11 Desk Objects That Will Make Your Co-Workers Think You’re A Total Lunatic

Do you have a Christmas tree, dead animal, or blender on your desk? We hope not. Your desk is your sanctuary–treat it wrong and you may be doing more than just giving off a wacky vibe. You might be hurting your productivity, your career, and your health.

Ah, yes, the joy of having your own desk.


It’s your own special place to work, to kick up your feet at the end of the day, and to put a personal spin on your office persona.

It also might kill you.

The American Cancer Society recently released the results of a 14-year study of 123,216 people, and found that women who sit for more than six hours a day were about 37% more likely to die during the course of the study than those who sat fewer than three hours per day. Men were 18% more likely to die.

Wait, what?


Yeah. So it might be time to put some more effort into getting outside, or even turn our desks into treadmills. The bottom line: There’s no avoiding the fact that the majority of us use a desk every day. And that’s okay–in fact, it’s great! A desk should be your productivity sanctuary at work. And the best part? You get to dress it up like it’s your kid!

But with rights come responsibilities, and your desk is no exception. So here’s a list of 11 objects that we recommend not having anywhere near your co-workers. Sometimes you’ve got to stop and think, “what does this say about me?”

Anything alive

Plants and small fish get a pass. We don’t count office dogs because, well, they live in the office–not on your desk. (Also: We love dogs.) So the next time you’re thinking about bringing your parakeet or python to work, think again.


Anything that was once alive

Again, dried leaves are okay. Taxidermied animals are not.

“Did that deer just use the printer?”




Remember our post about distractingly stinky and thus productivity-killing lunches in the workplace? Yeah, imagine a two-day-old egg salad sandwich sitting on your desk and marinating in the sunlight.

Okay, then.

Costco-sized bottle of hand sanitizer, with pump handle

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be clean! We use hand sanitizer! We also use a lot of things, like Chap Stick, sunblock, tooth floss, and lotion, but we don’t keep an industrial-sized supply on display. Having it there could give colleagues the exact wrong idea: that you are covered in germs.


A stereo

You’re probably thinking to yourself: “A stereo? Who would be that crazy?”

Anecdotally, more people than you think.

We’re obviously not against music–just use your headphones. In fact, here’s a list of the best sites to keep your groove going during the workday.


If it’s in your headphones, it’s music. If it’s out in the open, it’s just noise.

A stupid sign that is probably in a bad bar

“‘Ask a stupid question, get a stupid fist in your face!’ Isn’t it great?”

Just. No.


Too many pictures of your loved ones

Full disclosure: We have families and we think families are great. But there is a limit to showing your love. There’s nothing wrong with having a spread of pictures, but we’re talking about a lot of photos.

Too much of any good thing, after all, ruins it.

Novelty pens and mugs

“Hey Dan, can I borrow a pen?”



Dan, who is holding a mug shaped like a toilet bowl, is now going to lend you a pen the size and shape of a cactus. Do you still want it?

Never-ending holiday decorations

For marketers, Christmas is in July. For you and your co-workers, it’s not.


Anything that has to do with cooking

I want to make my own smoothies, so I should keep a blender at my desk, right? Wrong.

I don’t like leaving my slow cooker on at home, so I’ll just slide it under my desk. Wrong.

I don’t trust the office toaster oven, so I’ll just bring my own. It’s small! Wrong.


(Note: a coffee maker is up for debate.)

Human skull

This probably falls into our “anything that was once alive” category. Point is: Unless you’re playing Hamlet on Broadway, it’s probably not a good idea. You will scare people.

Unless, of course, you printed it. Then it’s just cool.


So after all this desk bashing, what’s our advice? First, take a deep breath. We don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings. All we’re saying is: Keep it clean, and keep it simple. There’s nothing wrong with a little personalization, but a properly organized desk is essential to keeping a good workflow throughout the day.

Have other thoughts on this idea? Let us know all about ’em down below in yonder comments, please.

[Images: Flickr users Gui Seiz, and Steven Worster]


About the author

Former Editorial Assistant Miles Kohrman helped run Fast Company's homepage and completed miscellaneous tasks around the newsroom. He is a 2013 graduate of The New School.


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