Within the Confines: Cubicle Manners

Though many of us have big dreams of having big offices one day, most of us will start off our careers (and likely remain for some time) working within the cozy confines of the classic office cubicle. When it comes to working in cubicles, it is important for young professionals to remember that although that 6×6 or 8×8 may feel like our very own place of personal productivity, just over that one-inch-thick wall are coworkers seated closer to you than your mother at Sunday brunch.  With short, thin walls creating a false sense of privacy, it is not uncommon for young professionals to forget that when we are working in a cubicle we are not actually alone. To keep the peace within your snug working environment, we offer you these important cubicle manners that must be considered in order to stay in the good books of the guy or gal on the other side of the wall. 

If you are permitted to listen to music, radio news, etc. within your cubicle, there are both benefits and downsides that must be taken into account. Beyond keeping you motivated and/or relaxed, an additional advantage to having some easy tunes playing in your workspace is the increase in your level of privacy. Light noise can help cover up phone conversations with prospective clients, a potential new employer, or an angry girlfriend, that you may not wish for your coworkers to overhear. On the other hand, having a radio in your cubicle may also create tension with coworkers, due to disputes over volume and taste of music or programming. Communication is key in this situation. Don’t wait for nearby coworkers to approach you with complaints. Ask up front if they are okay with you having a radio and with your choice of station. They may be happy to enjoy it as well, or they may not. Either way, you must keep in mind that your space is not actually yours alone.  With that said, we have found that an easy solution is the one-earphone method. With one earphone in you may listen to what you wish, and with one out you are still able to hear your phone ring, your smart phone beep, and your boss calling. 

Many of us know the unfortunate reality of the lack of climate control in large office buildings. Additionally, many of us are also aware of the common problem of overdone climate control, leading to the need for sweaters in July and short sleeves in January. Whatever temperature issues you might experience in your office, you may feel inclined to get yourself a small heater or fan to make your cubicle more comfortable. Like with the radio, you must first consider your nearby neighbour before making such decisions. You may find the forced heat of your office to be stifling, but the sound of your fan might be driving your coworker crazy. Again, communication is the only way to make sure both you and your workmates are happy and comfortable. If an agreement cannot be met, a discussion with superiors is the next step. Refer to the freezing cold air vent right above your desk, or explain how a fan helps keep you alert throughout the day, and you may be permitted to move.

If you work in an office that is open to the public, demonstrating professional behaviour is of extreme importance.  Further, being able to rely on coworkers to do the same is just as important. Imagine meeting with a client in your cubicle, discussing something of a serious nature, only to be interrupted by your work neighbour giggling on the phone about her date last night. Though we are all permitted to take breaks throughout the workday, show consideration for nearby coworkers by first asking if they may be meeting with clients before bringing that smelly leftover takeout to your desk, or if they plan to make any important client calls before you make your personal one. 

Turning the confines of your cubicle into a personal space of motivation and productivity is an important key to your success. Bear in mind, however, that on the other side of that flimsy, carpeted wall resides perhaps another young professional, trying to create their own oasis of creativity. Your dubstep tunes, sweltering foot heater, and overpowering Thai leftovers might work just fine for you, but it may also be turning your otherwise-friendly work neighbour into a newfound nemesis.