"If you think business and manners don’t mix, try talking with your mouth full.” - Diane Gottsman, Modern Manners & Etiquette Expert, Author, Media Resource

Courtesy in Office Cubicles

June 16th, 2017 by

Dear Diane,

I work in tight quarters and am looking for some ideas on how to maintain a productive work environment. I am an arm’s length away from my coworkers at any given time. There is no privacy and I hear them talk and carry on about things I am not interested in as an office new comer. What’s the proper etiquette here?

Thanks in advance for your help.

Jerrie S.


Cubicle Office Etiquette

Hello Jerrie,

Many companies use a mix of private offices, cubicles, and open work areas when they set up space for their employees to do their job. While working in close quarters can be a great way to collaborate with peers, it can also pose problems when you have inconsiderate neighbors.

Here are some rules for keeping the peace in small work environments:

Silence Your Phone

Common courtesy means you avoid unnecessary interruptions. The sound of a constantly ringing (or vibrating) cell can be distracting. If you must rely on your phone during the work day, place it on a soft area which will prevent it from making a jolting noise every time you get an alert or call. The best option is to store it in your desk drawer and check it periodically if you are waiting for a call.

Keep Private Phone Calls To a Minimum

If your best friend calls to discuss a personal matter, take a break and retreat to a quiet place. Your neighbors should not hear confidential information, gossip or be privy to someone else’s conversation. Let your friends and family know you are only taking emergency calls during the work day. Catch up during your lunch break or after office hours.

Only One Ear Bud

Listening to your favorite music may be a productive way to focus and drown out the office static, but you may also miss out on what’s going on around you. A boss may need your attention, a coworker may have a question and you might be the only one left in the building if there is a fire alarm. Remain alert by allowing some background noise to filter through by only inserting one earbud in your ear.

Keep Your Voice Down

Use a speaker phone with caution. Talk in a normal voice and if the person on the other end is having difficulty hearing you, pick up the phone on a land line or speak directly into your cell. No need to SHOUT. It’s best to choose a location that is conducive to having a business conversation without interference or background noise.

Ban Smelly and Crunchy Snacks

An apple a day might drive your neighbor nuts! Crunching and slurping are enough to send your fellow employees over the edge. Leftover salmon is another cubicle offender. Step away from your computer and go out for lunch.

Keep the Clicking Down

Long nails and keyboards can make an annoying, clicking noise. You may not notice the tapping sound but your coworkers certainly do. For the sake of office harmony, consider a manicure and a nail trim.

Have Fun

Socializing is part of building a strong team, especially when working in a cramped space. Make a point of getting to know the people you work with on a daily basis and conduct yourself in a manner others will learn to trust and emulate.

Best of luck,

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