If you work in an open plan office and your work area is a cubicle you can converse with your colleagues, share ideas and talk about your weekend with ease.
What about when it’s time to focus on your work?   It’s no problem if everyone around you is relatively quiet however you will probably be able to overhear your neighbour and colleague closing an important deal, having a disagreement with his wife or organizing plans for the weekend.  If this happens on a regular basis it can lead to a great deal of stress and resentment in the workplace.
How do you survive life in this goldfish bowl?  Here are a few suggestions for survival:
·      Do not use the speaker phone – the person next to you may not only be distracted by your voice but the party you are speaking to as well.
·      Speak softly – your voice projects.  A loud voice is distracting and makes it difficult for your neighbour to concentrate.
·      Confidential matters – do not discuss confidential matters in your work area.  Cubicles offer little privacy.   If you need to discuss confidential issues on the phone, find a phone you can use in a private office or closed meeting room.
·      Personal calls – keep these to your lunchtime or other breaks.  Your private life is your own, don’t inflict it on others.
·      Going to lunch?  Take your mobile phone with you – there is nothing more annoying than hearing a phone ring and ring without being answered.  It’s your responsibility, don’t leave it behind.
·      Turn on your answering machine – if you have a direct landline, ensure your voicemail is activated so others don’t have to field your calls while you are away.
·      Do not interrupt – if someone is on the phone, wait until they finish their call rather than using sign language to attract their attention when they are trying to concentrate on the person at the end of their call.
·      Use the conference room for meetings – in an open plan arrangement space is at a premium so meet your clients in a conference room and not at your desk.  Your neighbour should have the privacy to conduct business without worrying about a non-employee listening in on what they have to say.
·      Respect the space of others – the cubicle next door is your colleague’s office space so respect it.  If your colleague is busy, treat it like they are in a closed-door office.  Do not interrupt them until they give a signal that they may be willing to talk.
·      Confidentiality – if you happen to overhear private conversations, don’t repeat what you heard to others.  It’s a matter of integrity and respect.
·      First impressions – recognize that your cubicle gives your colleagues and people around you and impression of the person you are.  What image does your work area project?
With a little respect and thoughtfulness open plan environments can work very well.  How do you survive in an open plan environment?

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