From Classroom to Cubicle
I swore to my mother I’d never ever work in a cubicle. I’d never become an “office bitch”. Well, you know what they say… never say never.
Alas, here I am… in rural Wisconsin working for a corporation inside a 5 X 10 cubicle staring at a computer screen for the better part of 8 hours. And you know what? It’s not that bad. And I’ve realized being an “office bitch” is a choice, not an eventuality.
It took me nearly a year to adjust to the change. I went from a varied, inconsistent schedule, tons of talking, walking, and face time with humans to a set 8 hour schedule five days a week, lots of time on my own, and more than 6 hours of face time with a screen. After adjusting, however, I’ve been able to start incorporating the things I really missed about my prior lifestyle and have began truly relishing the perks. These five things make cubicle life exorbitantly more bearable:
Make Friends with your Coworkers
I’m not saving the best for last on this one. When I first began this job, I kept to myself for the most part. I was getting to know the position, beginning to understand the limits of the space, the relationships swirling around me, and establishing an organization method and workflow. I was in a cubicle in a high traffic area, so exposure to coworkers was forced and constant. It was also slightly removed from the “core” department pod. I thought I was O.K. with this– I was not. As time went on I realized (with the help of my brilliant mother) that this excess “alone time” and stress of unwanted presence over my shoulder was a huge source of anxiety for me. Luckily, when a coworker retired I was able to make a change to a cubicle that allowed me to determine my own face time and actually included me in the department pod. Since that switch, I’ve been able to build on my relationships with my coworkers at my own pace, in my own way. I consider myself lucky to work with a team of cool, interesting humans that I genuinely enjoy being around. But even if you find yourself in a situation where you don’t take particularly well to people in your pod or your department, even just finding one human to befriend makes a world of a difference. After all, attending work is only different from attending school because of the formal pretenses that hover over an office space. It’s all bologna. Break through that and open up to
your coworkers a bit– learn about their lives, become invested and soon that unbearable small talk becomes profound, worthy conversation. And Wall-ah! even those weekly conversations about your weekend plans gives you some relief during an otherwise mundane day.
Get up and MOVE
There are enough studies to prove that sitting for 40 hours a week causes illness and shortened life expectancy. I think that much science calls for stand-up desks to become a standard design in offices throughout the country. I knew myself well enough that I would have gone insane within a week had I been forced into sitting ALL DAY– absolutely not. So, it was one of the first things I requested when I was hired. In a 40 hour week, I’d say I spend probably half of it standing, able to move, stretch my legs and even dance some. Aside from that, when I need to use the restroom, rather than go straight to the bathroom I force myself to extend the trip down the hall, or up the stairs and do a loop. If this is going to get you in trouble at your work– to be blunt– F that place. You should be permitted to take reasonable body and brain breaks throughout the day. (There’s also enough studies out there that explain how this leads to increases in productivity and happiness. It’s a no-brainer. While I’m at my desk, I’ll do a few different exercises: squats, tricep dips, split lunges, isometric arms pulls (like the prayer one, where you put your palms together and push for like 30 seconds on, 30 seconds off) and some other ones. Kill two birds with one stone and do wall-sits while talking to coworkers! This makes the day go by faster, and it just makes you feel better overall. Try it.
Go outside whenever you have the chance: Vitamin D is Key
I’m a sun child. I need it. I think everyone who lives in the North suffers from (or far South depending on the hemisphere) some degree of seasonable depression. Being inside all day during beautiful summer days is ROUGH. There’s no denying it. We’re all like dogs, salivating for that clock to strike so we can run outside and enjoy the weather. In the winter, it’s even more brutal as the majority of people enter work when its dark and leave when its dark. This is when you need to combine moving with moving outside. On your lunch break– take a lunch break, man– go outside and sit in the sun. In the winter, go outside even for 5 minutes if the sun is out. Take advantage of every moment you can. The only thing that kept me alive this winter was my schedule. I start at 7 and finish at 3:30– so it’d be dark when I went into work, but I’d get one last sliver of that warmer afternoon sun beaming through my window on the commute home. If you’re lucky enough to be able to move around your office area, take your laptop outside and work, even for 20 minutes. (I realize this might not be feasible or desirable for some people depending on their locations, but at your discretion, of course).
Listen to music, podcasts, Ted Talks, radio… anything!
This seems pretty obvious, right? Music, at least. Some days, however, I become really restless and bored with the daily routine. For whatever reason I just don’t want to listen… so then what? To satiate my desire to learn and keep discovering new things, I listen to NPR, TED Talks and some random podcasts that have been suggested to me. So far, I haven’t been loyal to one in particular except maybe Hidden Brain, This American Life or Radio Lab. If you’re trying to maintain a language like me, I highly suggest tuning into radio.garden— on here you can gain access to local radio stations around the world. I listen to the ones in Badajoz, Spain quite often. There was a stretch of time I got lost in the vortex of Tiny Desk Concerts which was a lot of fun– I discovered some really excellent bands on there. Guys, the point is: the internet is your oyster. Use it wisely.
Capitalize on your schedule
Use the time you have efficiently. Organize. Get your work done and then do a little extra. Then have time to work on professional and personal development. What do I mean? Read articles related to your field. I follow a bunch of marketing groups on Linkedin and receive a lot of articles that are interesting and relevant to my job. These give me ideas, fuel, and inspiration. Even if you don’t think you have time to do things like this, I guarantee you could if you get yourself organized and prioritize your work appropriately. Of course there will be days in which you’re a complete space case– it happens to the best of us. Just make sure it’s not the majority of the time. Overall, doing this makes me a way happier and grateful worker… at the end of the day, it’s up to me and my own organization to be able to capitalize on this.
Originally I had these sort of ordered in my head thinking, if some people incorporate this one, or this one they’ll be better off, but after writing them all out I’m realizing a balance of all of them is truly what makes cubicle work bearable. I hope you’ve come to the same conclusion after reading this; and well, if you didn’t, I hope you do while trying to employ these. I hope this eases your angst, your restlessness and improves your quality of life in at least some small way!
Thanks for reading! Do you already do some of these things? Do you agree or disagree with what I’ve suggested? What kinds of things do you do to make Cubicle Life more bearable? Share in the comments below!