How do you cope in a cubicle area where people pass by every 10-15 mins
February 7, 2014 6:23 PM   Subscribe

How do you cope in a cubicle area where people pass by every 10-15 mins. For example, MOST cubicles in the office are along the wall (4 people per block). People walk in the middle isle and there isn't any disturbance. However, my cubicle is situated in the middle of nowhere. Basically, there is a wall in front & right side. However, the entire back & left side is open and people walk by every 10-15 mins. The problem is that my cubicle is near a door where people walk in/out then walk behind our cubicle and walk toward the kitchen or printer. I have nothing to hide. But, every time people walk by, I tend to look and see who walked by. Or sometimes I feel that there is no privacy at all. I'm not looking for a specific answer but would like to know how you cope in this situation or what did you do?
posted by Mountain28 to Work & Money (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
posted by Perplexity at 6:27 PM on February 7, 2014 [9 favorites]

I had a part-time job in a setup like this. I propped up a tiny pocket mirror next to my keyboard - I could see the person come and go and who it was by just flicking my eyes. The fact I could see what was going on made it easier to tune out the noise and air movement of people walking behind me.
posted by variella at 6:27 PM on February 7, 2014 [7 favorites]

But, every time people walk by, I tend to look and see who walked by.

This is weird, but I've memorized what different people sound like when they walk. Bill takes really loud, quick steps. Benny shuffles slowly. Marty always taps his ring against the metal cornerpiece of the adjacent cube. So, I no longer need to look around to see who is walking by - I already know.

Headphones don't work very well for me, but I know many others have had great success. Honestly, for me the best thing has been practice - the longer I've worked in my current job, the less I've cared about the "distractions" going on around me.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 6:29 PM on February 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

A mirror is a good idea. You could also try to rearrange your monitor and chair so that you're sitting at a different angle, perhaps with the cubicle "door" at your side rather than your back. When I worked in a very open environment (for a short time! nothing's as good as an "open office" to increase staff turnover!) I used earplugs and headphones.
posted by sonic meat machine at 6:30 PM on February 7, 2014

Can you arrange your desk so it faces out? When I worked in cubes, I always found having people behind me really distracting, but when they were in front of me, I could sort of glance up, see who it was and move on with what I was doing without really breaking my concentration. Even when it really made no sense at all in my cubicle configuration, I always had my desk set up so I looked out, not in.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:32 PM on February 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm not looking for a specific answer but would like to know how you cope in this situation or what did you do?

In all honesty - I got a different job.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:40 PM on February 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

I worked in an office with an open floor plan where I sat in the middle and everyone on one side of my office could conceivably see my screen. I eventually got one of those M3 privacy filters for my screen so I didn't have to worry about anyone seeing me on Twitter or, ahem, watching the Olympics. Then from an angle no one can really see your screen very well and they'd need to be directly in front of it. Gave me more peace of mind.

The mirror idea isn't bad -- then maybe you won't feel like people can sneak up on you.

You could also move the desk so you face the door. I worked with someone who's back was to a doorway and he hated the idea of people walking through it and seeing his screen so he just repositioned his desk.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:25 PM on February 7, 2014

I deliberately placed my desk and computer screen so that people who pass it are walking parallel to me, rather than towards me or behind my back.

I can still see them. I've resigned myself to the fact that I will probably look up, startled like a caged hamster, at least 10 times per day. If my coworkers think I'm weird, so what.
posted by Sara C. at 8:08 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nth-ing the mirror. Thinkgeek sells one. I used a little automotive side-mirror stick on when my back was open. It was kind of wide-angle and worked great.
posted by tayknight at 8:15 PM on February 7, 2014

A colleague's less-conspicuous alternative to a mirror is a pair of mirrored sunglasses on top of your monitor (though maybe that's not possible with flat screens).
I'm in a cubicle with people passing but our walls are semi-open-plan four feet high, which makes it easier to see people so much easier to relax. Even so, I align my monitor so it's not visible to passers-by.
posted by anadem at 8:23 PM on February 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Jamie Zawinski, one of the founders of Netscape, put up a "Tent of Doom", about five hundred square feet of camouflage netting.
posted by Sophont at 9:00 PM on February 7, 2014

