Black tape has been put on civil servants' desks to show them where to put their pens.
Tony Blair recently announced plans to increase efficiency
The pilot exercise at National Insurance offices in Longbenton, North Tyneside, is part of a UK-drive to encourage staff to tidy their desks.
The Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union claimed the scheme was costing £7.4m nationally and branded it "demeaning" and "demoralising".
HM Revenue and Customs said it was in line with workstation training.
The exercise is part of the Lean programme, brought in by consultants Unipart, which has already seen public sector workers told to clear their desks of personal items.
The customs spokesman said: "Part of the Lean processing is to clear the workplace and only keep essential items to hand.
"This is in line with the workstation ergonomics training that all our staff receive and complies with the display screen equipment regulations (2002).
"The markers on desks are used to demonstrate that it is much better to work in a tidy work environment where everything has its place.
"Staff involved have confirmed they prefer the tidier workspace."
But a PCS spokesman said: "The tape idea illustrates the madness of the Lean project.
"The scheme is demoralising and demeaning. Staff know how to order their desks themselves.
"We had a situation in some offices in Scotland where staff were asked 'Is that banana on your desk active or inactive?', meaning were they going to eat it?
"If not, it had to be cleared away."
The scheme is being implemented a month after Tony Blair outlined measures to save £2bn by cutting red tape.