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#289587 - 09/11/2006 14:35 Extending short cubicle walls
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
In a few months, my office is moving and our CEO has declared that we will have short cubicles, like 4' tall. Absolutely no one is happy about this. In addition, our CEO works on the other side of the country. So I had the idea of extending the walls in some way.

My first thought was to get some acoustic panels and attach them to the existing walls in some way, but I can't come up with a good way to do that. Maybe a couple of H-shaped brackets that could sit over the existing walls and into which the panels would sit. But I can't figure out how to construct such a bracket. Wood seems like it would be too thick, and I don't have have any steel fabricating experience.

Another thought would be to attach them with magnets. They'd probably stay up until someone leaned on them. Maybe if they were kept back a foot or two from the outside edge of the cubicle that wouldn't be a problem.

Does anyone else have any ideas?
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#289588 - 09/11/2006 14:45 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: wfaulk]
Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12157
Loc: Sterling, VA
I'm not sure if CEOs and managers realize that workers don't like this whole "common work area" idea. I have a friend who basically has no walls, and says it's extremely distracting and lowers productivity.

That said, if we knew what type of material the walls were made of, it would probably help narrow down the options.

So nobody in your office is going to be upset about you doing this?
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Matt

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#289589 - 09/11/2006 15:13 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: Dignan]
furtive
old hand

Registered: 14/08/2001
Posts: 886
Loc: London, UK
You sound like a right bunch of Dilberts.
Ever thought about communicating with those around you from time to time?

Open plan offices with low partitions and no cubicles makes for a much more pleasant working environment IMHO
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#289590 - 09/11/2006 15:23 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: furtive]
JBjorgen
carpal tunnel

Registered: 19/01/2002
Posts: 3538
Loc: Columbus, OH
Quote:
Open plan offices with low partitions and no cubicles makes for a much more pleasant working environment IMHO


Sounds like a pointy hair type to me.
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~ John

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#289591 - 09/11/2006 16:36 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: furtive]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
Quote:
Open plan offices with low partitions and no cubicles makes for a much more pleasant working environment IMHO

Yeah, because the inability to walk to someone else's cubicle instead of yelling over walls, distracting everyone in the office, overrides my desire to keep my personal business private.
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Bitt Faulk

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#289592 - 09/11/2006 16:44 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: Dignan]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
Quote:
That said, if we knew what type of material the walls were made of, it would probably help narrow down the options.

I'm not sure. The new cubicles have not arrived yet. We're still in the process of building the new facility. That said, the existing facilities apparently look like the attached photo.

Quote:
So nobody in your office is going to be upset about you doing this?

I think that they're likely to copy me. If there is a complaint, I'll take it down, but I don't think there will be.


Attachments
290313-Sea_of_cubes.jpg (3636 downloads)

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#289593 - 09/11/2006 17:19 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: wfaulk]
Dignan
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/03/2000
Posts: 12157
Loc: Sterling, VA
Quote:
Quote:
That said, if we knew what type of material the walls were made of, it would probably help narrow down the options.

I'm not sure. The new cubicles have not arrived yet. We're still in the process of building the new facility. That said, the existing facilities apparently look like the attached photo.

Honestly, what's the point with that setup? You still have to stand up to talk to the person next to you, and you'll be able to see/hear just enough of your neighbor so that he/she can annoy the hell out of you. And on the flip side, it's probably just enough to make your average annoying coworker feel like they're free to do all those annoying things.

Quote:
Quote:
So nobody in your office is going to be upset about you doing this?

I think that they're likely to copy me. If there is a complaint, I'll take it down, but I don't think there will be.

Hehe, actually, I was talking more about management types. I assume that if the CEO ever did a site inspection you would take down whatever solution you implemented, but do you have any managers in your office that would frown upon his? Or are they in the same boat?

Quote:
Open plan offices with low partitions and no cubicles makes for a much more pleasant working environment IMHO

I'm sorry, to disagree, but no. Perhaps you have that ideal work environment where everyone is respectful for each other, but that's not your average coworker. After having worked in a public space with only two other people, I never ever want to go back.
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Matt

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#289594 - 09/11/2006 17:30 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: furtive]
canuckInOR
carpal tunnel

Registered: 13/02/2002
Posts: 3162
Loc: Portland, OR
Quote:
You sound like a right bunch of Dilberts.
Ever thought about communicating with those around you from time to time?

Open plan offices with low partitions and no cubicles makes for a much more pleasant working environment IMHO

Good god, they're the worst working environment I've ever been in, except for the time I helped a guy dig a trench with a spade and a coffee can, because he didn't want to rent a trencher (he rented a trencher the next day).

When I want to communicate with those around me, I'll pick up the phone and call them, or get up and walk over to their office. Right now, there are three conversations going on around me, in different cubicles, at varying levels of volume, none of which I can ignore, and none of which have anything to do with me. This isn't normal -- usually there are more, but we're at a slow point right now, and half the people here are on vacation or were layed off. For the collaborative artist type folks here, it might be great, but as a software developer it sucks pretty hard.

