A few days ago, I forgot to bring my headphones with me to work. As a result, I spent a lot more time than usual listening to the goings on in the areas immediately surrounding my cubicle. It was a constant reminder of why I try to never forget my headphones. So for those of you who work either in a cubicle or in an office with cubicles, I offer up these friendly suggestions.
- Your cubicle is not a bathroom.Do not do anything in your cubicle that you also do in your bathroom at home. This includes cutting your fingernails, brushing your teeth, and preening in front of the mirror. No one wants to listen to the sound of fingernail clippers while they are at work.
- Put your cell phone on vibrate.This is especially true if you have a ring tone that you think is particularly funny or particularly awesome. Chances are, you're the only one who thinks it's as awesome as you do. Your coworkers are tired of hearing it. Shut it down. This is also especially true if you have a family member who calls you ten times per hour to check in or ask a question or whatever other reason they have for bombarding your officemates with the sound of your personal ring tone. Again: Shut. It. Down.
- Mute the volume on your computer.
You never know when some random website you're visiting when you're supposed to be working is going to start playing some crazy video or have blaring background music. Best to just keep your computer volume muted just in case Also, DO NOT set your computer to play a sound of any kind when you receive emails. It's 2011. You probably get a lot of email. You probably don't even notice that sound going off any more. Guess what? Your co-workers notice. Enough already.
- Speaker phone is an option, not a requirement.
Do not answer all of your calls with the speaker phone option. I know it's cool that you don't have to cradle the handset with your shoulder while you're typing and talking to the person who called you, but you should not carry on every phone conversation using speaker phone. In fact, if your employer has not seen fit to give you a door, then go ahead and assume that they only gave you that speaker phone option because they got a good deal on the phones and for most of your calls, you should not be using speaker phone. The people who work near you probably have their own work to do. They don't need to participate in, or even hear, your every conversation. Pick up the handset.
- Your cubicle is not a meeting room
Yes, I know that it's large enough to fit five people in there. And your computer is right there, allowing for easy demonstration of your brilliant work. But there is a reason that office buildings with cubicles also have meeting rooms. That reason: doors. The people who sit on the other side of the cube wall from you who are not a part of your little discussion group, really could probably work better if the friendly debate between you and your co-workers took place in a room with actual walls.
- Take your water cooler conversation to the actual water cooler
If your, "Hey, how was your weekend?" comment to a co-worker passing by your cubicle turns into a 25 minute conversation about your kid's soccer coach and how you think your kid was completely in the clear on that last penalty and how you were not at all out of line when you approached the referee to ask about the penalty and how you can't believe that your kid is being penalized because the coach doesn't like you.... yeah.... There are probably people nearby who would find that story fascinating if they weren't trying to meet a deadline. But guess what... they are. Because they are at work, dontcha know!
- Your cubicle is not a cafeteria
Yes, you may eat lunch at your desk. Sometimes things get crazy and you don't have time to go out. Or you may be one of those people who just likes to eat lunch at their desk. That's fine. But the people who work in the next cubicle over should not be able to deduce the contents of your entire meal because of the slurping, chewing, crunching, and chomping that is audible three cubicles down. And under no circumstances should you open a packet or can of tuna in your cubicle. Do I really need to explain why?
- Mind the microwave
If you have a microwave at work and that microwave is situated near people's cubicles, please try to think about them when you put stuff into said microwave. Do not put stuff into the microwave and walk away. I don't care if you're just going to be gone three seconds. Don't do it. Because three seconds turns into 10 minutes when you run into the guy from Purchasing that you've been trying to touch base with and then the bag of microwave popcorn that you set to popping has turned into a office-clearing, odorific stink bomb. And while that's unfortunate for everyone in the office, the person whose cubicle happens to be right next to the microwave, well, let's just say that that person isn't going to be your biggest fan.
- Knock when entering
I know that cubicles don't have any doors. In fact, we are all acutely aware of that fact. But if you enter someone's cube who appears to be working intently on something and they don't seem to notice your arrival, knock on something to let them know you're there. Do not just keep walking into their cubicle until you're practically on top of them and then say, "Hey!!!" really loudly. Really, folks, that's just not nice. Not only is that person likely to have a heart attack from the shock, but if they don't, they may seek revenge by sticking a bag of burnt popcorn in your desk drawer after you leave for the night.
- Know when to keep walking
It's good that you have friends at work. And it's good to stop by and say hi and find out how their weekend was or how their project is going. But if you stop by to say, "Hi," and the person appears to be typing so frantically it's as if they weren't even typing real words and were just banging away on random keys the keyboard... Yeah, they might be busy. You might want to come back later. And if you do go ahead and say, "Hey, Bob! How's it going?" and Bob answers, "I am so busy! I've gotta get this proposal done before 10:00 for a meeting with the VP's." Your response should not be, "That sucks. So, got any plans for the weekend." Dude. Bob is busy. His plans for the weekend now include burning a couple bags of microwave popcorn and planting them in your desk drawer for a Monday morning surprise. Move it along.
So, in conclusion: Don't be gross. Keep it down. Be quiet. Be quiet. Be quiet. Be quiet. Be quiet and don't stink up the joint. Again, don't stink up the joint. Don't scare people. And... be quiet.