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Workplace Survival Tips: What Every Woman Needs for a Successful Day at the Office

Updated on September 23, 2011

Office Survival Kit

When I think about the type of image I want to portray around the office I think of someone who is calm and confident. I want to be the one who always has it together. I want to be productive and have each work day be a success. I don't want to be the one falling apart, never having what she needs, and scrambling to make it through the day!

I can honestly say, however, that I have been the one falling apart, not having what I needed and scrambling to make it through the day many times. I’ve often been the girl with a dangling hemline trolling around the office looking for someone, anyone, with a safety pin. I’ve been the one dying from chocolate cravings on the hunt for someone who was kind enough to set out a jar of candies on their desk. I’ve been that girl.

That girl, however, doesn’t exactly project an air of confidence or capability does she? That girl doesn’t have the survival skills necessary to have a successful day at the office.

Through the years, however, I’ve learned that if I want to become a more confident, productive working woman, I needed to get my act together. I needed to have certain items on hand so that in any given situation I would have what I needed. I would have that safety pin, and I would have that piece of chocolate carefully hidden inside my desk. I could be that confident, professional woman I aspired to become.

I’ve found that the best way to survive a hectic day at work is to be prepared well in advance. By having the right supplies in your desk and purse you can sail through the day with your head held high and your feet protected from blisters. I have compiled a list below of some of the best and most useful items to include in your own office survival kit. These items can be easily stored in a desk drawer or even in the community office refrigerator.

Personal hygiene:

Have you ever left the house without putting deodorant on or forgetting to brush your teeth? Let’s hope that doesn’t happen very often, but the one day it does, you won’t want to be caught unprepared.

  • Deodorant: I once realized I forgot to wear deodorant one day at work. I had remembered seeing some in the cabinet in the women’s bathroom. So when no one was looking, I took it out and was going to use it. But when I opened the cap it had several little pieces of hair on it! Ugh! It was as if someone had dry shaved their armpit and then used the deodorant. Needless to say, I put it back and simply tried not to get too close to anyone else the rest of the day.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste: Even if you brush every morning, having a toothbrush at work can take care of any embarrassing leftovers from lunch on your teeth or breath. If you can sneak away to brush your teeth after lunch, you’ll feel bright and confident the rest of the afternoon.
  • Cosmetics – If you have an important meeting, you might want to freshen up your look a little bit first. Also, we all know that there are those especially difficult days when we can’t stop the flow of tears. Once we cry it out, however, having a little make up on hand will fix the smudges and hopefully prevent any of those well-meaning “what’s wrong” or “is everything okay” questions.
  • Lotion – Moisturizer is always good to have when your hands feel dry. However, if you need to apply lotion to your legs, please do this in the bathroom. No one wants to walk by your desk and see your skirt hiked up.
  • Clippers – There’s nothing worse than a hangnail! Having a set of nail clippers will come in handy during any finger or toenail emergency!
  • Bobby pins – Having a few bobby pins in your desk will help when your good hair-day turns into to a bad one. Just a little tuck can make a huge difference with a flyaway lock!
  • Pantyhose – If you have a job where pantyhose are part of the dress code, having an extra pair would be a great addition to your survival kit. If you’ve ever suffered from an embarrassing run, you know I speak the truth!

Other items to keep on hand might be a comb, a brush, and a hand mirror. However, remember that these are for emergency use only. You don’t want to be portrayed as the vain one who’s always found primping in the bathroom.

Food Products:

Always keep your desk stocked with non-perishable foods and snacks. You don’t want your stomach to growl in meetings and you don’t want to cave in when you see a plate of cookies in the break room. Here are some suggestions of items you can keep on hand:

  • Chocolate – just a little can get me through the day! Especially if I’m doing any work with numbers or spreadsheets. Having a little chocolate reward makes those tasks a little more tolerable.
  • Special diet snacks – I am on a gluten-free diet, so having some gluten-free cookies keeps me sane when I see an email announcing free donuts. If you’re on any kind of diet, make sure you keep some special treats hidden in your drawer.
  • Mints – Coffee breath is the worst! Popping a mint in your mouth before a meeting or pow-wow with a coworker will freshen your breath. Mints are much more professional than chewing gum.
  • Granola bars – Granola bars are great for those mornings when you didn’t have time to eat breakfast. Make sure they are the good nutritional kind that can boost your energy levels.
  • Peanut Butter – This is not something that I keep. I have a friend, however, who used to keep a jar of peanut butter and a loaf of bread in her desk to make sandwiches at lunch. It’s a great idea, but I don’t recommend the bread. With my luck, I’d forget about it and it would end up as one big lump of blue/green mold. The peanut butter, however, is a great idea and would be a great snack with the next item on the list.
  • Crackers and/or pretzels - Crackers and pretzels will keep longer than a loaf of bread. You can eat them by themselves or you can use them with the peanut butter. Either way they can be a great snack to add to your survival kit.

I also keep certain condiments in the office refrigerator such as salad dressing, barbeque sauce, and margarine. I really need to add some Parmesan cheese to that list! Having those items makes bringing my lunch to work a little easier. I know others who keep coffee creamers, cheese, yogurt and other items of choice in the fridge. If you can store food items in a community fridge or freezer, be sure to label them. Food thieves are everywhere!

