Advice/Sympathy? My workplace is moving us into cubicles... :(

Discussion in 'Off The Beaten Track' started by lurvylurker, Apr 12, 2010.

  1. lurvylurker

    lurvylurker Active Member

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    So, it's official...after 23 years of having my own office, I have to move into a cubicle this fall.

    I work for a fairly large employer (we have 23 of 30 floors in our high-rise office building) and everyone in the company, no matter what level, has always had their own individual office. Now, in the interests of cost-cutting, they are renovating the floors one by one, knocking out all the interior walls and making one large open area where most of us regular working folks will sit in cubicles (or as they call them, "personal workpods"). We went to look at them last week and they are AWFUL - each has a small worktable for our computer and there is barely 4 square feet of open space to sit/stand in, with walls only 3.5 feet high. I'm small (5'2") and I felt like a giant in it. Like any group of co-workers, we mostly get along with each other, but we do have some disagreements from time to time and we are all wondering how we'll manage to function for very long without killing each other. Does anyone out there in FSU-land have any advice for us? I know lots of people work in cubicles every day, and of course it's not the end of the world, but we're really worried sick about this.

    And does anyone have any tips about maintaining personal privacy? I have a serious medical condition (not contagious) that I've been able to keep secret from my co-workers only because I can close my door when talking on the phone with my (many) doctors. My boss knows about it and she's been great at keeping it confidential, but now I don't see how I can continue to keep it quiet. It's not that I don't trust my co-workers with the knowledge, but in my experience once I tell someone, it usually changes the relationship for the worse, because people who know usually can't help thinking that I'm dying and become awkward around me. I really don't want everyone to find out and have to deal with the resulting rumors.

    I know I probably can't do much about anything... I guess maybe I just needed to voice my concerns and get some advice for dealing with this all as best I can...any advice?
  2. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    Ugh, cubicles. I've never had to work in them, but my husband has more often than not--or he's had to work in an open room full of desks, which is what he's doing now.

    My only advice is that you make all your medical calls on a cell phone on breaks somewhere other than your desk. My husband knows a whole lot more than he wants to about his co-workers and their medical conditions and family problems. Right now, he shares an office with 12 people and they have one office phone. :yikes: If he has to make phone calls, he goes out to his car to do it. I realize that's not possible for everyone, but switching all your medical calls to a cell phone only and dealing with them during lunch or on breaks is the best solution I know of.
  3. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

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    sympathies. My current job is the first one that used cubicles, and they suck. At least ours are 5 feet tall though, and don't open to each other! I can't imagine how distracting the noise would be with 3.5 fit barriers :scream:

    For phone calls and the like, will there be any conference rooms or other small (non-populated) offices? Here people either go into an unused conference room, or an office of someone who is away if they need a closed door. Would your boss be ok with letting you use her office from time to time? Not that you (or she) really want her in the room when you make those calls but at least she already knows about your condition.

    Renovating is a huge expense - are they doing this to get more workstations?

    ETA after reading Prancer's post. Most of my jobs have been in open space offices, and I greatly prefer the open space plan over cubicles.

    Also agreed that you may have to make all your medical calls on lunch/breaks and completely out of the office if there isn't a suitable room with a door you can pop into when needed.
  4. sk8pics

    sk8pics Well-Known Member

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    My sympathies. My company closed my previous work site last year and moved some of us (the lucky ones) to another site (actually closer to my house) and most of us are in cubicles. They are awful. Ours are pretty high, probably close to 5 feet, but open to one another, kind of in groups of 4. One day, my 3 closest cubicle neighbors were all on the phone, and I was just glad I didn't need to talk on the phone, because I would not have been able to hear myself. Most folks do use cordless headsets for conference calls, as they should. But there are a couple (very rude, obnoxious) people who use their speaker phones until someone else tells them to pick up the *&^*&%* headset. I keep wondering, how many times do we have to tell them?

    Your HR people should help to set rules and teach folks about cubicle etiquette. I did actually complain to our HR manager (some people come in singing, whistling, and generally being WAY TOO LOUD) and she promised to inform everyone of proper etiquette and common (HAH!) courtesy but has never done a damn thing. Am I bitter? You bet. But I try not to be.

    There is no privacy and so, as others have said, you will have to take your personal calls elsewhere. Right now, there are a limited number of "team rooms" where you can go to take or make a call, but in our new space (yes, we have to move AGAIN!) it doesn't look like they have allowed for much of that at all. If you can, bring that up to your management. People need to have a place where they can get some quiet, sometimes! This is true for work as well as the occasional personal call.

