I currently have an office. But at my last job, I worked in a hallway for one year (no kidding), and then in a cubicle for the next six years. So I definitely know what cubicle life is like. It can certainly be fun and interesting – with so many people around and so few walls, there’s always something going on! But it can also be hard to focus and get work done. So if you’re currently sitting in a cubicle, and you’re feeling a little distracted and frustrated, here are a few tips:

  • Add a few barriers.
    If you’re in a cubicle with low walls, you might be feeling a little exposed. That’s what my cubicle was like. The walls were so low that every time I looked up from my computer monitor, I found myself staring into the face of Todd, one of my coworkers. I liked Todd. He was (and still is) a great guy. But it was seriously distracting and disconcerting. So we stuck a big cork board between us, and it made all the difference! Barriers like cork boards, plants, and pictures can all be used to define your space and give you a little more privacy.
  • When something is really bugging you, talk about it.
    I don’t like confrontations. But when you’re working in close quarters with a bunch of people who may have different working styles, preferences, and personalities, conflicts can happen. Maybe your coworkers are constantly having long, loud conversations with other coworkers – or maybe they’re fond of smelly air fresheners. These things can really grate on you after a while. I think the worst thing to do is say nothing, and quietly seethe with anger. It’s much better to politely address the issue. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but my cubicle coworkers once had to address an issue with me. Apparently, I had a really loud phone voice. Whenever I got on the phone, I would start talking really loudly – as if the person on the other end of the line were halfway around the world and we had a terrible connection. I didn’t even realize I was doing it until my coworkers talked to me about it. I was happy that they brought it to my attention, and happy to change my ways!
  • Tell people when you need some time alone.
    It’s great to interact with coworkers. It’s fun to hear about the crazy things that someone did over the weekend, and it’s rewarding to help a coworker solve a problem. But sometimes, you just need a little time alone to focus on your work. And that can be difficult when you’re working in a cubicle with low walls and no door. So try this – the next time your coworkers pop into your cubicle when you’re trying to concentrate on your work, tell them that you’ll come by their office to talk as soon as you’ve finished the task that you’re working on. Don’t feel badly about telling people when you need a little time alone.