Those of us who have worked in two or three different workplaces can readily attest to the reality of toxic work environments as a monumental challenge that poses a huge threat to the wellbeing of employees. We have lived through it and weathered the storm. But that was not without a scar; we were thoroughly battered.

Yet I must say that many of us were victims of self-imposed flagellation that stemmed from low self-esteem. And this situation effectively made it certain that we kept on sinking deeper into the mucky water of mental torture without a chance for redemption. But could we have done? Given a second chance, what would I do differently?

Looking at the situation critically, I’ve realised that toxicity at places of work does not only emanate from co-workers or management, it may as well come from just the physical environment.

So while many of us fixed our eyes on the office gossipers and rumour mongers, working on nipping their schemes in the bud, our physical environment might have been having a field day wreaking havoc on our nerves albeit subtly.

Yes, agreed, my opinion of a toxic workplace may be slightly different from what you’ve been told it is all your life. Trust me, I have worked in at least five different places and can tell for sure that your physical environment at work is as much a culprit of toxicity as the rumour mongers.

Talking about the physical environment, the furniture may be your greatest enemy. Past experiences have taught me how super sensitive I could be to my environment, especially the furniture. Just as it could give me the spirit I need to keep moving, it can get me demotivated.

Inappropriate furniture – chairs, desks, shelves etc. – give me the cramp. But that’s just beside the point. The main problem here is because we’re hardly ever conscious of the harm being done to us by the wrong furniture, the situation is perpetuated such that the body feigns adaptation. By so doing, opening the floodgate to mental torture.

It is even more negative on your nerves. I discovered that using the wrong chair and desk is a subtle yet harm-wreaking irritant to my nerves. I had once used a chair without any cushion in my office before. I think the problem is not many organisations think of getting their staff bespoke furniture tailored to meet their unique needs.

Of course, besides the physical environment, there are people I have learnt to always keep at arm’s length. They are not enemies, yet they are not good for my mental health because they exude some level of negativity. And that does not necessarily make them bad people.

Maybe it’s just that we can’t strike the right cords between us. That’s it, it’s no one’s fault; not mine, not theirs. But I still do what I need to do: keep my distance from these kinds of people.

Sincerely, not all peddlers of rumours are innately evil people. Some are merely people who have not realised they need to exercise restraints over their human instincts. If man follows every one of his instincts, he’ll be mad within seconds.  

Well, now, my resolution is that you should always strive to get the best out of your immediate physical environment and coexist with others peacefully as best as you can – you can’t be a friend to all.