Throughout your whole life, the people who care about you constantly remind you how important it is to be prepared for anything. For some reason, however, we often overlook the simple preparation that we need in our everyday lives. The average person in the United States spends 34.4 hours per week at work, and most who work office jobs work many more hours than this on a regular basis, even upwards of 60. For calculations sake, I’m going to assume most reading this article work about 40 hours a week at their job, which means they’re spending 24% of their time at their desk. This is essentially a second home for most, so being comfortable there and being prepared for anything should be a top priority.
In this list I’m going to give a breakdown of some of the most important things you should have at your desk and why you should have them. These are in no particular order of importance, but if you’re missing some items on this list, consider adding them to your workspace.
Comfort items make your desk feel like home and allow you to be reminded throughout the day of sentimental moments or the people you care about. They are probably the most important items at your desk. They remind you why you come to work every day and will keep you sane through the tough times.
Pictures of your loved ones
This is probably the most important item on this list. I work to support myself and the people I care about, and it helps keep me motivated when I glance over at a picture of my girlfriend to know that the effort I expend at work has a relation to how comfortably we can live our lives.
One (one) cool mug
A fun mug can be a great way to express your personality. Mine says “respect the beard,” and I absolutely adore it. However, you really don’t need 7 fun mugs to express your personality. As gentlemen, we should be tasteful and fun while keeping in mind that excess of anything is unnecessary. I don’t know about you, but I only drink one cup of tea at a time.
Plants can really liven up your workspace and make you feel more connected with the outside world. I personally like to have a bonsai tree on my desk, as it has sentimental value, but any kind of succulent, cactus, or any other really easy to care for plant will do. If you’re not even nurturing enough to keep a cactus alive, consider a fake plant that looks realistic.
A sentimental item only you understand
I like to keep one thing at my desk that nobody else understands. For example in college, my girlfriend gave me a penny on the day of a final I was really stressed about along with a note that said it was for good luck. While I probably can’t attribute my success on my final to carrying a penny with me, it made me feel good and the thought was very meaningful. So now I keep that penny at my desk, and it helps comfort me in times of stress.
This is where you can get creative. Hang up anything that makes your office feel like home, because it really is like a second home. You can express your personality, hang artwork, or put up motivational quotes. Just try to avoid a mish mosh of clutter, as that can lead to more stress. Keep it simple, keep it classy.
Keeping spare clothing at your desk can be extremely helpful in making sure you’re prepared for the day. Keep these items at your desk and you’ll be ready for anything your day can throw at you.
A blazer is a great way to immediately spruce up your outfit. If you forget about a meeting with a client, have a sudden date after work, or just want to go to a nice cocktail bar after work, you’ve got a blazer hung up in your desk.
Extra shoes have helped me countless times. Truthfully, you should have two extra pairs at your desk. Bring a pair of shoes that are dressier than you normally wear. This will keep you ready for that lunch meeting with a client on casual Friday. I also recommend having a pair of running shoes at your desk. This way you can be ready for an impromptu after-work kickball game, or lunchtime walk around the lake.
Keeping a sweater at your desk will provide the obvious benefit of keeping you warm when the AC is in overdrive, but is another way to lightly dress up your casual Friday outfit.
Crisp dress shirt and tie
A dress shirt that has been pressed and a solid, neutral-colored tie will make it really easy to change into a meeting outfit or an outfit for a date night after work. Additionally if you dip your tie in coffee or drip sauce on your shirt, you’re covered.
Extra Socks & Briefs
This one is pretty self-explanatory. Anything can happen, just make sure you have these or you’ll regret it.
Disposable toothbrushes are great before a meeting that takes place after lunch or for when you eat your everything bagel and americano coffee for breakfast. They even double up as a toothpick to help pick that piece of spinach out of your teeth.
While this isn’t exactly a health item, it’s a replacement for the disposable toothbrushes. It’ll quickly freshen your breath in a pinch. Just be careful not to smack it around in your mouth and make your co-workers angry.
This definitely falls under the category of self-explanatory. There’s nothing worse than not knowing how you smell, so just be certain by bringing an extra speed stick.
Every spring, everyone in my office is sneezing, coughing, and otherwise just feeling like hell. Bring some Lysol or Clorox wipes to kill germs and keep your desk clean. You should do this at least weekly, if not more frequently. If you don’t believe me, look up how many germs are on your keyboard and telephone.
This is another barrier between you and the sick people in your office. Use it yourself and put it on the edge of your desk so the visitors to your office use it, too.
There are a few essential medicines you should have at your desk in an office. One is aspirin or baby aspirin. Having experienced the trauma of a few co-workers having heart attacks, this can literally save their life. It can also save yours when your head is killing you. Additionally you should have antacids, allergy pills, and eye drops. Nobody wants to meet with a guy that has red eyes and is sneezing all over them. Look into purchasing a small first aid kit to treat nicks and cuts as well.
Having extra contact lenses or eyeglasses has saved me a number of times when I’ve ripped one, lost one, or needed to take them out from hot sauce squirting into my eye (yes, that actually happened). The worst thing is wondering how you’re going to get home because your contact ripped and you can’t see.
Other important items
Thank You cards
A thank you card to follow up a meeting, or to thank someone who treated you to lunch is a really professional and gentlemanly way to handle people’s nice gestures. It sure beats an email or text message.
Listening to music at work is a great way to increase productivity and to block out someone who thinks you have to scream into the phone for people to understand you. It aso can’t hurt to have an extra pair you pay $5 for in case you forget your good ones.
An umbrella is great in case you forget to check the weather forecast before leaving and it starts to downpour right at 4:30.
Forget to plug your phone in last night? Really slow day and you spent the majority of it watching YouTube on your phone? Keep a charger at your desk to avoid having to drive home without it.
This is a necessity for anyone with pets, or anyone who gives a lot of hugs to the cat lady in the office. Keep yourself looking sharp and throw one of these in your desk drawer.
A stain pen can be a lifesaver when it comes to spilling on your clothes. I’ve ruined a good number of pants with ink or shirts with mustard.
This can be a fountain pen or just a nice ball point, but using an executive pen in a meeting can make you look like you mean business. They’re also way nicer to write with than a bic. Make sure you keep some spare ink around as well.
$20 cash and $2 in quarters
Whether someone’s collecting for their child’s fundraiser, you forgot your lunch, or you have a sudden urge to buy a snack from the vending machine make sure you have a couple denominations of bills and some quarters at your desk.
If you have these items in your office at all times, you really should be prepared for anything. The minimalists may carry fewer items, while some disaster preparedness experts may carry some more. Regardless of which you are, you should review this list and think about which items could help you out.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success”
-Alexander Graham Bell
Do you have any other items you keep in your office? Did I leave something out? Let me know in the comments, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org!