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

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

  1. KikiSashaFan

    KikiSashaFan Well-Known Member

    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.
  2. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

    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.
  3. Prancer

    Prancer Cursed for all time Staff Member

    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.
  4. barbk

    barbk Well-Known Member

    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.
  5. orbitz

    orbitz Well-Known Member

    :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 ;)
  6. Cupid

    Cupid Well-Known Member

    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:
  7. Angelskates

    Angelskates Well-Known Member

    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.
  8. Aussie Willy

    Aussie Willy Hates both vegemite and peanut butter

    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.
  9. allezfred

    allezfred Master/Mistress of Sneer Staff Member

    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.
  10. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

    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.
  11. GarrAarghHrumph

    GarrAarghHrumph I can kill you with my brain

    I used to sit in a cube where on one side of me was a woman who listened to "lite fm", and on the other, a woman who listened to something else. It was like dueling radios. When speaking to them didn't work, I used to go into their cubes when they left for meetings and turn the music down.
  12. leesaleesa

    leesaleesa Active Member

    I actually like cubicles, too. In fact, I prefer the ones with short walls so you can see your co workers. I would find a private office too confining and lonely.

    OP, you just have to get with the program. The company isn't going to change, so you have to. Even department heads these days may not get a private office. If you like your job, you simply have to adapt. As to your personal calls, I've always been held to making personal calls on personal time, so the idea of someone else listening to my conversations is moot. Go outside, to a stairwell, or some empty space on your lunch or breaks to conduct your personal business.

    Like it or not, business and work as we know/knew it has changed. Have you thought of contacting HR to see if you could work at home due to medical issues, or considered getting a job in a more solitary environment?
  13. Karina1974

    Karina1974 Well-Known Member

    The two oldest women out of the 6 in the office where I work are always spraying that stuff in our bathroom. And what gets me is that one of them is a lung cancer survivor who is always coughing like she has the worst case of bronchitis or chest congestion known to man.

    I'm sorry, but I would rather smell shit than that spray "deodorizer" because at least shit odor doesn't rot your brain through repeated exposure like a chemical spray will.
  14. Veronika

    Veronika gold dust woman

    I'm having cube drama today...my coworker is conducting online training and is SHOUTING. Reportedly, this will not last all day, but it's damn annoying right now.
  15. FigureSpins

    FigureSpins Well-Known Member

    If you can take the show on the road, go in search of quiet workspaces off the floor. The Cafeteria, an empty conference room, or an area where everyone's out. (Sadly, I've used layoff ghettos in the past - cube farms where the entire group was let go or moved, leaving a wasteland behind.) These spots can usually be found when you're desperate for "quiet time." An hour or two away from your desk can be a sanity saver.

    I have an issue with people who spend more time networking than working. They tend to stay late to finish their work, making it look like they're overextended, when in reality it's just "show time." They spent most of their day touching base and hanging out.
  16. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

    No kidding. I worked in a cafe for a few years where the bathroom was behind the counter. The owners bought this insanely flowery spray for the bathroom and when someone used it I would be gagging. I used to just remove it from the bathroom as soon as I arrived for my shift.
  17. Veronika

    Veronika gold dust woman

    :respec: I know exactly what you are talking about. Those people drive me nuts, and they tend to get promoted because of their connections.

    My motto is "work smarter, not harder." If I can get my work done in 8 hours instead of 10...I think that's better.
  18. antmanb

    antmanb Well-Known Member

    We always used to say that about the corporate lawyers at our firm. If they spent their actual 9-5 day working properly instead of going round everyone in the firm telling them how busy they are and that they were in til X o' clock in the morning, then they might actually leave at a normal hour instead of in the middle of the night.

  19. leesaleesa

    leesaleesa Active Member

    As to people spraying lysol in the bathroom: At my last job, we didn't even have cubes, but desks in long rows, aisle after aisle of them. The noise level was the least of our concerns, because a co worker had gas all day, EVERY day, and would foul the air with farts, lysol, and febreeze. There were isolated work areas she could have been moved to, yet she refused to, and threatened discrimination suits if she were moved. The exact situation existed there with an elderly woman who took it one step further: She poooped her pants often and laughed about it. She also refused to be moved or work at home and threatened a suit because she was being humiliated by people who could not bear to work around her. To this day, they are still there befouling the air.

    I'm hoping my next position won't stink. Just give me an interesting job with potential, competent management, and a minimum of body odor.
  20. Karina1974

    Karina1974 Well-Known Member

    Gotta love the way people's minds work. She thinks it's funny that she's shitting in her pants (probably without even wearing Depends), yet because her co-workers don't want to work near her they are humiliating her? She is humilating herself.

