In any office, it is important to be respectful of others’ workspaces, as well as mindful of the presentation of your own. When your office layout is composed of cubicles or is an open environment, considerations of space and conduct are doubly important. As a component of the shared office, all the elements of your workspace – the volume of your voice, the cleanliness of your desk, the perfume you apply in the morning – will affect nearby colleagues as well as the general office atmosphere. In addition, with this type of setup a boss or supervisor can observe employees in a more detailed way: another reason to keep your self-presentation sharp. Finally, it is important to acknowledge the boundaries of each individual’s cubicle by not interrupting a colleague at any given moment.
A cubicle is a personal office, but it can’t always be treated as if it has a closed door. If you sit in a cubicle, the proximity to your neighbours and the exposure to the overall office environment probably serve as daily reminders of this fact. Nevertheless, too-close-for-comfort cubicle behaviour continues to plague offices. Here are a few basic points to work by in order to maintain a comfortable and friendly open office setting:
- Manage the volume of your voice. This includes conversing with colleagues in person and talking on the phone. It can be difficult to remember to keep one’s voice down on the phone, especially if it is a cell – and if a connection is bad, the caller’s voice can rise to a shout without even realizing it. So, tone the volume down a notch if you tend to speak loudly. In addition, do not use speakerphone: it is disturbing to others around and it betrays the privacy of the call.
- Avoid strong scents. Heavy perfumes and colognes will waft to neighbouring cubicles, and could disturb colleagues with allergies or scent sensitivities. And if lunchtime consists of a tuna sandwich or other food with a strong smell, consider taking lunch in the breakroom or cafeteria instead of at your desk.
- Keep your workspace neat and tidy. Yes, it is your individual space to personalize and maintain as your own. But a messy workspace contributes to the overall atmosphere and feel of the office – especially if there are ten messy workspaces in a row. This is also a good tip to keep in mind for your own professional image; a boss, supervisor, or visiting client could assess you negatively based on a chaotic and disorganized workspace.
Good conduct and presentation of your own workspace is a key contribution to the environment of the whole office. Equally as important in a cubicle layout is to be respectful of the individuality and boundaries of the workspaces of others. Even if cubicles do not have doors, you still should not simply barge right in. Without getting right into their workspace, try to knock on the cubicle wall or say, “excuse me.” For a more extended conversation, especially if you know that a coworker is busy or does not want to be disturbed, try sending a quick email to ask for even five minutes to chat when it is a good time for them. This way, you show that you do not expect to speak with them immediately, and respect their workload and space.
An open-office or cubicle layout has the advantages of being cost-effective and community-oriented. And when colleagues acknowledge the proximity of this space and respect the workstations of others, these types of office environments are sure to function harmoniously.