How To Be Antisocial in an Open-Plan Office Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

How To Be Antisocial in an Open-Plan Office

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So you're moving into an open plan office. Perhaps it's against your will, and you want to make a point. Perhaps you're just not a very nice person. Either way, if you want to find out how to make the life of your colleagues a living hell, read on.


Who hasn't been put off by the smell of a colleague's lunch? Garlic, fish, eggs and highly flavoured crisps are all good starters for ten.

... microwave fish, in all its varieties, and eat (preferably with comments like 'Oh! this is too hot, I'll leave it for a bit before I tuck in') every day. Within a month, this will either see you defenestrated, or a sign with 'NO FISH TO BE COOKED IN THE MICROWAVE' will appear. You, of course, will ignore the sign.

It's not just the odour wafting gently across the room, it's how you eat it that counts. Slurp it. Stir it. Crunch it. Burp it. Fart it. Do whatever it takes to make sure nobody is safe from your eating habits. Your mother may have taught you not to speak with your mouth full, but that's just another indication you're doing things right.

Start having Cup-a-soups which also require about three minutes of constant stirring, then further stirring as you slurp it. The thickness of the soup gives a far more 'bassy' clunking sound than a cup of tea or coffee.

And with a little preparation, you may not need anyone to see the food:

I will, obviously, be modifying my diet to consist of more baked beans, sprouts, curries, rare steak and other foodstuffs that will cause my digestive system to turn into a poison gas factory.
Make a bag of popcorn in the microwave. Burn it nicely. Place in the office trash at the last minute, before leaving for the weekend. The cleaning crews don't normally work Friday nights, but come in early on Mondays, so the odor will have the chance to permeate the office environment all weekend, while the A/C is off. Without air circulation, you'd be surprised at how long it will linger. Also, effective for the edgy mood produced by smelling something burned.

The best part about the next method is denying that it was you who stole the food, even if everyone in the office knows:

Steal other people's food, and then leave passive aggressive notes *to the thief* on the empty cartons.

Personal Hygiene

Cultivating poor personal hygiene is a prime way to annoy, concern, and disgust those around you. Skip a few baths, chuck away your razor and deodorant, stop trimming your nails. With any luck you will never be asked to go to a meeting again.

Cultivate a really nasty boil. Make sure you 'accidentally' burst it in the office in full view of people. Saw it happen once. Saw the person sat opposite deposit their breakfast all over their keyboard immediately afterwards.
Wear the same socks three days running and develop a habit of kicking off your shoes while working.

Of course, becoming offensively smelly or indulging in a bit of nose-picking, finger-sucking or wiping your nose on your sleeve might be a little too much for you to bear yourself, so use your imagination! There are other ways of 'looking after' your body purely to upset people:

Rather than adopting the poor personal hygiene thing... I imagine a better way is to ensure that you buy lots of cheap perfume... All the really strong-smelling perfumes, and deodorants and sprays; the kind of ones aimed at teenagers, which give anyone in the nearby vicinity a headache, extreme allergic reaction, or just make their sinuses go mental with the overpowering smell.

This particular Researcher appears to be the world's worst person to share an office with:

Cut your toenails whilst at the desk, leaving the clippings neatly piled up on the desk in view; file your feet, and just leave the filings on the floor. Ensure there are a good supply of used, crumpled tissues on every surface possible. Shave your legs, armpits or wherever else you feel like whilst at the desk too.


Remember - an idle hand is a wasted opportunity. Tip tap tip tap tap, to no discernable rhythm.

Noise. This is quite possibly one of the easiest ways to be antisocial. Singing, whistling, humming and talking at inappropriate times is a sure-fire way to wind up other people. Even a radio can cause great office battles as the 'local radio' faction square up against the 'national radio' squad.

If you work with figures, count VERY LOUDLY. Call out each number as you input them into calculator/PC. Mutter LOUDLY to yourself when said figures don't add up. Repeat the above until error is found, then call out 'FOUND IT!'
Wedge your knee against the desktop or deskpillar and vibrate it, so the whole unit has a minor vibration for everyone using it.


If people don't know who you are and exactly what you do at each moment of the day, you're not trying hard enough.

