Sensory Etiquette at Work
Cube farms are increasingly popular workspaces. Without a traditional door to give you privacy, office cubicles are now open to visual scrutiny by all at all times. As you walk down cube lane, discreetly peeking in your teammates' work world, you form impressions of them and their work habits, based on the sights you see inside their cubes. With walls shorter than the average person, your neighbor's sounds and smells may subtly find their way into your work space and distract you. While we all recognize that at times these annoyances may test our patience and disturb workplace harmony, it is a fact that they may even hinder our productivity.
To be an active contributor to a respectful workplace environment, your awareness of the potential sensory annoyances that you may be sending out is key. Here are 15 Cubicle Courtesies that will be sure to get you the 'Respectful Cube Dweller' award.
Decorate and upkeep your office as your company's C.E.O. would while expecting number one client.
1. Choose your screen saver wisely. Does it represent the professional image you wish to broadcast and is it in line with your employer's values?
2. Limit your personal objects to your most recent diploma, a photo, a mirror, a plant and one significant 'knick knack'. Objects should not contain offensive messages.
3. Add a hook behind your door for a coat and a cardigan or wrap for colder days.
4. Do not display your shoe collection at the office. It is distracting and could even be unsafe.
5. At the end of your day, leave an organised workspace. Should you unexpectedly be absent tomorrow, your space will send out the right message.
Avoid listening in. Be aware of your outbound sounds and that you are being listened to.
1. Use appropriate tone and words.
2. Don't leave your cell phone on vibrate on your desk. It does make noise.
3. Make personal calls at break time in a private space.
4. Minimise natural and nervous sounds, like the clicking of a pen. They may relieve or distract you but they can distract your neighbors.
5. Instead of being a 'jack in the box' (talking above the cube wall) visit and call your neighbors or send them an email or text.
Control your odours, even the natural ones.
1. Avoid eating in the cubicle, especially hot foods. Cooked aromas travel fast.
2. Discard food items and snacks in eating areas. Even after you have left your office their smells will linger.
3. Be careful with perfume, air fresheners and pot pourri. If you must mask an odor, prefer air neutralisers.
4. Freshen up in designated areas; the washroom or the gym.
5. Keep your shoes on your feet.
Just as you would knock before entering when there is an office door, check to make sure that your colleague is available for your visit. To inform colleagues of your visiting hours, make and post on your wall, a reversible sign (similar to the ones used in hotels) to signal 'Do not disturb' or 'Please come in'. Flip it as your day evolves.