchase random props for a video production, he took it as a chance to take a break from work. “I would make use of my ‘props-shopping’ opportunity to take a walk, grab a drink (usually coffee or Boost juice) and take my time to search for the items,” he admits.

When he found himself in another business district for his second job, his procrastinating continued.

“Normally, I would get involved in the company’s activities, which allowed me to have a legitimate reason to not be at my desk or around my superior from time to time,” he says. “Other times, I would chill in the toilet and take a power nap.”

If you prefer faking your way through anything, you would like this guy.

“I faked a meeting and had beers”

At some point in our careers, we planned this one before. Additional lunch hours masquerade as important meetings. That’s the only way to explain why you returned to the office so late. When I asked sales manager Jonathan*, he was ready to share his story.

“Meeting sales targets are stressful, especially when there’s a CEO who keeps breathing down your neck,” he begins. “There was a time when I reached my breaking point and desperately needed to chill out. My CEO was pressuring me to meet my target that week, and I couldn’t take it.”

Therefore, he lied to get his way out of it.

He told the department that he’s attending a meeting with an important client. In reality, the meeting never took place.

Instead, he met his friend at the bar and drank beers until the workday ended.

“The funny thing is, I’ve never drunk that early in my life. It was about 3 PM at that time,” he says. “I thought my boss or colleagues would ask about my whereabouts. It turned out, no one gave a shit.”

Of course, Jonathan wasn’t the only one who enjoys a leisure excursion.

“I spent two days in the game room”

Managing day-to-day operations in an HR department is stressful for Em*.

When her company launched a new game room in the office, she and her colleague were ecstatic. Who wouldn’t be when there was a room with a PlayStation 3, basketball arcade game, pool table and air hockey to play!

“My colleague and I were so excited about the game room. We tried out all of the facilities and ended up staying at the game room from 9 AM until 4 PM. Our boss thought we were in a full-day meeting,” she shared sheepishly. “That happened for two days in the same week until we got bored of it.”

With all that time spent in the game room, did Em finish her work? “Well, we needed to stay back late to cover up the hours and meet the deadlines, but it was well worth it.”

Malaysians can agree to the fact that – no matter how much we resist – procrastination wins. When you work the whole day, it’s hard to turn down the temptations of a post-lunch nap or a ten-minute coffee run.

Procrastination may have a bad reputation for stealing you away from your work, but there’s something else that it addresses – it’s a signal for us to take a break from the stresses and pressures we’re facing. It also tells us how we’re easily bored by daily repetition and routine.

The next time someone shames you for procrastinating, just remember that everyone does it. That snore you heard from the washroom could possibly be them.

*Names have been changed to protect their privacy

For more articles like these, read Horror Boss Stories: Here Are Some Stories of the Worst Bosses in Malaysia, and 4 Reasons Why You Should Change Your Job.

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If Cheng Sim can have it her way, she would live in a penthouse with an imaginary cat named Genghis. Since life has a sense of humour, she resides in Subang Jaya where she deals with their infamous traffic and subpar bak kut teh instead. She doesn't wreak havoc, but she writes at
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