Don't forget to inform others of how productive you're being - a running commentary of your every action and thought is vital.
My four-year-old son currently has a habit of shouting 'I need a wee-wee' before running in the direction of the nearest toilet. Replicating this in the office could be interesting. Or informing your collegues of your bowel movement in colourful detail after the event.
A former colleague of mine used to rap her knuckles on the corner of every desk she passed, for no good reason. It's definitely irritating to others.


Nobody likes mess, especially if it's not their own. But the options for the anti-social colleague are only limited by your imagination!

Build a can wall. Build a book wall. Build a cereal box wall. Populate the top of the walls dividing you from your fellow workers with small irritating items such as lots and lots of matchbox cars, model trains, sea-side knick-nafferies.

One of the most irritating things you can do is simply never, ever, do your own washing up.


Technology cures all problems. A shame it causes them too.

Conduct loud, long and explicit personal phonecalls, on the speaker phone, regularly... Ensure your mobile is on full volume, and turned on, and then set up twitter so that you get a text every time anyone tweets... just so it's going off constantly; adjust ring tones/message alerts to the most annoying possible...
A colleague who used to work in the Royal Signals once had an extremely irksome new boss. He rigged a ... signal generator to create a high-pitched noise just outside of normal human hearing, but enough to cause severe migraines in the office, and wore earplugs himself. Within a month the new boss was gone.
If you want to mess up computers, see if they log on locally or onto a network. If you remove the network cables from the end (the ones with the ends that look like the ones on telephone cables) then they'll either log on, but not access the network, or just not log on at all.
I can improve on the network cables thing. If you remove one, there's a slim chance it will mess with the network. If you loop the cable - put a cable between two wall sockets - then it will totally kill the network. Save your work first!
Watch when they [your chosen victim] are going to the bog and then count to ten and then ring their mobile phone. I bet you that they just have their pants just around their ankles.

And Now For Some Other Ideas

But, I hear you cry, where are all the truly inventive ideas that h2g2 is famed for? Never fear, we didn't wuss out of some rather more crazy ideas too:

Make an eco-suggestion that they should have plants in the office to brighten the area up and also produce a better atmosphere in the place with the oxygen-producing abilities. Then after a while, infest them with greenfly and other such nasties... maybe ants. OK you'll probably suffer too, but it will be fun.
Or you could do what my co-worker did and use the largest potted palm in the place as an emergency latrine (he was secretly *living* in the office and too lazy at night to go out the back way and use the alley!) We figured this out after he'd been let go, and the odd smell remained. Practically needed a fork lift to get that palm outta there!
You could also try decorating your space with pictures from gaming magazines. There are some lovely pictures of blood, guts, and fighting. Make everyone think you're slightly disturbed.
Get hold of a couple of those really annoying 'Desk Toys', the ones with steel balls that clack-clack endlessly. Then set them going at different timings!
On the first day, bring in some oysters. Get in early and set about opening them. Then put one each on saucers, making sure none of the salty liquor is spilt so the oyster is nicely swimming in it, complete with crushed ice surround, lemon wedge and a small thimble of tabasco. Put one on everyone's desk with a note saying, 'A little something from [your name here] to celebrate that we are now one big happy family in the open plan'.
Smoke a pipe1. I sat down in the sun yesterday afternoon with a tumbler of single malt, a Kindle with the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, and a pipe. After a few faltering starts, I tamped down a pinch or three of fine tobacco which was, as it goes, infused with whisky, and spent the next thirty minutes or so in quiet contemplation of Conan Doyle's detective. Eventually I concluded my smoke, tapped out the bowl, cleaned the stem, and retired to the indoor lounge. Where I discovered that I reeked. Properly reeked, every hair on my head, every item of my clothing (how can pipe-smoking make your UNDERPANTS smell???), every breath, every inch of my skin. Took me longer to get clean than it took me to smoke. I have, in the past, smoked cigarettes, but unless my nasal palate has changed a LOT since then, they never caused me to smell as bad, as quickly, as one pipe did.

Alternatively, you could avoid all of the above to become the world's best work-mate. You might try to make the experience better by playing games. And if you recognised some of the traits we've pointed out in yourself, you may want to consider reading Bad Habits and How To Stop Them. Your office mates will thank you for it.

1Note that it is illegal to smoke in the office in some countries, but you can smoke the pipe at home for the same effect.

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