Forty million Americans work in cubicles, according to an article in Fortune magazine. That’s a lot of people squeezed together in tiny workspaces across the nation. Working in close quarters creates unique stressors. That’s why practicing cubicle etiquette can make life in the box much more bearable.
Wear headphones to drown out noisy co-workers. Listening to music while you work can actually increase your focus by eliminating outside distractions. Headphones are a much better option than just bringing a personal stereo to your desk because even if you play your music quietly, chances are your cube mates will still be able to hear it and may feel annoyed at the added noise pollution.
Clean up your area every now and then. Since most cubicles don’t have doors, there’s nothing to keep co-workers from seeing your space. If you have three mugs of week old coffee, a half-eaten sandwich and piles of crumpled paper cluttering your desk, chances are, your cube mates resent your sloppiness. Not only are these messes distracting, when food’s involved, there’s the germ and odor factor to consider.
Wait to be invited into a conversation before offering your two cents. Because cubicles provide very little privacy, it’s common to overhear co-workers talking in other cubicles. But, just because you can hear them and there isn’t a closed door doesn’t mean they want you to join in their conversation. To be sensitive to your cube mates, don’t chime in just because you’re curious or even happen to have the exact answer they’re looking for. Let them come to you instead. This will help your fellow cube dwellers feel like they have more independence and privacy.
Don’t shout over cube walls. Even if your co-worker is only a few feet away, it’s best not to try to talk over cubicle walls. The reason is that everyone else sitting around you will also be forced to hear your conversation. Sending a quick e-mail, picking up the phone or getting up and walking to the co-worker’s desk will help to keep the noise level down.
Avoid habits that may grate on others’ nerves. Things like loudly clearing your throat and blowing your nose, spraying cologne or perfume in the cube, eating smelly food like onions or fish or talking on speakerphone are cubicle taboos. Any behavior that accosts your neighbors’ senses is best to avoid.
I’d like to hear your cubicle stories. What are your pet peeves? How do you make the most of working in a small space?