My cubicle is eating my soul
April 20, 2005 10:53 AM   Subscribe

What can you add to a cubicle to make it less cubicle-like?

I'm starting a new job in a couple of weeks; it'll be another cube farm, 9x9 cubes, with no windows or overhead lighting. My cubicle has been described as "cold and inhuman" by some of my closest friends, and I'm terribly unimaginitive. What have others done to make their cubicles less like cubicles?
posted by idlemind to Work & Money (29 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
i know people who have put beautiful fabric up on the walls. others just cover every surface with photos and comics and things. others have collections of things (on top of their monitors, or along the counter, like snowglobes or tiny animals, etc)....

it's still just a cube tho, no matter what you do to it, and some bosses don't like seeing shit all over. I'd wait and see what others do there and what company policy is before you put anything beyond a family/loved one's photo.
posted by amberglow at 11:02 AM on April 20, 2005

I've demanded a beaded curtain and a beanbag chair from my bosses, but they just look at me like I'm crazy. So I decorate the walls with neato postcards and things like that. I had printed out sheets of paper made up to look like prison bars, but my boss didn't like that.
posted by goatdog at 11:04 AM on April 20, 2005

Pictures, plants, lighting (incandescent is so much better than fluorescent).
posted by Doohickie at 11:10 AM on April 20, 2005

you need the rasterbator!
posted by andrew cooke at 11:12 AM on April 20, 2005

warm desklamps in instead of flourescent lighting
Lots of books with some bookends
maybe a small oriental rug

The best one I've seen in this regard was by someone who gave their cubicle a cozy library/study type feel.
posted by vacapinta at 11:12 AM on April 20, 2005

I third the suggestion of plants. They add bright color and improve the air quality, and they're perfectly professional. If you're as black-thumbed as I am, I'd recommend dracaena--it's beautiful, takes very litle care, and doesn't require sunlight. Just stick it in a vase and change the water every few weeks.
posted by equipoise at 11:19 AM on April 20, 2005 [1 favorite]

Plant life is good. I have a bonsai on my desk and it definitely livens up a bit. Bamboo needs little to no sunlight.
posted by knave at 11:23 AM on April 20, 2005

Have a look at Thinkgeek posters and other items.
posted by Heatwole at 11:26 AM on April 20, 2005

I was thinking of how effective it is in some bars/restaurants to add large mirrors which make the space seem bigger. Would this help?
posted by dfowler at 11:29 AM on April 20, 2005

I keep my Swingline stapler because it doesn't bind up as much, and I keep the staples for the Swingline stapler and it's not okay because if they take my stapler then I'll set the building on fire...
posted by slapshot57 at 11:30 AM on April 20, 2005 [1 favorite]

i don't have a cubicle, but an office, so i don't know if this helps, but, apart from a rasterbated picture of a naked babe fighting off cupid (in the best possible taste, of course), i made friends with the appropriate secretary and got a couple of comfortable chairs. they were kind of old sixties style, so i bought a retro desk lamp with an energy efficient but "warm" bulb. and i have a hifi with cool rubber speakers that follows the same design (lots of circles). that and a dark bookcase (again, kind of 70s style, with books and cds) and some pictures on the wall makes it pretty neat. people joke that all i need is a mirrorball...

i'd have plants, but am regularly not there for a month or so, and so i think they'd die. i'm considering getting some cacti thought (since cacti grow locally anyway this is pretty easy!).
posted by andrew cooke at 11:33 AM on April 20, 2005

I second the use of color, plants, and lighting, and will add that in order to keep the plants happy, you'll need a full-spectrum light bulb in your light fixtures. It'll be good for you, too.
posted by Specklet at 11:39 AM on April 20, 2005

is that correct? we just had a link on the blue where people grow lettuces under red LEDs.
posted by andrew cooke at 11:44 AM on April 20, 2005

Good point, andrew cooke. All I know is that under nothing but fluorescent lighting, office plants start looking horribly anemic.

