Back to the office door! Paranoid! Help?
January 6, 2006 12:21 PM   Subscribe

I've moved to a new office at work, and now my back is to the entrance to my desk area. The furniture/desk are permanent arranged and I cannot move to any other position. I'm paranoid! For those of you who've had the same situation, what have you done about it?
posted by UnclePlayground to Society & Culture (29 answers total)
Response by poster: permanentLY, sorry...
posted by UnclePlayground at 12:22 PM on January 6, 2006


also, permanent furniture often isn't. Tell you boss that you're uncomforable, and that it violates all sorts of Feng-shui mumbo jumbo (your turtle is exposed), he might give you permission to move it, or get you new ones.
posted by blue_beetle at 12:25 PM on January 6, 2006

You can get small adjustable rear-view mirrors for your monitor - worked for me!
posted by fish tick at 12:27 PM on January 6, 2006

Way too slow - sorry.
posted by fish tick at 12:28 PM on January 6, 2006

Would you have the room (and the permission, for that matter) to put up a decorative screen? This kind of thing, that is.
posted by Gator at 12:28 PM on January 6, 2006

Best answer: Also from ThinkGeek: Lazer Trip Wire, which may alert you to approaching people.
posted by unixrat at 12:29 PM on January 6, 2006

Response by poster: OK, clarification, then.
This is a brand new office with brand new furniture. Can't get more new than this, and the desk "platform" is attached to the walls. It's one of those modular systems.
And I'm not guilty-paranoid, but rather "is someone standing behind me waiting for me to address them cause they have a question for me" paranoid. Like, checking over my shoulder every few moments just to see if someone is there waiting on me.
posted by UnclePlayground at 12:29 PM on January 6, 2006

Response by poster: Gator: that screen, um... is a bit small, isn't it?

Size: 17" x 10 3/4"
posted by UnclePlayground at 12:33 PM on January 6, 2006

Yeah, I was searching in a hurry. But you know what I mean, those screens people get when they're living in a studio apartment?

There's also more business-y solutions at places like Staples. if you go to and check out their "panel systems," you can pick up a basic cubicle wall and set it up behind you, I suppose.
posted by Gator at 12:37 PM on January 6, 2006

UnclePlayground, this may sound odd at the moment, but you'll probably get used to it after a while. I've had a couple of desk situations that put my back to people and it made me paranoid and plain annoyed for a while, but then it stopped bothering me.

You'll also develop a sort of 6th sense when people are behind you without having to look.
posted by shoepal at 12:41 PM on January 6, 2006

My C.H.I.M.P rocks:
posted by joshgray at 12:45 PM on January 6, 2006

Get a bike helmet mirror, break off all but the little round mirror and stick it to the corner of your monitor. Just enough to see that someone is walking up behind you but not really noticeable.

If you're concerned that people will assume you have something to hide because you have a mirror on your monitor, just print out some bullshit motivational slogan that has some sort of mirror pun ("reflect on life" or some silly thing like that") to stick onto a mirror to make it look like someone gave it to you at a church pot luck and you think it's inspirational/groovy/ironic and that is why you have it on your monitor, not because you want time to alt-tab your furry websites.
posted by bondcliff at 12:46 PM on January 6, 2006

What they need to do is make a USB version of that laser trip wire that automatically alt-tabs (or hides pre-set applications) when it's tripped.
posted by bondcliff at 12:48 PM on January 6, 2006 [1 favorite]

Which would be very humorous if you'd just Alt-tabbed back to that spreadsheet, and the laser trip reopened the game or whatever you wanted to hide.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:56 PM on January 6, 2006

I have my back to the room as well, and it makes me nervous and jumpy as hell. It's all kinds of wrong to do this to employees, although I understand why they do it. I just hope they understand I'd be a lot calmer if people didn't keep scaring me by coming up right behind me every five minutes.

I have nothing but sympathy for you. I think the mirror is a right-on idea.
posted by agregoli at 1:23 PM on January 6, 2006

You have my sympathies. I don't like having my back to the door either. Sometimes people startle me, but a bigger problem is the interruption. If I am facing the entry, I can still note and acknowledge someones presence when they enter while still fininishing a thought I'm writing down. If they come in behind me, its harder to communicate without interrupting what I'm doing.
posted by Good Brain at 1:39 PM on January 6, 2006

I have a baby safety mirror from babys-r-us on top of my monitor (2"x3"). It is the kind that can clip onto a visor to look in on children in the backseat.
It is common/understood practice for mirrors in cubes at my work.
posted by sailormouth at 1:56 PM on January 6, 2006

Heh heh, we were just discussing my Computer Rear-View Mirror, which appears to be a C.H.I.M.P. in non-geek clothing. It's a little difficult to get it situated right, so you may be better off with more-mobile mirrors.