    The new office I will be moving to, is an office but I will share it with one other person, so I'll actually have a little less space than I have now.:wall: And there might as well not be walls as everything is paper thin anyway. :wall::wall: Oh, and no elevator other than a freight elevator, a really old-fashioned freight elevator.

    Ask your management to establish some sort of ground rules for etiquette. If you are allowed to wear headphones, you could try that. We are not. The other possibility is to ask for white noise generators. They are built into our areas in zones and sometimes the noise level can be adjusted. I notice the noise level varies greatly in our areas, and that is partly related to the white noise level and partly related to how considerate the residents are there. I asked for the white noise to be increased but of course nothing was done.

    And just get used to the idea that if one person doesn't want to work and wants to be disruptive or whatever, it's going to be very hard for anyone else to get work done, depending on the type of work and level of concentration needed. Sometimes it doesn't bother me at all, and other times.... :mad::angryfire.
  5. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

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    Greatest sympathies. Noise blocking headphone.

    As a manager I strongly advocated for private or two-person offices for my tech staff, to no avail. I can't even begin to tell you how mad I was when I saw how much the cubicles and pod furniture cost, and the inflexibility it has.

    Add to that the inevitable uniform fluorescent lighting, which gives me a headache, instead of my very nice lamps that worked very well.

    Truly, the idiots have taken over the asylum.
  6. orbitz

    orbitz Well-Known Member

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    My company did the move to cubicles about two years ago. I used to have my own office too. I hate it with a vengeance. There are really no privacy. I can hear people's phone conversation three cubes down. People will jump into my conversation with another coworker at the drop of a hat. The only way to maintain privacy is to make and take all personal call on cell phone and use your cell in the hallway, outside, in an empty meeting room, etc.

    It's not impossible to maintain some sort of "privacy" though. There was a guy sitting in the cube right in front of me, and he was conducting job interviews at his cube without other people knowing about it, LOL. Well I knew he was doing it but barely.
  7. MOIJTO

    MOIJTO Banned Member

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    Find the happiness in that, you could have been out the door!
  8. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

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    I had really terrible headaches most days for the first 2 eyars that I worked here, due to the flourescent lights. My cube wasn't near a window, so to turn them off would mean no light. Where I am now, I've unscrewed the bulb closest to me and left the custodial staff instructions to never screw it back in.
  9. lise

    lise New Member

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    My sympathies. I worked in a place like that before and I got to know one of the admin's home life a little too well. From her problems finding a sitter to talking to the father of the child she has, it was quite the adventure. I also got to hear other discipline their kids over the phone and all other business calls. I left and told myself, no more cubicles!
  10. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

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    I totally agree - a job with a cube is still a job.

    Before my husband was layed off, there were many, many cost savings implemented. First was moving to a less expensive rental space. Next was moving into smaller offices, then move into cubes, then as many as possible people working from home. He managed to make it through all of those cost cutting measures, through many levels of layoffs and finally laid off last March.

    In most workplaces, rental space is expensive. So while the initial outlay for cube furniture seems to be outrageous (whoever mentioned it before), the continued lease rental is even more.

    For privacy on medical phone calls, you may need to arrange with your many doctor's offices staff to call you at such and such a time, or use your cell phone, indicating that you will need to move to a more private area to continue the conversation, etc.
  11. KatieC

    KatieC Still jet lagged

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    I'm in an office now with cubicles - not very happy with it, although the 2nd spot I was in was okay. At least I quite liked the people near me and we were able to have a fair number of laughs. Then 3 weeks ago I got moved to another area, and there is no laughter, no music, half the time most of them are away (makes me wonder about how healthy this area of the office is)! But, in our office is a tiny, quiet room, where you go to make private calls on your breaks or lunch.

    My sympathies - I'm starting a new job hunt.
  12. lurvylurker

    lurvylurker Active Member

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    Thanks everyone, for your advice and for letting me know I'm not alone!

    We got some more information today, apparently we're moving to the 30th floor and there will be 140 people in cubes on our floor (can you say "moo"?). Everyone will be in a cube including my boss, only the department manager will have a private office - and she hasn't said a civil word to anyone since transferring in over a year ago, so using her office is out of the question.

    There is supposed to be a lunch room that can hold up to 40 people, but we have to share it with another floor, so with 280 people trying to find a seat I don't think many of us will be able to use it.

    And there will be 4 "team rooms" with doors but no telephones in them -- apparently we are only allowed to have a conversation with a visitor or coworker in our cubes for 3 minutes maximum, after that we're supposed to "take it into a team room" to avoid disturbing everyone else :rolleyes:.