Fluorescent lights emit all kinds of nasty things like radiation and radio waves, and have been linked to hyperactivity, fatigue, and depression. (See Is This Your Child's World for information about how hyperactivity in a classroom decreased by 33% when full-spectrum lighting replaced fluorescent. Also, Germany banned fluorescent lighting years ago in schools and hospitals.)
posted by Specklet at 12:05 PM on April 20, 2005

I always liked what Jamie Zawinski did with his space.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 12:38 PM on April 20, 2005

In my corner of the cube farm, we've unscrewed the flourescent lights in the ceiling (the room is rather large and the folks in the front prefer these lights) and just use desk lamps. Much nicer.

I have tons of photos and several action figures. But my biggest improvement is my food stash - nuts and other healthy snack food in little see-through plastic cannisters. Makes me very popular.
posted by Sangre Azul at 12:39 PM on April 20, 2005

I've seen persian-type rugs on the floor and cozy things wrapped over the chair make a place seem much "warmer."
posted by callmejay at 12:45 PM on April 20, 2005

My cubemates and I are currently on the prowl for an appropriately sized rug to cover the rather drab carpeting and bring some color in. That being said, the rug isn't here so I can't confidently say whether it will help or not...our current idea though.
posted by Yukon at 12:45 PM on April 20, 2005

one thing i've wondered about getting is a fridge for drinks. you can get little cubic fridges, but they're quite pricey and might be noisy.
the idea of finishing work with an ice cold g+t has something to recommend it.

on a related note - a coffee machine is also good. i am about to inherit one (espresso machine), after careful political manouvering. but again, they're noisy and smelly.
posted by andrew cooke at 12:47 PM on April 20, 2005

Fluorescent lights emit all kinds of nasty things like radiation

Uh, specklet, visible light is "radiation." So even your full-spectrum lighting is going to emit plenty of it.
posted by grouse at 12:53 PM on April 20, 2005

There are also cute carpet-flavored mousepads if you are going to go with the library theme.

I like the idea of having a theme, myself. Depending on your style, a Cubicle of Doom or of Mardi Gras or of Spiders or whatever would be a fun variation from the standard tons of pictures and cartoons cubicle arrangement.
posted by lorrer at 12:55 PM on April 20, 2005

things I have done to humanize past workspaces:
- disable the overhead fluorescent light (get up on a chair and rotate the bulb just enough to disable it, but not enough that it falls out of the fixture)
- strew lots of small incandescent lights about (I got a bunch of lamps from Ikea for something like $10 each and put full-spectrum bulbs in them)
- bring in potted plants, definitely: I recommend English ivy, dracaena, and cactus
- install one of those little bubbly fountain things (this was cute but temperamental)
- pin a big piece of interesting fabric to the cube wall; I had a warm golden sun/moon/stars print
- toss a heap of pillows in a corner
- install a little electric teapot or coffee pot
- keep a water jug with a spigot around to help water the plants and fill the tea or coffee pot
posted by Mars Saxman at 1:23 PM on April 20, 2005

Back at one of my old jobs, I wallpapered the cube with every clipping and photo I had, added a Hot Wheels track with two loops and a jump along the top of one side of the cubicle and put a small bookshelf at one end of my L shaped desk to further encapsulate myself. I kept asking my boss for permission to install a door, but she always looked at me strangely. Once she tried to deflect me by saying "But to mount a door, you'd need a roof..." The gleam in my manic eyes made her back away slowly...
posted by Moondoggie at 1:58 PM on April 20, 2005

I think you should embrace the cubicle lifestyle by getting this.
posted by jeanmari at 2:25 PM on April 20, 2005

On the same tip as putting up fabric on the walls, the woman across from me used ribbon and put a pattern on one wall, and what looks like a window on another partition. Looks quite nice.
posted by furtive at 2:56 PM on April 20, 2005

Tent Of Doom.
posted by autojack at 4:03 PM on April 20, 2005

Slot car track! Yeah baby!
posted by fixedgear at 4:05 PM on April 20, 2005

A fishtank. I loved my lil' tiger barb. Sniff.
posted by Loser at 6:37 PM on April 20, 2005

A door.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:08 PM on April 20, 2005

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