Guest AuthorShital Kakkar Mehra

The Cubicle Code

By | Shital Kakkar Mehra | Executive Presence Coach for CEOs I Business Communication Expert I Best-selling Author I Co-Founder Katalyst, NGO

With skyrocketing real estate costs in Mumbai, Delhi and other major metros, space is at a premium, resulting in compact work stations in an open plan office. While these cubicles have the obvious benefits of openness and ease of communication, they lack privacy. And the umpteen interruptions do hamper productivity….

Tips for a successful fishbowl existence:

Respect privacy: Seek permission by knocking or establishing eye contact before entering a cubicle. Respect the personal space of co-workers by not peeking or trying to read their computer screens/ papers. On the other hand, if you are the person being disturbed, use non-verbal signals like continuing to stand when chatting or walking to the entrance of your cubicle, to convey minimum interest.  

Maintain Confidentiality: Flimsy separators don’t block external sounds. Use a conference room to meet with clients/ vendors, when reprimanding a junior or for personal calls. In case you overhear some confidential information, pretend you did not.

Wait to be invited: Replace a personal visit with a phone call or a silent communication tool like email/instant messenger and wait to be invited for all face-to-face interactions.

“Staring into space” – Any fellow workers caught doing so, could be using his time to strategize/ mediate/ recharge and is not looking for impromptu entertainment.

Second home? – Spending extended hours in the office may make it feel like one but it isn’t. Tastefully decorate your personal space and schedule renovations/ spring cleaning for either after-office hours or weekends.

Noise Pollution – Answer the phone within a couple of rings, keeping the ringer volume low. Put mobiles on silent and use speaker phones in meeting rooms only. When away from your desk, carry your mobile and activate your voice mail, ensuring that your colleagues don’t have to answer your calls. Use your “library voice” when speaking and walk up instead of yelling instructions. Invest in headsets, if you are constantly on the phone or like listening to music.

Cubicle – not a pantry – When working, resist the urge to munch noisily and consume all hot food in the cafeteria.

Borrowing/ lending – As there are no physical doors, don’t get extra comfortable and view your work area as one big classroom! Resist the urge to borrow stationery from your neighbors.

Hygiene: Either stay home or maintain minimal contact when suffering from common cold / flu. Be odor-neutral and respect the sensibilities of your co-workers.  

We have often laughed at Dilbert’s plight but when faced with a similar situation, we fail to see the humour. Ask yourself a simple question “Would this behavior from a co-worker bother me?”, if yes, don’t do it!

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