I want an office, with a door, so that I can choose when to communicate, instead of having it forced on me unnecessarily.

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#289595 - 09/11/2006 22:54 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: wfaulk]
Anonymous
Unregistered


You could put a lamp shade over your head.


Throw in some ear plugs and you're all set!

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#289596 - 10/11/2006 00:14 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: wfaulk]
gbeer
carpal tunnel

Registered: 17/12/2000
Posts: 2665
Loc: Manteca, California
I'll see your twenty and raise you ten. My current digs have 6 foot partitions, except they are arranged in hexicles. Each cube seats 6. Room for a desk, a corner computer desk and a low open shelf unit. {long rant about the digs deleted}

This came about by it being tried on a few brown nosing ----ups who reported the arrangment to be marvelous, and so it became the new standard.
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#289597 - 10/11/2006 00:24 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: furtive]
andym
carpal tunnel

Registered: 17/01/2002
Posts: 3979
Loc: Manchester UK
Quote:
Open plan offices with low partitions and no cubicles makes for a much more pleasant working environment IMHO


Maybe it's a UK thing but i agree with you. In my current office I share a room with approx. 18-20 people and two Avid workstations. I've always worked better when there's noise and if I have to knuckle down and do anything that requires concentration then I stick my headphones on.

The only thing I want to do in a cubicle is take a dump!
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Andy M

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#289598 - 10/11/2006 00:51 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: andym]
msaeger
carpal tunnel

Registered: 23/09/2000
Posts: 3608
Loc: Minnetonka, MN
I don't work in an office so I could be wrong but I think I would prefer the more open environment to cubes. I prefer not being in an office over either option though
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Matt

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#289599 - 10/11/2006 08:28 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: andym]
peter
carpal tunnel

Registered: 13/07/2000
Posts: 4153
Loc: Cambridge, England
Quote:
Maybe it's a UK thing but i agree with you.

Yeah, I'm with you lot. The current Sigmatel Cambridge office is all open-plan, with tiny "partition-ettes" a foot or so high along the sides of the desks. It works really well, much better than the old semi-cubed Empeg Towers (or than Iota, where we all had our own offices). But I suspect it would work less well if we were more tightly spaced, there's plenty of sound-deadening ceiling and floor between each developer.

I also like the way that we don't have a culture of phoning people: we email if it's not urgent, and walk over to talk to someone if it is. Phones, being impersonal and disruptive, are the worst of both worlds.

Peter

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#289600 - 10/11/2006 10:09 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: wfaulk]
Phoenix42
veteran

Registered: 21/03/2002
Posts: 1392
Loc: MA but Irish born
WOW! That picture looks exactly like our new office across the street. Even the yellow mustard wall and the angled supports in the background are the same.
Clearly this all comes out of the same catalogue

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#289601 - 10/11/2006 11:28 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: andym]
Tim
veteran

Registered: 25/04/2000
Posts: 1488
Loc: Arizona
Quote:
Quote:
Open plan offices with low partitions and no cubicles makes for a much more pleasant working environment IMHO


Maybe it's a UK thing but i agree with you. In my current office I share a room with approx. 18-20 people and two Avid workstations. I've always worked better when there's noise and if I have to knuckle down and do anything that requires concentration then I stick my headphones on.

The only thing I want to do in a cubicle is take a dump!


In our old room, we rearranged it so that it was fairly open. Most people rearranged their desks and removed partitions so that our whole row had maybe one set of blocking furniture between them and the person next to them. In our new room, the first thing a coworker and I did was remove the partition between us and arrange the hutch parts of the desk so they didn't block us.

It seriously fosters communication between group members. It is a heck of a lot easier for the people around us (who aren't in our group) when we are able to talk without clogging up the aisles while standing around.

As for keeping personal business private, one of the things that is beat into us here is that you should have no expectancy of privacy on either the phones or the computers. Security can, and will, monitor any use of company equipment. They've fired more than a couple people for misuse of company property, but those were mostly 900 number type phone calls and visiting smut sites (which is just a really bad idea from work). If you work in a cubicle farm, the only way to expect your personal business to remain private is conduct it from home.

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#289602 - 10/11/2006 12:05 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: wfaulk]
Redrum
old hand

Registered: 17/01/2003
Posts: 994
Quote:
In a few months, my office is moving and our CEO has declared that we will have short cubicles, like 4' tall. Absolutely no one is happy about this. In addition, our CEO works on the other side of the country. So I had the idea of extending the walls in some way.



While I hate short cubs as well do you really think itís a good idea to defy the CEO like this? When he or an underling comes to visit you'll stick out like a sore thumb.

I don't agree with everything our CEO pushes but I don't place a flag on my cube saying so. I keep my mouth shut and do my job.

Get you manager to let you work from home. I do, nice big walls.

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#289603 - 10/11/2006 13:29 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: wfaulk]
Cybjorg
addict

Registered: 23/12/2002
Posts: 652
Loc: Winston Salem, NC
I've worked in a "bullpen" type of office before: 4 foot cubicles surrounding a common round table. At first it was extremely distracting, especially since some of the people in the room were loud talkers. It's amazing how fast you learn to tune the surrounding noise out, however.

