- Category 4 day: if you're not doing anything and have no expectation of work, there's no reason to be in the office even. People won't be looking for you, and if they are, they'll just send you an email or leave a message if they can't find you. Don't bother coming in at all unless you have other reasons. Best to just say you're sick or working from home. Who knows what you're really doing at home? No one! This goes well with a sick excuse because not only are you focusing on recuperating, but protecting others from your cold/chicken pox/bubonic plague etc. One time i played dead and still ended up having lunch right across the street from the office...i put on some more casual work clothes and just in case someone saw me, i could always say i was feeling ill in the am, and 'back' in the office later (and then if they don't see you again later, you can say you felt like shit again after eating!).
- Long Lunch: on all but the busiest days, i always have the option to take a loooong lunch. sometimes, i go home for lunch (i live about 10 minutes from work) - not necessarily to eat lunch, but to just relax. in the summer i might go for a swim. then make lunch, then take a nap, then watch some tv. But really, the world is your oyster - i could do anything in a few hours time - i might go to the gym, go somewhere further than expected for lunch, go to the apple store, get a pearl milk tea so i can shoot the bubbles out of the straw at passerby monkey suits, play tennis, play video games, watch a movie, have some beers, go to an oyster bar on the pier.... the best way i've found to maximize my lunch time with minimal questions and chances of getting interrupted is to leave right after the typical lunch hour starts (when the earliest people will start to leave). that way, if anyone asks about where you were late in the afternoon, you just say you took a late lunch and had a coffee, i.e., you left right before everyone else came back, which gives you an extra hour or so of time you don't need to explain.
- Afternooner/Leaving Early: if it looks to be a slow day but there's a chance you'll need to be in the office for something so don't want to be at home the whole day (especially if you live far away), you can always bugger out for a few good hours if you want. there's no magic to it, but when i want to leave in the middle of the day or the morning, timing again can be important. don't go first thing in the morning unless you know all your bosses get in late too. if you want to leave early and take basically a half day off, best thing is to come back after lunch, walk around, and then leave well before anyone else will really leave - 4:30 - 5:30 - anytime later and you risk running into partners skipping out (who maybe just as anxious/needlessly embarrassed as you if they saw you in the lift - it's happened to me) or other people just seeing you ditch. Once you are past 6 and into 7, it's more difficult because people may see you go and will assume you are not busy and leaving early. Again, i don't think it's bad at all (it shouldn't be at least) to leave early if you have nothing to do or nothing urgent to do, but i tend to try and prolong my non-busy-ness as long as possible, and if the office is crushed and people see you running off at 6pm, they're gonna find you sooner rather than later. the beauty of leaving super early is that everyone will assume if they see you that there's no way you could be leaving so early - the thought won't even cross their mind. if you do want to leave early, but it's already 6, and you are nervous about being seen, sometimes instead of waiting in the lift lobby, i actually walk down a few flights of stairs so i can wait in a different elevator bay. my god it's so ridiculous how nervous people are when i see them waiting in the lift lobby. i dont know why but it's literally a monkey boiler room - unless it's past 9pm, people literally jump out of their pants when they get 'caught' leaving. so stupid. sometimes i also bring a bag or coat or something that i won't need, and leave it conspicuously on or around your desk, so people will still think i am "around" even if i've ran off. and i generally try to not wear a coat or bring a briefcase or shit like that too, so when people see you they don't assume you are out for the day. if it's cold, wear a sweater and keep it on the whole day. (and by the way, when i say "people", i generally mean partners and other associates that don't share your philosophy - those that do may give you kudos for getting out - but those that don't will run and tell big daddy that a monkey's getting away and it's no fair and then ur in for a spanking. anyway, if you ever get called out while you're out or leaving, u can tell 'em u were running errands - the bank, post office, dry cleaning, tailoring, kids from school etc. people appreciate this because we work long hours and somethings you just need to get done during regular work hours. it helps if you don't name something you already have an in-house service for. another good one is a doctor's/dentist's appointment and that brethren - but not too often. if you work pretty independently and/or everyone else is too busy to really know, you can tell people you were at off-site meetings, off-site DD, client lunches or even traveling for work. partners generally will not know what deals you are on (unless they are working with you actively) and how busy or whatever you are - so as long as you don't get caught up in some tangled web of misdirection, you should be ok.
- Coming in Late: if you're going to be in late for whatever reason and don't want people to know, have someone like your assistant turn on your office lights for you. and when you do come in, don't carry a bag or briefcase, it'll be too obvious. sometimes though it might be nice for people to see you coming in late and try to make it known that you are late because you were up all night working.
Secondly, it's extremely important to have a trustworthy and reliable assistant/secretary and/or friends in the office that will help you out and cover for you. If you are out in the middle of the day and people call your line and your assistant just says "he's been gone for x hours" or something, that doesn't look great. But if they say that they think you're in a meeting, or you're not feeling well, that works better. So be good to them and they'll be good to you.
Lastly, i don't work at a firm where "face time" is important, and i can't imagine what i woudl do if i did. i'm not sure what really happens anyway if you don't give that face time where it is "important" - do you just get chewed out? can it affect your bonus? at the worst i guess you could get fired, but then you could find a job where face time isn't important ya?
It's about lunch time now, maybe i'll go for a nap in the park, stroll around, and if no emails come in for me by 3:30, i'm out like a boner in a speedo.