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Tips for Surviving the Cubicle Life



While we could all dream of getting that plush corner office, most desk workers start off in the ubiquitous cubicle. The modern-day cubicle was created in 1968 as a means of increasing office productivity. Robert Propst, the creator, believed, through various studies, that a workspace containing plenty of shelving and surface area gave employees more room to work, while the partitions allowed for a sense of privacy not present in the typical open office plan.

Unfortunately, the cubicle became more of a cage than a thriving workspace, and even Propst criticized their use. Working in a cubicle can be as annoying as bullying in the workplace, but many employees don’t have much of a choice. Here are a few tips to help you survive life in the cubicle.

1. Cubicle walls are paper thin; plan accordingly.

Many people mistake cubicle walls for regular walls and assume it’s okay to gossip, speak loudly, or pretend they’re at a karaoke bar. Basic business management training teaches that, whether you’re dealing with clients over the phone or talking to a coworker, you should use your inside voice, and be aware of what you say. No one wants to hear your dinner plans or your arguments with your significant other.

If you’re on the receiving end of a noisy neighbor’s inconsideration, it’s a good idea to invest in some sturdy noise-canceling headphones.

2. Personalize your workspace.

Your drab, grey work area doesn’t have to look like it came straight out of those management videos. Put up some art. Keep a small potted plant on your desk. As long as you stay tasteful, you can brighten up your space and make it feel much more pleasant to your eyes and mind. Above all, keep a photo or two of your loved ones around. Just looking at that photo will give you a much-needed boost and remind you of why you’re working so hard in the first place.

3. Account for your smells.

As great as you think your perfume or your lunch smells, not all scents are created equal. Your coworkers may be revolted or stifled by the smells you bring into the office. Some people may be allergic to specific scents. Keep your perfume to a minimum. Don’t spray “air fresheners” during the day. Avoid eating potent foods—fish, French fries, anything containing garlic—in the confined space of your cube.

4. Take a break.

Recent studies show that sitting for extended periods of time actually reduces your total lifespan. It’s not good for your metabolism and can lead to joint pains. Of course, sitting in the cold cave of your cubicle for hours on end also leaves you utterly miserable.

Take a break. Take several breaks. You should, at the very least, get up, stretch, and walk around for five minutes every hour. Get used to taking these breaks to ensure your long-term survival.