I've found that the hardest part was training myself to look in it rather than jerking my head around whenever someone walks behind my cube. A big plus is that the rounded mirror makes it so that onlookers have a hard time telling if I'm watching them in the mirror or not. It sort of turns the tables.
posted by breath at 3:54 PM on January 6, 2006

I picked up a set of self-stick automotive blind-spot mirrors in the car crap aisle at Walgreens for $2.49. They rotate on their base to adjust the angle of view.

They are a bit smaller and more discreet than the $10+s/h C.H.I.M.P.
posted by Tubes at 4:26 PM on January 6, 2006

The only problem with those CHIMP mirrors is they say "I'm a lazy slack-ass looking for every opportunity to goof off when you're not looking". At least they say that to me - and I am one - so I don't want my mirror narcing on me.

Better to put a bigger standard mirror on the wall of your office - at least that mirror won't have such an obvious purpose.
posted by Dag Maggot at 6:12 PM on January 6, 2006

Yeah I agree with Dag Maggot. Put a vanity mirror behind / above your monitor. for doin your hair. or something.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 7:26 PM on January 6, 2006

The whole point of those modular systems that attach to the walls is that they're modular, meaning they can be assembled, dissassembled, re-arranged, reassembled, and so on.

I too thought my furnature, attached to the walls was semi-permanent, and was at a place for a few months before someone showed me a collection of tools in a room and said "if you want to rearrange anything, use any of this stuff that you need too". It turned out that with a few screws undone, and a few tricks learned as to how the structural components attach and detach, it's like a lego set :)

Pretty much nothing in an office building is permanent - permance is the enemy of the office workplace. Things I always assumed to be load-bearing walls turned out to be put in for the company, and when they left, the walls were stripped out so the next company could create their own office layout. That involves tradesmen, but moving a desk that is attached to the wall should be something you can do on your own
posted by -harlequin- at 8:31 PM on January 6, 2006

I have this same problem.

You know those glare-reducing clip-on screens that fit over monitors?

I found out these also make excellent rear-views, without having to look away from your computer screen or put an obvious mirror anywhere.
posted by Meredith at 10:28 PM on January 6, 2006

I used to have a bunch of CDs hanging up in my cube, as a fly-eye-array of mirrors. It looked like hell, and they wanted me to take it down, but after a few times of me bellowing out (I'm LOUD!!!!) when someone scaring me (without meaning to), the CD mirrors were allowed again.
posted by notsnot at 12:06 AM on January 7, 2006

I found an inadvertent solution to the sudden shock of finding someone behind me (especially when listening to music via headphones)...

I had to get a second machine (a mac) for testing purposes, and I dug up an unused old 17" CRT monitor to to plug it into, so that was right next to my main screen. After an initial flurry of using it a lot - and messing around with Synergy which rocks - 90% of the time it was off and not being used. I discovered that the curvy screen of the old (switched off) 17" was reflective enough that i'd easily see if someone was standing behind me or approaching. Your mileage may vary depending on lighting etc... but I think it is a relatively inconspicuous solution. (or at least more subtle than laser trip wires and rear vision mirrors :P)
posted by bruceyeah at 5:06 AM on January 7, 2006

How about
posted by kyrie416 at 7:19 AM on January 7, 2006

Better to put a bigger standard mirror on the wall of your office - at least that mirror won't have such an obvious purpose.

Ha. The really stealthy approach is a framed family photo under glass. Positioned correctly, it can be as effective as a mirror -- and completely innocent of any other implication.

Of course, bruceyeah's approach could work in the same way.

Those little glass crystals that some states don't let you hang from rear-view mirrors are another. Depending on lighting, they can be pretty effective at highlighting movement, and they catch your eye.
posted by dhartung at 10:18 AM on January 7, 2006

Little glass crystals?
posted by adamwolf at 12:18 PM on January 7, 2006

If your main worry is inadvertently ignoring people, rather than them seeing something you don't want them to, a simple sign at your cubicle entrance saying "please knock" (assuming there's something to knock on) should do the trick.
posted by nevers at 6:15 AM on January 9, 2006

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