    Sad, but unfortunately not such an uncommon attitude. People would rather blame the other person, rather than take ownership of and responsibility for their own behavior and recognize how their behavior contributed to or caused them to be in the scenario they find themselves in.
  21. arena_gal

    arena_gal New Member

    I've worked in everything from open desks in rows across a huge space (think the 9-5 movie) to cube farms to at home. The most open cube-type thing was where we had a desk with a wall that had a shelf, and immediately you'd install a whiteboard or bulletin board under the shelf so we didn't see the person in front of us and could put our manuals on the shelf above. There was a tiny side wall so I was about four feet away from the person next to me and could hear them on the phone all the time. Tip: People who use headsets talk louder because they can't hear the ambient noise around them to gauge their volume. For private calls, whispering into the handset is still good practice. There was a computer on that side wall but it didn't block anything. I learned two things: To talk really quietly, and to lean forward and stick my head under the shelf so I was practically leaning across the desk. That way, none of my conversation carried. I had a co-worker who was completely distractible and if I ever looked up, she would pop right over to tell me all about the sentence she just wrote, just about. So it was important to not make eye contact.

    I was hugely productive working there because it was, literally, heads down, get to work. Mostly everyone else socialized and had to stay late because of it. Possibly I didn't like my co-workers all that much to socialize, so would get my stuff done and then read corporate journals for the rest of my face time. Because of learning to talk quietly I got a lot of personal stuff done, and here's my tip, religious or not, my favorite telephone number was Dial-A-Prayer. Because it was a live call, someone walking by could see the phone was on and you could make that motion of "go away, I'm concentrating on an important call" and the thing would play on a loop for hours without anyone the wiser. If they ever had telephone monitoring, which they didn't, I always had the rock solid excuse of practicing my religion which shut up conversation pretty quickly. It was a massively multicultural workplace and there was alway someone off on an obscure religious holiday.

    This place also had private worship rooms, for muslims who had to pray many times a day. They got annoyed really quickly because people would use the rooms for privacy and the rooms were not available.

    I also worked in a gorgeous place that was completely Herman Miller furniture. That was excellent cube farming. I stole my Aeron chair when they closed the office. I've also done the fish bowl full time conference bridge 24h support thing, and not a fan of it, and would usually work from home and just dial in to it instead since that's what 90% of the people would do anyways. When you were in the fishbowl, two or three people were doing all the work and the rest were planning the next coffee run.
  22. DanRad

    DanRad New Member

    Well, a patient called about her meds during her work hours. When I needed more information about her health conditions, she said she "can't answer that right now." I then rephrased my questions so she can answer with as minimal words as she can. I did most of the talking and probing. It worked. I think your care provider should be able to work around your situation as well.
  23. orbitz

    orbitz Well-Known Member

    OMG, I hate the short walls of my cubicle. To give my eyes a break from the computer I often look up from it, but then I would see people walking by and/or someone would look back and catch my eyes( Um... I really wasn't trying to look at you, LOL.). I've been thinking of getting something tall and rectangular to put on my cube to give me some sense of privacy.
    Maybe I can commission a rectangular stained glass piece but then I'll have to figure out how to attach it to the top of my cubicle wall.
  24. Matryeshka

    Matryeshka Well-Known Member

    I had a summer job with cubes a long time ago. Granted, I was only there for three months, but just in my observation, the workers made the cubes worse. Not intentionally, but people just not realizing how much their lives splashed over into others. Since you're getting in on the ground floor, to make it as pleasant (or at the very least, less annoying) as possible, agree on some ground rules?

    Here's some I'd suggest:
    --If you want to listen to music, headphones required at mid-volume. Some people need music to work, but others don't, and sometimes you can hear over headphones.
    --NO FOOD AT THE DESK! This was a big one for me. There was a man I worked next to that brought in the world's most foul smelling fishy substances everyday. I didn't eat fish for a very long time, even after I went back to school.
    --I think cell phones are tricky, because there are times when you need to have them on, like if you have a sick relative/friend, you are expecting a repairman/delivery, etc. But maybe a common-sense policy, like no loud or personalized ringtones.
    --Have some kind of system where you can put up a magnet or just a piece of paper where if it's up, it means I'm-working-really-hard-can't-be-disturbed and if it's down, means yeah, I can take a coffee break/help you/can chat for a few minutes. That was the worst for me--when I really needed to do something. Mostly people just said, oh sorry, but it still broke my concentration.
    --Get commonly refreshed supplies out/near the cubicle to minimize people walking by you constantly.
    --This is probably just me, but I have an aversion to perfume/cologne. A very, very, very strong aversion. And if you don't have one now, you might later. :lol: I realize you can't say no you cannot wear that, but it might be something to discuss in general terms of all scented thingies, including candles, spray cleaners, etc.

