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  1. #1

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

    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?
    just my two cents...

  2. #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by lurvylurker View Post
    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?
    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. 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.
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  3. #3
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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

    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.
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  4. #4

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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. And there might as well not be walls as everything is paper thin anyway. 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.... .

  5. #5

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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.

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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.

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    Find the happiness in that, you could have been out the door!
    Without fear you cannot find courage

  8. #8
    drinky typo pbp, closet hugger
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    Quote Originally Posted by barbk View Post
    Add to that the inevitable uniform fluorescent lighting, which gives me a headache, instead of my very nice lamps that worked very well.
    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.
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  9. #9
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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. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by MOIJTO View Post
    Find the happiness in that, you could have been out the door!
    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. #11

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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. #12

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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 .

    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 !)
    just my two cents...

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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. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by barbk View Post
    Add to that the inevitable uniform fluorescent lighting, which gives me a headache, instead of my very nice lamps that worked very well.
    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.
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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.

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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.

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    I do work in a open plan office with cubicles, but it is pretty spacious and everyone gets on with each other. So it doesn't bother me at all.

    However I don't think I would like to work in any of these.

    http://www.wired.com/culture/lifesty...=1&slideView=3

    And just to make you more depressed.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMmqcmrk9ak
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  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by lurvylurker View Post
    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 !)
    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. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by RoseAugust View Post
    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.
    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).
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  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by lurvylurker View Post
    So, it's official...after 23 years of having my own office, I have to move into a cubicle this fall.

    ...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.
    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.

    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...
    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 by GarrAarghHrumph; 04-13-2010 at 03:11 PM.
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