    There are no plans for any other private spaces (not even the washroom - it has 4 cubicles of it's own, ha ha!)

    I'm starting to think my only solution will be to tell the doctors I'll call them back, then leave the building and go to a public area that offers anonymity (the next best thing to privacy, I guess!) to do so.

    And yes, this is a cost-cutting measure, but this company certainly is not in danger of going under or even laying off anyone - It's a global company that is not hurting even in this economy, if I told you the name of it you would recognize it immediately as one that is VERY successful.

    If I wasn't so close to having my retirement numbers I would definitely look for another job, but I only need 7 more years here and I can retire with medical benefits, which I sadly need. So I guess I'll just grin and bear it and make the most of it (and try to get those noise blocking headphones someone suggested). (And maybe I'll get a giant calendar for my little wall so I can cross off the days for the next 7 years :D!)
  13. RoseAugust

    RoseAugust New Member

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    I love my cubicle! In fact, I gave up an office to have a cubicle next to a window. I also think it's friendlier than walls and a door. But then, we all get along.
  14. kwanfan1818

    kwanfan1818 I

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    If it's not against workplace rules, I would bring in a desk lamp, or, preferably, one of those UV lamps that most people in the Pacific Northwest have so that we don't become depressed from lack of sun and short winter days. If leaving it out at night isn't an option, hopefully you'll have way to lock it up at the end of the day.

    It won't completely combat the fluorescent lighting, but it can distract you from it.
  15. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins New Member

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    I hate cubicles, especially the three-walled aisle versions, so you have my sympathies. I agree with the headphones suggestion. MYOB is the watchword, because it'll drive you nuts to listen to personal conversations, especially on the phone.

    I'm very loud, so I can be both offended and an offender, lol.

    Don't look at others' cubicle decorations. There's always a smart*** who has to hang up an inappropriate calendar, just to stir up trouble. They then play innocent and defend the piece of crap. The threats of sexual harassment complaints and HR visits are just useless dramatic scenes. Bah.

    At one company, we had a lot of in-office conference calls, many impromptu. You dialed and closed your door. Then they moved us and banned speakerphones in the cubicles. Conference calls meant finding an available conference room with a speakerphone or sitting separately in our cubes. In those places with speaker phones, there will always be someone next to me who has to listen to his/her voicemail over speakerphone. Annoying and TMI.

    The only good thing about cubicles is that every wall is a bulletin board if you bring pins. It's nicer than taping or using magnets on office walls.
  16. sk8pics

    sk8pics Well-Known Member

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    I only wish they would ban speakerphones in the cubicles. It's easy to get an earpiece cordless or not, and they should have issued them automatically to us when we were moved into cubicles.

    I, too, am not that far from being able to retire. So, I just hang in there. But some days, ugh.
  17. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Well-Known Member

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  18. numbers123

    numbers123 Well-Known Member

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    actually, to the outside observer my husband's previous employer (where he got laid off) would be considered by the outsider as a very successful corporation.

    I am quite cynical about corporations these days. Corporations will do what they need to to survive. After 30+ years, the corporation that I worked for decided that I was a very expensive employee in terms of salary, retirement benefits (I was fully vested and they were paying the highest level of matching funds), medical benefits and vacation/sick leave. The manager made no efforts to hide that fact and did it in a very careful/legal manner by rewriting the job description.

    I am glad for you that you have the option of working for 7 more years and medical benefits.
  19. snoopy

    snoopy Team St. Petersburg

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    Yeah, I've worked in a mix of cubicles and offices and I like cubicles better. One, because much of my work is solitary and two, I can go for hours without seeking human contact. Cubicles force me to be social occassionally (in a good way).
  20. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    One of the things I like best about my current workplace is that we have the old fashioned, un-pretty, *high walled* cubicles. It gives far more privacy than the lower walls that you can see over when standing.

    The worst cubes I've ever worked in were only about waist-height. When you sat down at your desk, you stared directly into the eyes of the person sitting across from you. When they'd get on the phone, it was like, "LIVE! IN PERSON!" - You were fully involved in their conversation.

    What you do in cube-land is you make such calls from a conference room that has a door that shuts. Will your building have such rooms? If not, then you'll have to borrow an office, if any are left after the remodelling, or go outside with your cell. But most times, when they move to an "open office" concept like yours, they do put conference rooms with doors in place.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2010
  21. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    One thing you may need to get adjusted to is the increase in noise level, and handling the distraction of having people working and moving around you. But you do get used to it, surprisingly.

    The *most* annoying thing, to me, is when coworkers listen to music. The "loud talkers" are no fun, either, but I find the music worse.
  22. genegri

    genegri Active Member

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    I prefer a shared office.