    I know these are all a bit kindergarten-esque, but I think we benefit from a bit of kindergarten. Plus, if you do it now, it avoids making it "personal" with an employee later, or with a new employee. Have everybody maybe make three or four suggestions and then agree on maybe five to seven expectations for your cubicle culture from those suggestions.
  25. sk8pics

    sk8pics Well-Known Member

    All very good suggestions, and apparently many folks did NOT learn them in kindergarten, LOL.
    Sure, I do that from time to time. But it's a hassle and moves me to an even less ergonomically comfortable setup. I'm actually in a visitor's cubicle much of the time, which I did set up with a larger monitor and an external keyboard that I plug my laptop into, but the chair isn't great. My regular cubicle is actually at another site. :wall: My lab is at the site where my visitor's cubicle is, but a good 3 minute walk away. :wall: I think this is why I'm so cranky.
    I agree, cubicles or other types of open work environments can be a help for team-related activities. And today, in fact, I was talking to a couple of coworkers about a technical problem. It was fine and helpful. But sometimes I just need some (*^(&&^$&&%$#@#$$#@#$ peace and quiet. There are a couple of people that are big socializers and then whine a lot about how late they are working :rolleyes: and I always want to say, well if you did a little more work and talked a little less during the day.... :duh:
  26. genevieve

    genevieve drinky typo pbp, closet hugger Staff Member

    Agree with most of these, especially the no perfume or anything scented one.
    This is the one that I could never do. I admit it, I eat in my cube all day long. I often eat my lunch at my desk. Sometiems it's takeout thai food. Unless there's a designated eating space (we have one but there's only room for 2 employees at a time), where else are people going to eat? Although if my office had those half cubicles I probably would not eat at my desk ...I hate people watching me eat.
    I'm still firm on the no rings in the office ever. If you're expecting a call, you can put the phone in front of you so you see/hear it when it vibrates. And I don't find the sound of a vibrating phone on a desk more annoying than a ring.
    So many times I've wished for a Do Not Disturb sign!!

    Agreed :respec:
  27. ArtisticFan

    ArtisticFan Well-Known Member

    Thankfully my new job has me in an office rather than a cubicle or like my last job a random desk in a room with other random desks.

    As a writer I find myself talking to myself as I write. I'm not carrying on a conversation, but I'll read something I'm not sure about or I'll try different words in the sentence to find the best one. In the newsroom that wasn't possible because those people already thought I was crazy.

    My co-worker across the hall is my pet peeve right now. She is a loud woman, which I understand. The problem is that she can't walk down the hall without conversing with everyone and their brother. There are 15 offices and a work room on my hall. She pokes her head in each one to tell them all how busy she is and how much she has to do still. This could be if she's headed to the copier, for another cup of coffee, or to the restroom.

    So my advice is to still treat that cubicle like your private office space. That conversation you just had with Bob was heard by everyone. You don't have to repeat it. If it is something that important that everyone needs to hear, tell people as a group or send out an e-mail.
  28. BaileyCatts

    BaileyCatts Well-Known Member


    Our whole building is cubes. We have small whiteboards that hang on them stating your cube number/name (and for you to write if you are out or something). They have built in sliding signs that say "Do Not Disturb" that you can slide out when you ... don't wanna be disturbed. Great big ole red sign that says "Do Not Disturb" .... yet still they do not work. :duh::wall:

    I've always worked in cubes of various types and wall heights. I'm down to an 8x8 with 4 foot walls. Its not so bad once you get used to it ... unless you have to sit next to people you HATE, which unfortunately I do. So while I am sitting there working I get to watch her come in anywhere from 10 to 90 minutes late every day, watch her saunter off for 4-6 coffee breaks a day, and have to sit there while our GM admin stands and gossips with her and then intentionally drops her voice to a whisper .. like I'm listening or something. Sorry beyotch, but I actually do my JOB at work and could care less about your 20 gossip sessions a day. :rolleyes:

    The worst part about my spot now is the freaking copy machine sits right in front of my desk! Its also a LAN printer so people are constantly interrupting me all freaking day long at that damn copy machine. The worst part is when somone comes and makes like 100 copies of something .... what a wonderful sound I get to listen to all feckin' day long. :angryfire

    But I'm not bitter ...... :p
  29. ArtisticFan

    ArtisticFan Well-Known Member

    I hated sitting next to the printer in the newsroom. People were too lazy to get off their butts and walk to the printer. Instead they'd yell over to me to bring them whatever it was they printed. Then if it was low on toner, out of paper, etc. they would blame me. Hello! It is a group printer people! Just because my desk was 10 steps closer to this machine (that caught on fire once) does not make it my responsibility.
  30. orbitz

    orbitz Well-Known Member

    The guy in the cube next to me openly floss his teeth everyday at his desk after eating lunch. I think it's gross. It should just be some sort of common sense not to floss your teeth in public like that, or at least do it discreetly.