10 Ways to Create a Work Environment That Drags You Down

By Ali Luke

November 5, 2008   •   Fact checked by Dumb Little Man

Do you always associate your workplace with feeling miserable, fed-up and uncomfortable? You know, you could spend a few minutes decluttering, personalizing your space, and making sure you’ve got an uplifting work environment – but, since it’s so much easier, why not stick to creating the most depressing place possible in which to work?

After all, when you fail to meet your project milestones, when you forget to send an important email, or when you just can’t be bothered to get out of bed in the morning, you’ll be able to blame your desk!

If that sounds good to you, here are ten easy rules for creating a work environment that’s guaranteed to drag your mood down:

    1. Avoid Privacy
      First of all, when you choose your workplace, make sure you pick the desk overlooked by everyone. Sit right by the main door or the photocopier. If you work from home, set up your desk in the main family room. Feeling constantly watched will make you jumpy and insecure.
  • Make it Cramped
    A lack of privacy isn’t enough though. A properly depressing work environment needs to be cramped (this will help when you come to the advanced techniques further down the list, like “cluttering”). If your desk can comfortably fit your computer, in-tray and the papers you’re reading, then it’s far too big. You shouldn’t have room to swing a mouse… 
  • Don’t Personalize
    Once you’ve found a nasty cramped desk overlooked by the entire office or your whole family, make sure you do everything in your power to keep it boring and unpersonalized. Don’t bother putting up your favorite funny or motivational poster. Don’t bring in photos of your partner and kids. You can’t hate your work completely if your workplace has good associations. 
  • Have Crap Lighting
    A minor point, but one which many workers adopt, is to have crap lighting. That could mean fluorescent office strip-lights or a pathetic dying bulb that your laptop screen massively outshines. Either way, make sure it gives you a nagging headache all day long: a sure-fire way to feel grumpy and miserable while you’re working. 
  • Get Uncomfortable
    Poor lighting isn’t enough though. You should make sure that you’re physically uncomfortable in every way possible. Get a chair that’s too high or low for you and which doesn’t provide adequate back support. Set your monitor as low as possible. Use the tiniest keyboard you can find (remember, you’ll need one that fits on your cramped desk). Bonus points if you can give yourself RSI – after all, you might get signed off work… 
  • Find Distractions
    By this point, you should be bored, fed-up, uncomfortable and tired when you’re in your workplace. So you need to find some distractions. Make sure you’ve got dozens of favorite websites bookmarked to surf when you want to procrastinate. Leave novels, magazines and newspapers lying around your desk (this helps when it comes to clutter later on). If you’re at home, work with the television on.
  • Somewhere Noisy
    If pleasant distractions aren’t quite masochistic enough for you, make sure you’ve got some uncontrollable noise near your work environment. Find the loudest corner of the office, perhaps near the coffee machine or the water cooler. Never get double glazing – the noise of the roadworks outside will help your headache along nicely. If you work from home, encourage your kids to run around screaming.
  • Clutter Your Desk
    Once you’ve been in your workplace for a while, you should have built up a nice collection of papers, folders, staplers, pens, notebooks and so on. Make sure these are all over your desk, in as disorganized a manner as possible. Never file anything. Challenge yourself to have an inbox piled so high that the mound of paper reaches the ceiling. Constant clutter will make you feel ill at ease in your workplace, even when you’re not actively rummaging through it for that vital letter from a client.
  • Keep it Shabby
    Make sure your workplace environment looks as run-down and shabby as possible. Paint should be peeling off the walls, posters should be torn, and noticeboards should never be cleared. Don’t ever replace the carpet. And any pot-plants should be left unwatered for weeks – there’s nothing like dying plants to give your workplace a real air of gloom and decay.
  • Leave it Dirty
    Finally, ensure that your workplace is actively dirty. Don’t hoover or ever wipe your desk (if you have a maid, make sure the desk and floor are far too cluttered to clean). Drop crumbs in your keyboard. Spill drinks on the carpet. Leave candy bar wrappers and unwashed mugs amongst the clutter on your desk. Bonus points if you can grow mold.


Congratulations! You’ve achieved a work environment that will drag your mood down the second you step through the door. You’ve got the perfect excuse for failure in everything you do. And by this stage, you might even be advanced enough to think up some of your own ideas on making your workplace as depressing as possible. Why not share them in the comments?

Written on 11/05/2008 by Ali Hale. Ali runs Alpha Student, a blog packed with academic, financial and practical tips to help students get the most out of their time at university. Photo Credit: hoyasmeg
Ali Luke

Getting Started with Forex

Other Dating Guide

Individual Reviews