Emergency Items:

Emergency items are the ones that you never think you’ll need until you need them. Do you really want to be the one roaming around the office looking for a safety pin or tampon? I’ve been there, it’s not a good place to be and it’s very counter-productive.

  • Safety pins – For those days when a hem tears or a blouse gaps, safety pins can be your best friend to patch you through the day.
  • Band-aids – The cute high heels may have seemed like a good idea before you left work, but when they cause a blister on your toe, having a band-aid handy will make a huge difference. They can also be helpful when paper cuts threaten to bleed all over your desk or important papers!
  • Tampons – Always, always, always keep necessary feminine hygiene products close at hand. You don’t want to be caught unprepared for your monthly visit from Mother Nature on a day when you had decided to wear those white slacks! (Oh yes, I’ve done that too!)
  • Pain relievers – Whether it’s aspirin or ibuprofen or Tylenol, keeping a few pain relievers can help you through those meetings, projects, or people that cause headaches.
  • Loose change – If your company has any type of vending machine, having loose change can be a lifesaver. Try to keep a small stash in your desk that you can use for those days when nothing but a soda or candy bar will get you through.
  • Tissues – You never know a crying jag will catch you off guard. Whether you’re the emotional one or you have someone crying on your shoulder, having a tissue handy will save the day.

Another point to consider when compiling your survival kit is to keep this to yourself. It’s fine to help another sister out when there’s a need, but this isn’t something you want to advertise. You want to be seen as the one who has it all together, not the mom who keeps everyone else afloat. If your survival kit becomes public knowledge, you’ll never get any work done because everyone will know you as the go-to girl.


In this day and age electronics have become vital to our work. Whether we like it or not, we use them for everything from communication to entertainment. Here are a few items to have on hand to make sure you can use these electronics to your advantage:

  • Phone charger - Whether you use your cell phone exclusively for work or for home, having your battery die can be stressful. No one wants to feel out of touch with important colleagues or family members. Having a phone charger in your desk will make sure that you can keep those lines of communication flowing.
  • Flash drive - I am fortunate to work in an office that offers remote desktop capabilities. I can retrieve important files from home if I need to. Having a flash drive, however, might be a good idea if you need to transfer files or need to bring some work home.
  • iPod or MP3 player and earphones – When I need to get some important work accomplished and others are talking loudly nearby or I can’t seem to concentrate being able to plug in some music really helps. I can tune out music a lot easier than I can conversations. I’m also one who would rather be up and about talking than chained to my desk with a task. Music can help me relax and put me more in the mood to stay put and get the work done.
  • iPad – (discontented sigh) This is something that I’d love to have. The more co-workers I see carrying around iPads the more jealous over this I become. I can see how it could be a valuable tool as you can take notes or send documents or meeting requests at the touch of a finger. If you can’t add this to your supplies, don’t feel bad, you’re not alone. If you do have an iPad, however, be sure to use it to its fullest potential and don’t get caught playing Angry Birds.

Dressing in Layers:

  • Sweater – The temperature in my office building fluctuates dramatically. I never know from one day to the next if I’m going to be smoldering or freezing. Having a sweater at hand can be very helpful! If you are fashion conscious, why not have a variety of sweaters or jackets to match your outfit? For me, my black sweater goes with most of my clothes, but if I have something else, I’ll bring it along that morning.
  • Slippers – I don’t do this, but I should. I know a few ladies who keep fuzzy slippers under their desk. No one sees them; they just discretely slip off their summer sandals and slide their freezing toes into the slippers when working at their desks. Cold feet make it so hard to concentrate!
  • Heater or fan – The day space heaters were outlawed in my office building will forever be etched in my memory as a great day of mourning. I loved my space heater! I loved being able to make my office space toasty and warm while the air conditioner cranked out those frigid temperatures. Depending on your own personal bent toward the perfect temperature, you might consider adding a heater or fan to your office space. Make sure the electrical work in your building can handle it. You don’t want to be the one who trips the circuit breaker!

The most Important Item for Your Survival Kit:

  • Sense of Humor – The hands-down-best-way to have a successful day at the office is to keep your sense of humor intact. Emergencies happen. Even the most prepared, most productive, most organized, best equipped woman has a bad day. Make sure you are able to laugh at yourself when things don’t go as planned or if you don’t have something you need. Learning not to take ourselves too seriously is an important lesson.

If you would like more Workplace Survival Tips be sure to check out: Workplace Survival Tips: How to Succeed in Office Meetings.

I hope you found this hub helpful! I’d love to hear from you in the comment section below. What items are must-haves for your own survival kit? What do you keep in your desk drawer than helps you through the day? How have you been caught unprepared at work?

Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to vote it up and share with your friends!


Submit a Comment

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    6 years ago

    I enjoyed this and agree with your advice. These tips are very helpful.

  • susan54 profile image


    7 years ago

    I'm 54 year old women who works in the from deck at a law office. All of the partners over there love the way I look and present myself at the office. I also wear my hair in a mans flattop hair and they are fine with that. I do wear makeup, and nice earring with a suit. my husband thinks I'm a knockout. very nice hub

  • lisabeaman profile imageAUTHOR


    7 years ago from Phoenix, AZ

    No kidding ktrapp! They really do have it easy! Thanks for the comment!

  • ktrapp profile image

    Kristin Trapp 

    7 years ago from Illinois

    When you list it all out it is actually sort of funny. Men don't realize how easy they have it.


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