    During the last big project, all 8 of us teamleaders shared one 20' by 20' fishbowl office (by fishbowl, I mean glass walls). There was a big U shaped table and we all sat around it with our laptops. When there were issues, we could bounce off one another easily. It was very efficient and great for team building. I loved it. If I needed to talk in privacy, I went to an empty conference room or outside. No big deal. Besides, we were there to work.

    Our team members were in alternate high-wall and low-wall cubes. The cubes were open plan and very spacious. When someone had questions, they could easily see if their team leader was in the fishbowl and came in at any time. We could also see some of them on youtubes often. But as long as the job was done it wasn't a problem. I don't know if anyone minded the cubes because really nobody had much privacy. But my personal sentiment is the same: after all, we were all there to work.

    Right now I have a window office. But to be honest, I would like to have the team office back.

    OP, your cube sounds awfully small and I don't think the washroom sounds like it will be enough to service 140 people. I hope you can at least get headphones. That way, you can block out noises and listen to music if you want to.
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2010
  23. DORISPULASKI

    DORISPULASKI Watching submarine races

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    Another possibility for a private space for a conversation on the phone. Your boss has at least respected your privacy about your medical condition. Perhaps she might let you use her office when she is gone at a meeting, if you need to make an extended medical call?
  24. orbitz

    orbitz Well-Known Member

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    I'll admit that I'm a loud talker :shuffle:. What I don't understand are people who don't turn down the volume of their cell phone ring tone. Why do I need that ring tone everytime they get a phone call?
  25. Lorac

    Lorac Well-Known Member

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  26. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    What really cracks me up is when the ring tone is not just loud, but also not work appropriate. :lol:
  27. lurvylurker

    lurvylurker Active Member

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    AussieWilly, that's hilarious! (the second link, that is). Thanks for the humor!

    And Lorac, unfortunately we do have a couple of guys in our group that have tempers bad enough to have those results...we're all praying we don't get assigned to sit near them. We're going to be in groups of 4 or 6, depending on the configuration.

    And I can't remember who pointed it out, but yes, we also don't think one women's washroom and one men's washroom with 4 cubicles each is enough for 140 people either, but management seems to think it is.

    So, based on everyone's advice, I now know I have to
    - change my cellphone ringtone to something discreet
    - get some noise blocking headphones (if they're allowed)
    - get really focused on minding my own business (which I try to do anyway)
    - try to plan things so that I don't urgently need the washroom while at work

    Should be a piece of cake, non?
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2010
  28. Cupid

    Cupid New Member

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    You have my sympathies about the cubicle/pod situation, I used to sit in one and I hated how everyone can eyeball each other. :lol:

    I presently don't sit in a cubicle. I have a real desk that sits out in the open and there's nobody else in my area - sort of like a reception area but I'm in the center of the room.

    What I hate most is that 1) my desk is right next to the women's restroom. It is an individual-type restroom where you go in and lock the door. I swear there is this one girl who uses the bathroom at least 12 times a day, never passes it by on her way to her office, sprays an entire can of Lysol after each use, which wafts out into my space - once we ran out of Lysol spray, and guess what came "wafting" out when she was through. I tried putting a different-scented one in there, but it still smells gross.

    The men's restroom is right next to that, and this one guys pisses like a racehorse 10 times a day and I have to listen to that.

    When I use the potty, I flush before I pee so nobody hears me if they are passing by.

    The whole thing is disgusting and I don't tell anyone what I hear/smell during the day because they would probably just laugh to each other about it. I believe they are clueless.

    But, I'm happy to be working.
    Jenny and (deleted member) like this.
  29. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    Argh, yes, I hate that, even in offices. I cannot work and listen to music (and by listen, I mean have it within my hearing range, not have it sitting on my desk), and I hate wearing headphones.

    So they can hear it over the loud talkers, music and conference calls :p.
  30. sk8pics

    sk8pics Well-Known Member

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    So, how about putting your cell phone on vibrate instead of ring? But very few of my coworkers apparently know how to work their cell phones. And, let me add, that these are mostly personal calls they are getting. The people who have Blackberries for business use mostly have them on mute.

