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When I'm working
on a problem,
I never think about beauty.
I think only how to
solve the problem.
But when I have finished,
if the solution is not beautiful,
I know it is wrong.
R. Buckminster Fuller
1895 - 1983, American futurist

Workplace series

Cubicle and workplace management

Managing your workspace is a function of personal choice
within company guidelines.

A beginning strategy is to confer with your boss and immediate colleagues on issues that enhance individual and group workspaces. Factors to consider are lighting, acoustics and air quality; desk and storage/filing space; ergonomics and access; privacy and personalization. Creating a comfortable environment can enhance your productivity and possibly reduce strain and stress of working in a confined yet open space.

Each of us has differing needs regarding lighting due to age, eyesight and preferences, as well as the amount of time facing the computer monitor also known as computer vision syndrome (CVS).

Harsh florescent lighting can be mitigated with accent and task lighting either mounted on panel systems, mounted under the overhead cabinets or stand-alone. Adjoining cubicles can be clustered to modify lighting to accommodate windows and natural light, hallways and/or adjoining systems.

Glare of computer monitors can be caused by the contrast between the monitor and exterior light sources such as windows. Turn off the computer and look for reflections. Reposition your monitor or if possible lower light levels within your cubicle.

A filter or an overhead “shield” may also help. Clean your screen (!) and give your eyes a break from viewing the monitor. Combine a physical exercise with an eye break every 15-20 minutes, or apply the 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes take 20 seconds to look at an object 20 feet away. A “privacy” screen in secure locations can also help.

The distractions of conversations and noise can reduce productivity and relations with your colleagues in a cubical environment. Conversational privacy can also be an issue.

Phones: keep the “ring” low, conversations appropriately short, and avoid using the speaker phone. If possible, set times in the day to make and return calls. Early mornings and post lunch can be effective. Or schedule times through email.

Sound masking is a strategy that can be implemented department-wide with background noise and acoustical engineering of layout space between workstations and sound-proofing materials.

if permitted, use headphones, which can also block unwanted audio distractions.
Otherwise keep it low or non-existent. Your taste is not others’.

Conversations with colleagues:
Keep them short, appropriate and business oriented in cubicles. Under no circumstances engage in gossip. For personal matters or distraction, meet in a neutral space as for a coffee break or at the water cooler.

Office hours!
If possible, notify your colleagues about preferred times for open questioning/collaboration, and those hours you wish to focus on tasks and deadlines. This might even model a group strategy that eliminates distractions, and improves work habits and concentration.

Facing either toward the traffic or with your back to it can be a choice depending on your style, whether multitasking or one-tracking, etc. With your back to traffic you avoid these distractions. Facing traffic you may enjoy external stimuli.

If someone enters your space, stand immediately to greet him or her, and solicit the cause for the drop-in. This promotes keeping on task and compact to resolve the issue or respond to a question. The other will then not feel entitled to otherwise sit, digress and use up your schedule. In like manner, avoid “popping in” on colleagues as much as possible.

Efficient accomplishment of tasks should be the criteria of whether you disturb a colleague as for a work-related question. If possible, email your request or question and let the recipient respond as his or her work allows, or joins you in your cubicle to resolve the matter.

Air quality
In general, air quality is a building management function but a personal air purifier with a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) carbon filter can remove odors, gases, bacteria, viruses and volatile organic compounds and pollutants from your personal space. If allowed, chose one that is compact and fits with your cubicle, is silent, attractive and proximate to your immediate work area.

Eating and fragrances:
Some dishes are more aromatic and disturbing to colleagues, as are some fragrances. For the latter, allergies are also a concern. Avoid both in the carrel unless you are assured that they do not disturb colleagues or are against company policy.

Standard-issued workstations and laptops do not accommodate every body size, type and condition. There are a broad range of computer stands, wrist rests and mouse types, movable/adjustable arms for both monitors and keyboards, document holders, footrests, etc. that can be cheaper and more effective options than adjustable chairs and desks.

Secure storage
Are functions of your company’s design and attention.

Factors to consider are security for sensitive items, as well as inappropriate access to your files and inadvertent snooping. Elimination of clutter and avoiding accidental damage can also be factors in reviewing your cubicle space and raising concerns with your boss.

Cubicle Personalization:
Personalizing your workspace is subject to corporate policy.

Items to consider are family, pet and vacation photos; posting quotes and cartoons; a plant or favorite object. If work related, such as professional reference items/books, all the better. The goal is to reduce stress and create a productive ambiance. A pair of comfortable shoes for long confined stretches may help, as an afghan or comforter over the back of your chair for comfort, especially if there are climate control issues of drafts or cold. Display taste, humor, and your personality, but avoid clutter.