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Working in a Cubicle and Other Survival Tips

Updated on October 9, 2014
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Office versus Cube

I started out my career in a cubicle. I figured it was a right of passage, so I sat there for eight years whispering on my personal phone calls, listening to people clip their nails, smelling random horrible smells, hearing people eat, and learning all about my coworkers private lives, about which I didn't care. At all.

Next step. A shared office. This was good. It was great. Sort of. Our desks faced each other, so anytime I looked anywhere besides my computer screen I made this weird eye contact with my office mate. But, I got through it. It was relatively private and people free. I actually got a lot of work done in those years, which goes against everything I believe in. I'm kidding. Kinda.

Ten years after the cubicle travesty, I finally got my own office! I was even promoted to office manager! Life was SO good! Did I mention I had a door? And a window? I never wanted to leave my office. Oh, and my computer faced away from the door so I didn't have to worry about quickly closing out of Facebook or Pinterest or whatever it was I shouldn't have been looking at during work hours.

Then, it all fell apart. The office closed and I was laid off. Luckily, I found another job fairly quickly, but guess what? Now, I was not only back in a cubicle, I was in a lone cubicle in the middle of a big media room. I can't begin to describe the horror of it. The sound of the copy machine and printer literally jolt me out any attempt to escape into my happy place. People are constantly walking by, which means I can barely squeeze in daily status updates or view new recipes. And the noise? What did you say? All because of a cubicle.

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Surviving, Barely

So, I'm in a cubicle for the next however many years. Let's just say forever. I have to figure out a way to make it through each day without having my soul sucked out of my body and replaced with a pin cushion wall and a stack of files that cover every available surface of my laminate topped desk. How can I make this existence tolerable? What can I do? If you've been banished to a cubicle for the rest of your immediate future, follow these steps to keep your soul intact and your outlook on life relatively positive.

1. Accept your fate. Much like admitting you have a problem, so to is admitting that the majority of your life is going to be spent in a cubicle.

2. Look at your three walls as you would a blank canvas. Imagine them covered in phone extension lists, family photos, euthanasia pamphlets, calendars, and random name tags from various conferences and mixers.

3. Try to arrange your computer monitor in such a way that you have time to close out of any inappropriate windows before someone sees that you're not really working. If this isn't possible, plan to have those windows as small as possible so they are easily covered by that spreadsheet you leave open, just in case.

4. Invest in ear buds, but only use one. This way, you can listen to your favorite music while still being able to hear someone come up behind you. Thus, having the ability to close those windows as quickly as possible.

5. Finally, prepare yourself to hear strange and irritating noises throughout the day, and come up with ways to retaliate. Clip your nails frequently. Warm up that kale casserole and eat at your desk. Laugh like everything is funny. Dance because you've finally lost your mind. Sing at random times and in a voice just scary enough to put the fear of God into your coworkers.

If for some reason, these tips don't work for you, just blame it on the cubicle. You might think that's taking the easy way out, but after spending half of my life in one, I've come to realize that the cubicle should be blamed for everything! Including this post!

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