    The lack of privacy is a little irritating, but I can cope with that. For me the problem is actually getting work done. I was doing a series of complicated calculations recently, setting up a spreadsheet to do everything, and did it wrong, because one of my coworkers who doesn't actually work that much kept interrupting me, for no good reason, really. Some kinds of work, I can do with a lot of distractions. But for others, really, I need some peace and quiet. And with the way our business is, we are on a LOT of conference calls. It gets very difficult for everyone. We do have one team room with a door, where people can go to take calls. And today one guy was in there, but he might as well not have been because he was SO loud he could be plainly heard even though the closed door.:wall: And then on the other hand, there was the time when two of the guys were on the same conference call as me, all at our desks, and the echo/delay was really annoying! We all said we wouldn't do that again!
  31. KikiSashaFan

    KikiSashaFan Well-Known Member

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    I have my own office, which isn't right next to the bathroom, but aligned just right so that I can hear everything. :yikes: If I didn't have to spend so much time on the phone headphones would be my best friend.
  32. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

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    I agree about turing the ringer OFF your cell phone. I can tune out just about any background noise, chatter, keyboard tapping...but any cell phone ring at all just sets my teeth on edge (I never have my cell phone ringer on because of this). I would hope that with that many people and those low cubicle walls that your company would consider adopting a no-audible-cell-phone-rings policy. My company has one and I am extremely grateful.
  33. Prancer

    Prancer Ray Chill Staff Member

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    I think a lot of people don't because many cell phones have such a weak vibrate that their owners can't count on feeling it.

    It is amazing how many people don't know how to use their electronic devices. The college I work for offered a class in "How to Use Your Cell Phones and mp3 Players" last year and got so many responses that they have since offered specific seminars: How to Use Your Blackberry, How to Use Your iPod, etc. They even had one for VCRs. And they are mobbed.

    My husband hates being in an open office because of the interruptions, too. He doesn't work on a team or with a group; they're all in that office because there's nowhere else to put them. The one person he does work with is down a long hallway behind three locked doors. His work requires a lot of focus and concentration, but he sits next to the door and everyone likes him, so there is a constant parade of visitors dropping in to see him. The one phone they have in that office is about three feet away from him and it's in constant use.

    Yeah, I know that's not typical. But still, an open office or cube plan just isn't appropriate for everyone.
  34. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

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    Not that it helps, but in the late eighties there was a very interesting natural experiment in a mall town east of the Cascades. They built a second elementary school because the old school was no longer large enough. The old school was traditional, the new school was built using open space designs (no walls between classrooms, only low bookshelves, lots of shared classrooms with twice as many students and two teachers,...) The town was very homogenous, and students were assigned based on where they lived to attend old school or new school.

    Within a couple of years, the new school had a rate of ADD diagnosis that was much, much higher than the old school's. The ultimate conclusion was that in the traditional classroom environment, students who were clearly ADD still were ADD, but those who were marginal were often able to cope due to the relative lack of distractions, whereas the open space school was so noisy and disruptive and environment that kids on the margin had real problems and thus were diagnosed. Today you'd be hard pressed to find a new elementary school being built on these open space principles, and most have been remodeled at great cost to put walls up around classrooms.

    Not that we've learned in the business environment. Sigh.
  35. orbitz

    orbitz Well-Known Member

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    :lol: Yeah, I'm so glad I don't sit right outside of the bathrooms. I don't understand why the urinals are situated right next to the bathroom entrance door.

    I guess I'm also happy that I have a job, but that doesn't mean I won't complain when I have to constantly work late and weekdends ;)
  36. Cupid

    Cupid New Member

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    I do use headphones to drown out "the piss factor" - but what do I use to block out the Lysol? I have sometimes brought out my own air freshener and zapped the area outside the bathroom after she goes in there. Then everyoen that walks by asks what is that smell? I can't bring myself to say why I spray it. They probably think I have gas or something. :lol:
  37. Angelskates

    Angelskates Active Member

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    If I have my phone on vibrate instead of ring and it's on a table when someone calls, it moves across the table and makes a noise far more distracting than if it rang! I try and keep it on a book or something not wooden.
  38. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Well-Known Member

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    Just remove whatever it is from the bathroom and don't say anything. :D

    Seriously those things are toxic and the smell lingers a lot longer than they smell they are trying to cover up.

    If they want to cover up "natural" smells give them a box of matches. They work just fine.
  39. allezfred

    allezfred Prick Admin Staff Member

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    Really? Whenever I get a new phone, the first thing I do is set it to vibrate mode. Perhaps I'm just used to it, but I find the vibration strong enough to alert me to an incoming call or text message.

    I wish they'd introduce a law here to ban ringtones or at least not allow them on public transport.
    genevieve and (deleted member) like this.
  40. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

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    You'll notice patterns re: washroom use. Certain times of day it will be busy, and at others, empty. If yours tends to be really frantically busy during the busy times, you can try to plan some of your visits for the less busy times, where possible.

    In addition, if there are washrooms available on less populated floors, you can seek those out and use them.