Ask Matt: How can I adjust to life in a cubicle?

  • Article by: MATT KRUMRIE
  • Updated: August 26, 2013 - 9:14 AM

Dear Matt: My company cut back on office space and now, after having an office, some of us have cubes and some of us are in an open space. I don’t have any privacy, I don’t like listening to the office chatter — and I now deal with many more distractions. This is a big change and I’m not sure I can be happy or productive in this scenario. Can you provide some help — and sanity?

Matt says: This is a difficult situation to adjust to, especially after having the luxury of your own privacy in your own office, says Elizabeth Laukka (elizabethlaukka.com), a local recruiter and career adviser who places advertising, marketing, PR and digital professionals — jobs in which open offices have become more common.

Taking small steps over time can help keep you sane, says Laukka. Take small breaks to get up and away from your cube, frequently change the decorations in your cubicle (if your company allows it) and even try to arrange a flexible schedule where you can come in early or stay later to have some quiet time. Ask if you can wear a headset to drown out noise and always, no matter how frustrating others may be, be a respectful cube mate. Be sensitive to any food you cook and the smells that come with it, know the volume of how you talk on the phone, avoid perfumes or scents and anything else that could potentially affect a colleague.

“Don’t be the office gossiper,” says Laukka. “If necessary, take important conversations to a conference room.”

A recent CFO survey conducted by OfficeTeam (officeteam.com) showed that work environment was one of the many key factors in attracting top talent and keeping current employees motivated and happy.

“Physical surroundings can have a significant impact on an employee’s ability to learn, concentrate and perform well on the job — as well as adapt to change,” says Jim Kwapick, District President of OfficeTeam. “Strategic office design can help companies be more efficient, effective and innovative.”

The design of an office can reinforce a company’s culture and management style. For example, an open floor plan can help create a sense of teamwork and camaraderie. When you interview, try to see what the office environment is like. If you take a tour of the company, take notes. Is this an environment where you can thrive and succeed?

“Office design impacts the flow of communication between employees, and the ability of staff members to generate ideas and meaningful solutions to problems,” says Kwapick. “In certain cases it could even mean the difference between achieving mediocre and great business success.” And for some employees, it could determine if they stay or go, accept the job — or turn it down.

jobslink@startribune.com

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