Etiquette For Open Space Offices

Kristin Arnold More and more organizations are moving toward open office spaces designed to foster communication and teamwork. Rather than hide behind closed doors, each person has a cubicle or “pod” to do individual work and several areas or rooms to gather as a team.

Conceptually, open space design sounds great. Unfortunately, many don’t understand nor appreciate these neighborly rules of behavior:

Leave Me Alone. When you see anyone in a “Dilbert Pod,” assume the person is intently working. When they want to commune with their team mates, they will get up and move to a communal area.

Imagine a Door. If you must interrupt, knock on the partition before entering the cube space. Consider each pod has a “door” that deserves the same courtesy as an enclosed office. (The TV character, Les Nessman on WKRP in Cncinnati would be proud!)

Back Up. Sit with your back facing the entrance to your cubicle to minimize distractions and discourage people entering your space.

Post a Sign. When intently working, post a “do not disturb” sign on the outside of your cubicle or try draping a velvet rope across the entrance. You can also use foam Protoblocs™ to signal your readiness for visitors.

Talk Quietly. Even though you may have a loud voice, that doesn’t give you the right to have loud conversations, use the speakerphone or shout across the bay.

Move It. When having a mini-meeting of just a few people crammed into your pod, move to a real meeting room. Team conversations are naturally louder than normal and will distract others around you.

Be Discreet. You’re fooling yourself if you think your personal business will not be overheard by others. If you must conduct personal business on company time, take a walk and make personal calls from your cell phone.

Popcorn, Anyone? Unless you are willing to share (or suffer the consequences), keep your popcorn, aromatic leftovers, perfume overdoses and other smellies at home.

Clean Up. When done using the common areas, throw out the trash, push in the chairs and make the space as clean as when you arrived.

Check It. Periodically, review these rules of cubicle behavior. Provide an avenue to bring up any irritants, express grievances and improve the overall environment.

By following these ground rules, you can work comfortably, enjoy open communication and enhance your team’s work.

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