Having fish for lunch and other cubicle lessons


I’d worked almost exclusively from home for the past six years.  This, of course, had its pros and cons.  I loved the flexibility and control over my own schedule, and I got a ton done since I work really well in long stretches of uninterrupted silence.  I had a laptop and a work cell phone and could bundle my “office” down to a coffee shop or library when I felt like a change of venue would do me good. The downside to the arrangement was the absence of social interaction.  I’d sometimes catch myself having conversations with my cat, and would practically pounce on Scott when he’d come home at the end of the day, bursting with chatter.

So, when I learned that my new job would require me to report to an office every day, I was optimistic.  It’d be a breath of fresh air, I thought, to chat with people throughout the day in the name of collaborative productivity.

That sunny outlook lasted about a week.

Now, this is not to say that I won’t adapt (it’s already slowly getting better… I think).  But here are some initial observations:

I have no privacy.  I work in an open pod with three other people, and their conversations are my conversations, and vice versa.  In theory, I appreciate the concept of open communication, but in practice it’s quite messy. Also, my seat in the pod leaves my back open to the main walkway of the floor. Being vulnerable to anyone sneaking up on me popping in over my shoulder freaks me out.

Holy distractions, Batman. There are discussions you’re brought into, people stopping by with quick questions, ad hoc requests, tangent conversations you can’t get out of, yadda yadda.  Productivity suffers.  That being said, sometimes I have…

No choice but to get sh!t done. Even when I don’t feel like it. Even when I’d love to take a break to peek at US Weekly and see what the celebs are doing lately.  Instead, I have to just hunker down and do my work because my back is open to everyone on the floor and they can see my computer monitor. #GSD

Food choices matter.  We’ve all heard jokes about the office worker who brings tuna fish sandwiches for lunch and stinks up the place, but it really hit home for me when I recently opened up a take-away container of grilled salmon and suddenly felt self conscious about who might be offended by a whiff. This is a bummer for me, as I’m a voracious eater who delights particularly in things that happen to have an odor (fermented foods) or are sloshy and hard to eat gracefully (noodles in soup). Le sigh.  I miss lunchtime natto.

Always have gum or mints.  You never know when you’ll be several happy mouthfuls into lunch on a day when the cafeteria has gone heavy on the garlic and onion and the Big Boss swings by for a quick chat.

Any advice for improving my new little cubicle world?

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2 thoughts on “Having fish for lunch and other cubicle lessons

  1. Well… well… well. Welcome to cubicle-slummin’ it like the rest of us! You had me laughing! As an old cubicle pro [believe me, not something I’m proud of], these are all lessons learned the hard way. You make me want to write a follow-up post to this entitled “lessons learned”.

    Biggest piece of advice? Headphones are your best friend. You don’t even have to listen to music. The simple act of earbuds and the occasional head nod (like 2Pac circa 1995 just came on) and suddenly you’re like the only girl wearing a SARS mask at the airport. People avoid you like the plague. It’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.

    PS—I am so glad to learn that your cubicle indeed, does not really look like that (there is a LAMP for Pete’s sake!). I can’t even see my worksurface for the binders, carpet samples, cheese stick wrapper(?), and stacks of plates and forks that I don’t want to take back to the breakroom because it forces me to walk by one particular Chatty Cathy, of which I have to stop and listen to endless stories of the politics of her kids’ spring soccer league. Le sigh.


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