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Cubical Etiquette – You Read It Right – Let’s Talk About Guidelines to Sharing Open Office Space

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Having devoted many fruitful years of my life working in a cubical, I now am an expert in understanding the work environment and challenges of cubical life. When I started working for a major corporation, all exempt executives had an office. And then arrived a design efficiency consultant and the next big change that happened to us were giving up our office with a door and moving into the more efficient, cost saving world of the open cubical.

It was a perk if you were at the level to get the high walls. Gone were the doors, the privacy, and the quiet and comfort of having a private work space.

Today, most employees working across the globe are used to be surrounded by a cubical, as their work space area. The challenge is they tend to forget that their space is really a part of other people’s space as well. This brings us to “Cubical Etiquette”. It starts with each person having an expanded awareness of the space around them. Our behavior has an impact on all the employees who share this common space. When we pay attention, we show respect and consideration to others – which is a significant part of building strong business relationships and teams.

Below are the basic guidelines and manners that should be followed to foster a more productive work environment.

Do’s

1. Respect a person’s time. Because there’s no door to close, the other person can’t easily signal they are busy.
2. As a visitor, a light “knock” and/or say “May I come in?”
3. Be respectful of “noise”. If you have a loud voice, get in the habit of speaking more softly.
4. If your company allows music at your desk, keep it low or use headphones.
5. Ask fellow employees to “quiet down” if needed; do it politely, without anger and with a smile.
6. If a discussion is private or confidential, find a conference room or private office for the call or meeting.
7. If you plan to use a speaker phone, find a conference room or private office for the call.
8. Keep your work space clean and professional looking. Request the supplies you need to maintain order with your paperwork and projects.

Don’ts

1. Assume the person is automatically available to talk with you. Ask if it is a good time to talk. If not, ask when they will be available.
2. Barge into a cubical. This is someone’s office even though it doesn’t have a door.
Stand up or hang over the cubicle wall to have a conversation. If you and a co-worker have an agreement that it’s OK to have conversations “over the wall”, then that’s fine. Just make sure to keep your voices down. Other employees don’t want or need to be part of your conversation.
3. Talk louder when you are on the phone; some people unconsciously raise their voice when on the phone.
4. Have excessive personal calls. You’re in a work environment and no one appreciates having to listen to your personal business.
5. Shout a request or response to a nearby cubicle. Walk over or pick up the phone.
6. Use the speaker phone, if it’s only a two-way conversation. Use a head set if you need to be hands free.
7. Hover at or over a cubicle, if the person is on the phone. Leave and come back later.
8. Use profanity in the workplace. It’s unprofessional and you don’t know who it may offend.
9. Make inappropriate or offensive sounds: burping, slurping, exaggerated yawning or tapping a pen.
10. Pin-up anything distasteful: pictures, jokes, quotes, etc. Keep away from risqué, gross, obscene, racist, sexist, political or religious overtones. Never pin-up anything that would be considered “anti-corporate”, such an article from a newspaper or magazine.

Special consideration about your work space decor

Creating a space that is reflective of your personality and style is important to your comfort and productivity at work. However, you need to keep in mind your job and your work environment. Do you have frequent one-to-one client meetings where maintaining the company image plays a significant role? Is your company cultural conservative, such as a bank, or is it creative as in a marketing or design company? Know the expectations of your company’s image and standards for its employees. If you are not sure, ask your boss or just look around.

Your level of professionalism is showcased to others by how you personalize your work space or behave in there. Hence, as a last advice to all of you I would say – Always put your best image forward.

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