15 stress-relieving games you can keep at your desk
Delightful diversions for when you just can't focus
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If you sit at a desk in an office for eight-ish hours a day, chances are good that every so often, you are doing just that: Sitting, and not much else. Sure, you may be completing the tasks expected of you most of the time—blasting out emails, entering data into spreadsheets, discussing essential to-dos with your colleagues on Slack. But some of your time may be taken up by things that aren’t exactly in your job description, such as browsing Twitter, discussing non-essential topics with your colleagues on Slack, and staring at your screen as you try to motivate yourself to work on whatever it is you’re supposed to be doing.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Everyone needs a break sometimes, but how you spend it can make a difference between going back to your work within a reasonable length of time and falling into one of those deep, dark internet wormholes. These quick games and diversions can give your brain a much-needed timeout, without taking up all your time.
1. A punching bag to knock the stress away
Because you can’t make it to the boxing gym during a draining phone call or meeting, try the next best thing—this mini punching bag. Reviewers say it provides a nice way to vent frustration (or simply act as a pastime for idle hands) in a small package.
“I bought this as a Christmas gift for my mom and she absolutely loves it,” writes a reviewer. “It's an attention-grabber at her office. She has a high-stress customer service job and she says it really helps take her mind off of things.”
2. A mini hoop to make tossing trash more fun
Practice your free throws and clean up your work area with this compact basketball hoop, which attaches to a trash can or recycling bin and turns throwing away your garbage into a game. Its rim is foldable, so you can pack it up and take it with you wherever you go.
“This is exactly what I had been looking for as a trashcan basketball hoop,” writes a reviewer. “I love that it’s a standalone hoop and you can place your own trash can underneath. It is very sturdy and the perfect size for any office-size trash can.”
3. The Infinity Cube to give restless hands something to do
If fidgety, anxious hands are your main distraction at work, consider keeping an infinity cube close by. This device, made of smooth black plastic, has hinges that allow it to switch from laying flat into a cube shape in a smooth, satisfying motion.
“The infinity cube is a very cool and unique fidget toy and is a great alternative for those who might benefit from a fidget toy but aren't interested in the ‘spinners’ all the ‘kids’ are playing with,” writes a reviewer. “It's great for use in an office environment and shaking some cobwebs loose on a Monday morning. Solid, durable design—it has enough weight that it doesn't feel flimsy and cheap and it is not too heavy to sit in your pocket.”
4. A pen and golf club combo for a hole-in-one desk diversion
Combine fun and function with this pen-and-golf-putt set. Each pen has a different color—the driver is red, the iron is black, and the putter is blue—and comes in a case with two holes and a ball so you can alternate between taking notes and working on your aim.
“It's the cutest thing to play with when you're bored at work and looking for something different to do,” writes a reviewer. “The pens work great and also are well disguised. My boss often drops by my table now, not to check on me, but to try his luck with hitting the ball into the hole.”
5. Mini billiards to unleash your inner pool shark
If you have a bigger desk, work station, or conference room table and love playing pool, this compact billiards table is for you. It comes with everything you might want in a pool set, only miniaturized, including 16 pool balls, two cues, a triangle rack, and a cleaning brush. But it’s not tiny: The playing surface, which you need to place atop a level surface, measures about 12 by 20 inches.
“Amazing. Have this on my work desk,” writes a reviewer. “It's very well built and when I said it was only $15, everyone wanted one. Sticks and balls [are the] perfect size!”
6. A Buddha board for artistic relaxation
Give yourself a creative outlet with a Buddha Board, a canvas you can paint on with a bamboo brush dipped in water. As the water evaporates, the art does, too, which means you always have a blank surface to paint on—and, according to the manufacturer, helps you practice the art of letting go.
“Everything about this product is exceptional,” writes a reviewer. “Just opening it was a treat—the box it comes in was so pretty, I can't bring myself to throw it out. The sturdy base and the delicate bamboo brush are wonderful. This would make a great present for children or adults, artistically inclined or not. It's also great to have in your office or to give to coworkers to help combat stress.”
7. A magnetic toy to create sculptures at your desk
This desktop item is simple—it’s just a magnet base with a cluster of different-sized metal balls atop—but reviewers say it’s strangely soothing to stack, sculpt, and spread the balls over the base.
“Perfect for the office,” writes a reviewer. “The balls are magnetic and don’t roll off the desk. I love it for stress relief, or just for some downtime!”
