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Working in a Cubicle

30 May 2013

Posted by: Anthony Eskief

Working in a Cubicle

It can be difficult to stay focused while working in a cubical in an open office environment. These tips are designed to help reduce the interruptions from other staff.

A client who works in a cubicle in an open concept office recently emailed asking: 

“Do you know of some nice ways to tell people to buzz off when they interrupt you? I'm out in the open and am constantly interrupted while on deadline. I think this is a common problem for cubicle workers who don't have a door. The nature of my position involves having internal clients who feel they have a right to interrupt me at any time as they feel their project is most important. 

My boss and I interrupt each other all the time so we're trying to navigate that and are trying phrases like "let me finish this thought" or “I'll come see you when I'm ready”. 

I face a high traffic hallway so as people walk by I'll usually look and mostly smile. My biggest struggle is when I'm focused and people walk right up and lean over my desk and just start talking to me. That annoys me the most. Can't you see that I'm working here!! One woman gives me heck when I'm at my desk working and have my calls forwarded!” 

Some solutions to counteract this problem are to consider one or more of the following:

  • create an artificial barrier to give the message i.e. rearrange your desk so you back is to the traffic, buy a plant or vase that blocks your view, move   desk accessories or other objects to create a low wall
  • send an email around to “the team” letting them know you are under deadline and need to have uninterrupted time
  • ask your supervisor if you can work in the board room or other secluded spot while working on a deadline 

If someone approaches your desk and wants to interrupt your work, try one of the following approaches:

  • I’m sorry, but if this isn’t urgent, can you email me?
  • I am swimming with the sharks today – can this wait?
  • Sorry – no time to talk – lets do lunch next week.
  • I would love to talk more about your project but I’d need to schedule the time to talk with you. Can we set an appointment for [state time and date or get out your datebook]

The key is reducing interruptions in a cubicle is to take a stay professional and get your point across with assertive, not aggressive communication style. Show your respect for their needs but also respect your deadlines by not allowing interruptions to side track your progress.

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