10 Things: Tips to Survive Cubicle Life


Today’s 10 Things list was put together by Darlene. Darlene blogs at My Burning Kitchen and often talks to her coworkers about food. She resides in San Diego with her new husband Paul Horn and her hijinks are sometimes the inspiration for his strip Cool Jerk. Darlene shares some tips for surviving cube life.

First came sharing the plastic ball in kindergarten with the other kids in class. In college was the roommate who didn’t quite understand that overnight guests weren’t welcome the day before a big exam. And for most of us, the cubicle is the ultimate in the sharing experience. An average worker bee shares almost 8 hours a day with other coworkers in close, confined quarters that offer almost no privacy or personal air space. When all it all adds up, that’s a third of your life. Those of us lucky enough have their own office (or — even better — work from home) need not read the hints about surviving the cubicle experience — you are the lucky ones but have a whole new set of problems.

Here are some pointers to help you survive cubicle dwelling.

Maco Shark Talking by Cell Phone by Schmetzpetz

—The walls have ears
On many occasions, I have been witness to a coworker’s life outside of work. No one wants to hear what happened at school or what your dinner plans are, or your half of an argument with your spouse or significant other. If you must have a conversation, use this opportunity to take a break and have the conversation outside on your cellphone.

—Not everyone has the same taste in art
Sure, Ryan Reynolds has an amazing six-pack and you want to share that with the world. But in most workplaces, suggestive art with scantily clad men or women is considered offensive and can even be the basis for sexual harassment. Your cubicle art says a lot about you.

Video Game Nerd by Lauren Gregg

—It’s a workplace not an arcade
It’s easy to get away with hijinks at work. With access to the internet and basic games like solitaire installed on computer, it’s a wonder that productivity hasn’t ceased completely. But don’t let your extracurricular activities interrupt the workflow for your cubemates. Turn down the volume and keep the excitement to the minimum, especially if your supervisor is the next desk over. Actually, I wouldn’t recommend doing that sort of thing at all.

—Personal hygiene should stay personal
The cubicle is your domain for a few hours a day but don’t do anything you wouldn’t do outside the bathroom. I have witnessed people flossing their teeth, cutting their bangs and yes, even trimming their toenails at their desk — the latter being more hazardous to anyone within firing distance. It’s not a pretty sight, making yourself pretty. When you think someone isn’t watching, I’m sure they are.

—Rethink that fish for lunch
Sometimes lunching over the keyboard is the only option to beat that deadline or catch up on work. When you do, consider the smell of your lunch. French fries — although delicious in all its fried goodness — lingers for hours. And fish? The one person who brought left over fish to work for lunch day was ostracized for weeks by his coworkers and never lived down the incident. Speaking of which…

 Chanel Lover by Emma Kisstina

—Mind your perfume
Perfume is nice but in close quarters with poor air circulation, it can be downright stifling. Just because your significant other likes it doesn’t mean everyone else does. Keep the scent to a minimum and reserve the full dowsing for special nights.

—Voicemail is your friend
Turning on your voicemail when your lucky enough to abandon your desk is a must. Cubicle mates are not your personal secretaries that drop everything to take messages and make sure you get them. It’s the electronic age. Take advantage of it.

—Respect the space
Cubicles have defining boundaries of where one desk ends and another starts. If your paperwork starts to migrate towards an adjoining desk, you should rethink your filing system.

Pass the Mic Nerdy Birdy by tsai-fi

—This isn’t American Idol
Although the convenience of personal music players has grown by leaps and bounds over the last decade — you can carry your entire music collection on an iPod — there are downsides. I like to call it PDS — public displays of singing. Just because you hear the music doesn’t mean everyone else around you can (or should). And although you think you might sound like Katy Perry in your head, others might not agree. So keep the singing in the shower or in your car. Humming also falls into this category.

—Not everyone is on the same work schedule as you
The momentary lapses of work are always welcome, but just because you’re free to shoot the breeze doesn’t mean that your neighbor is, too. Respect their space if they look busy and if you’re in the position to help, offer assistance.

4 thoughts on “10 Things: Tips to Survive Cubicle Life

  • March 12, 2010 at 10:19 am

    Am I petty? My neighbor makes the most annoying set of small noises — sniffing, crunching on crispy foods, tongue clicking, throat clearing…even the noise she makes putting on hand loting 10 times a day. It drives me wild!! In the morning I start out in a good mood…but by noon I want to scream and gnash my teeth. I hate to spend the entire day under a set of earphones, but haven’t found any other solution. I have a desktop computer, so I can’t get away…argh.

  • July 24, 2009 at 6:27 am

    I need to add another:
    You should get on your feet and walk over to your coworkers desk when you have something to say. Even though the office space is wall-less that is not a reason to yell conversations across the room/cubicle walls.

    You would think this goes without saying? Well, trust this cubicle dweller – it dont!

  • July 23, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    This is fuuuunny. My coworkers and I are awful though, I know that I’ve broken a few of these rules.

    I try to keep my toenails at home, though. You know, so my roommate can watch.

  • July 23, 2009 at 10:56 am

    so true! I’m sitting in my cube right now… and I think 5 of these are being ‘broken’ right now (I may be using my computer for extra circulars, but I don’t play games or have my sound on… haha). the worst part of my day, a man in a cube near mine literally says each letter he is typing and talks on his phone on speakerphone. another big thing in my office is what clothes people wear; especially one guy, his belly is too big for most of his shirts.

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