8. A wooden labyrinth to toggle through
Get the ball moving with this nifty wooden maze game, which has five stainless steel balls located throughout its parameters. To play, you tilt the device back and forth until each marble is in the center—it’s harder than it seems, and thus more satisfying once the goal is achieved.
“It is nice enough to sit on a desk and take a break during some quiet thought time,” writes a reviewer. “Easy enough for a child to use quietly while waiting for mom or father at an appointment.”
9. A beachy zen garden for peak relaxation
In most offices, cutting work to hang out at the beach is frowned upon. But no one can fault you for bringing the beach to work in the form of this adorable zen garden, which comes with a mini lounge chair, umbrella, shovel, rake, bucket, and shells. (Sadly, no salty waves, sea breeze, or tan are included.)
“I work at a call center, and this definitely helps during the difficult calls,” writes a reviewer. “I was looking for a sand tray originally as a coping mechanism to deal with frustration/anger issues, especially at work. I love the beach and anything that reminds me of it makes it happy, so this was perfect. Others love playing with it, too.”
10. A wooden puzzle game for mental agility
This three-in-one puzzle set contains several games—interlocking blocks, snake cube, and diagonal burr (in which you take apart a structure and try to rebuild it)—that you can alternate among whenever you’re in the mood for a diversion.
“This was a great addition to my desk,” writes a reviewer. “The puzzles are more challenging than I was expecting, considering two of them only have six pieces. I had a lot of fun figuring them out. It has exceeded my expectations for the price. It comes with instructions, but if you really want to enjoy the puzzles, you should figure them out yourself.”
11. A fidget spinner to keep your hands busy
The whirring, weighty effect of a fidget spinner is soothing, if the recently passed craze is any indication. There are a lot of fidget spinners out there, but Amazon reviewers rave about this one. It has a sleek, holographic stainless steel exterior and an ability to spin for what seems like an indefinite amount of time, which comes in handy during long phone calls and meetings.
“Smooth, quiet motion, spins for a long time, heavier than the plastic noisy ones but so much better, in my humble opinion,” writes a reviewer. “Comes with good quality carry case. Beautiful metallic rainbow color, just as photo shows. Kids love this (and so do I). Would definitely buy again!”
12. A mini bowling lane for practicing your aim
Work on your technique for your after-work league with this mini 10-pin bowling lane. It has a magnetic pin reset and launcher that allows you to set the ball upon the pins. The detailed mahogany finish makes it seem like it’s a real bowling lane, just smaller.
“Worked great,” writes a reviewer. “Little magnetic turn-dial helped with resetting the pins. This brings people to my desk to play at odd times. Great for making conversation at work as well as stress relief when breaks are needed to clear your head.”
13. Magnetic putty to pretend you have magical powers
If you liked playing with Silly Putty as a kid, you’ll like this magnetic putty, too. The shiny silver goop comes with a separate magnetic cube, which you can use to make parts of the putty move as if by magic—the brand calls this the “snake charmer” trick. Alternatively, you can place the putty next to the cube and watch it slowly subsume it.
“I bought two of these, one as a gift and one for myself,” writes a reviewer. “The magnetic putty will probably have many uses (holding paper clips, etc.) but for now, we've both gotten our money's worth just smooshing it in our hands and watching the ball ‘eat’ the magnet.”
14. Desktop tetherball to relive your days on the playground
This mini tetherball set is a lot of fun, whether you’re using it to pretend you’re at elementary school recess or in this scene from Napoleon Dynamite. It comes with a mini book of rules, just in case you or your coworkers aren’t sure how to play.
“This little thing did not disappoint,” writes a reviewer. “The base is weighted, so under normal play, it stands up. The ball is dense foam and seems sturdy. I took it to work, and my coworkers loved it. Fun and nostalgic.”
15. Mini arcade games to pretend you’re at a carnival
If you’ve ever gotten an urge to play Pac-Man, Skee Ball, Tetris, or Frogger at your desk—and know the free online versions just don’t have what you’re looking for—consider getting a mini version of the arcade machine. If you go for the whole set, you’ll have a downsized desktop arcade reminiscent of ones you may have gone to in your youth, sans the sticky soda-coated keys (well, depending on your work snacks, desk hygiene, and how often you let others try it out).
One reviewer calls it the “hit of the office,” writing, “I leave this out on my desk and everyone that comes by plays with it! Nice stress reliever!”
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