Turn outward, headphones, and get used to it.
posted by davejay at 9:28 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah you have to move your desk so that you are either facing the opening or (better) sitting alongside it, with your monitor angled away from the opening.
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:56 PM on February 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

At my last job there was a person who had been moved to a cubicle a lot like yours. She got permission to use a shoji screen, like this one.
posted by cartoonella at 2:29 AM on February 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you can rearrange so that you are facing the traffic, do that. I'm in that situation and can cope, along with headphones for the times that are particularly noisy (my desk is opposite the entrance to the kitchen/tearoom so is particularly high traffic). In another job, I used a screen like cartoonella mentions, but that was a bit more open-plan and less cubicle-y. It did help though.
posted by Athanassiel at 3:51 AM on February 8, 2014

When I had a cube that was in a high traffic zone, I tried a shoji screen. It didn't look heinous and cut off people in my peripheral vision.
posted by plinth at 4:05 AM on February 8, 2014

I worked for a time at a completely exposed desk with my back to the boss's door. And a rather fierce boss at that. I kept my ears open, and did my best to monitor what was going on around me.
posted by SemiSalt at 6:24 AM on February 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

I quit
posted by lpcxa0 at 7:30 AM on February 8, 2014

Seconding the mirror, so at least you get advance warning of people approaching. Look for "blind spot mirrors" -- they are pretty cheap.
posted by vickyverky at 10:58 AM on February 8, 2014

I worked in a very similar scenario. I found these helped:

- Curved mirror under my monitor to see what's behind me (the kind people get for cars)
- Put my monitor next to a filing cabinet to block people seeing it from the side
- Angled myself/monitor so I could see my cubicle opening at all times
- Headphones

These helped IF the work was engaging. Otherwise, distractions ahoy from everything around me. In the end, I got a new job.

You might want to bring the issue up with your boss to see if relocation is an option. I am overly sensitive to outside stimuli "intruding" on my thoughts, so you may need to change your environment instead of trying to cope with it.
posted by smaerty at 1:49 PM on February 8, 2014

When I worked in a big cube farm, I'd actually book a small meeting room for myself once in a while. (We scheduled them on MS Outlook as a resource, so if I named the meeting appropriately, it didn't flag any questions from anybody.) Usually the small ones without pc or projector would be free. Of course, we had a lot of meeting rooms.
posted by klarck at 10:47 AM on February 9, 2014

I used to sit in a cube with an open side that faced the kitchenette for the floor. Not only was I never alone, many people wanted to chat with me while they were waiting for coffee to brew or whatever they were microwaving. I will nth the previous suggestion of headphones as a great solution in this situation. If you get really big/colorful ones, you're less likely to be interrupted than if you wear little earbuds people don't notice right away. If you listen to some favorite music or a podcast or audiobook you want to pay attention to, you're less likely to be distracted yourself.

I now sit at a desk where my back faces the opening. The first few days, it was very distracting and kind of unnerving, because I didn't know who was walking by, and if they were there for me or just moving past. My neighbors and I tried a few things, and the solution several of us ended up with is a mirror, about 12-18" square, propped against the wall we face. I got one from Target for less than $5.

In any open seating situation, I definitely recommend moving to a more private space for phone calls or important teleconferences. In my office, I usually reserve a conference room to call into important meetings (even if I'm the only person in the room), and we also have little "phone booth" cubicles that are available for making private calls. Not only for your own privacy, but so you don't bother the people sitting in open seating with you.
posted by LolaGeek at 11:12 AM on February 9, 2014

Nthing variella - I went from a completely private single person office to a wide open cube where both of my monitors are clearly visible to the entire world! The mirror helped me be less paranoid. There is no other way for me to set up my computer/monitors due to the way the cube is set up.

Headphones (noise canceling) and the mirror helped me out a lot.
posted by getawaysticks at 6:16 AM on February 10, 2014

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