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#289604 - 10/11/2006 16:33 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: Cybjorg]
tman
carpal tunnel

Registered: 24/12/2001
Posts: 5528
Loud talkers I can deal with. Its the people the hum or whistle without thinking that drive me nuts...

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#289605 - 10/11/2006 16:49 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: andym]
rob
carpal tunnel

Registered: 21/05/1999
Posts: 5328
Loc: Cambridge UK
I've set up three office environments in the last six years or so, each with pros and cons.

Empeg - originally totally open plan because we had no money and couldn't afford furniture! Later, cubes of a sort - 5'6" accoustic partitioning and too many people crammed into a small space. The former was perfect for a startup, the latter was really quite unsatisfactory. The partitioning added little real privacy, was a poor acoustic isolator, and detracted from the "group of guys all pulling together" vibe.

DNNA - a massive increase in space all on one level. Meeting and special rooms around the periphery then one large open development floor. No serious partioning, huge desks, a feeling of plenty of space. I didn't spend a lot of time working in that office (in fact I spent more time planning and creating it!) but while I was there I felt it was a partial success. The down side was a stilted atmosphere - everything was so open that rather than being too noisey the place was often deathly silent, a kind of a public library effect. I found it disconcerting at times, but perhaps it got better with more people. The second mistake, I think, was fitting the place out with Herman Miller everything, minutely trimmed and platted miniature trees, bloody expensive lighting and other stuff that made it feel like a classy solicitor's office more than an R&D centre. I got carried away with the sudden availability of money but it was the wrong vibe. One of my more pointy haired moments I have to confess. I know the Sigmatel folks tinkered a bit since I left, with lots more plants and so on and I'm really pleased to read Peter's positive comment as Andrew (the office manager) and I put a lot of effort into making it somewhere nice to work.

Akai Digital - I spent a lot of time reading pretentious workspace essays from over funded New York software bloggers (yes you know who) and pretty much convinced myself that we needed individual offices to a) attract the best staff and b) make eXtreme Programming work properly. As it was I had a hell of a job finding a suitable space, and when we eventually found Logic House (discovered by Mr Schofield after a Wrestlers one day) it didn't really lend itself to eleven separate offices plus the communal rooms. I compromised and instead we have two staff members to an office, each office being fairly large and partitioned down the middle with cupboards and acoustic panels. Because of XP everyone spends a lot of time in each others offices, so in fact it's not uncommon for each space to contain only the two people who are working collaboratively at that time. This seems to work out well in terms of minimising distraction, empowering collaborative working, and still giving everyone some degree of privacy when needed. The walls are all glass with integral blinds so the place feels spacious and open but you can shut yourself away if you need to browse some porn or something. Through architectural and budgetary necessity we seem to have stumbled on something that works really well and as far as I know everyone here is pretty comfortable with the environment. Oh, and no sculpted trees - although I do have several chilli plants growing in the staff room!

Whatever type of space you have I think the #1 most important thing is for staff to be able to customise it to their requirements and tastes. Some guys here have left their office totally stock, and at the other end of the scale there's Toby's space . So to respond to the original post, get those partition extentions up without delay and explain to your CEO how motivational you find them!

Rob

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#289606 - 10/11/2006 17:49 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: Redrum]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
Quote:
While I hate short cubs as well do you really think itís a good idea to defy the CEO like this? When he or an underling comes to visit you'll stick out like a sore thumb.

I don't agree with everything our CEO pushes but I don't place a flag on my cube saying so. I keep my mouth shut and do my job.

I have two mutually exclusive answers to this question.

One, yes. I'm sick of bigwigs telling me how I work the best, and I'm not afraid to say so.

Two, I don't intend the modification to be a permanent installation, so it should be able to be torn down at a moment's notice, and it's not like people that are 3000 miles away are going to drop in unannounced.
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Bitt Faulk

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#289607 - 10/11/2006 19:30 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: wfaulk]
tanstaafl.
carpal tunnel

Registered: 08/07/1999
Posts: 5403
Loc: Ajijic, Mexico
Does anyone else have any ideas?

Not any ideas, really, but just a description of my work environment, which sounds like it should be awful but actually works pretty well.

One room 23 x 46 feet, no partitions of any kind, 10 large desks in three rows, completely open environment.

What makes it work is that rarely are more than four or five desks occupied at once. Right now, I am the only person in the room. Since all of us have to informally interact just about all the time (Example: "Denise -- the copy for Budget Auto Sales has expired, do you want me to extend it?") it is much easier to just call across the room, rather than walk over or email or telephone. It is usually pretty quiet, so "calling across the room" is really just speaking in a conversational voice.

The nature of my work most of the time is intense but repetitive, pattern matching and watching for error dialog boxes (not enough separation between commercials for the same client, for example), requiring great alertness but very little cognitive power, making it an ideal situation to keep my earphones in just about all the time, usually listening to audiobooks.

Maybe it shouldn't work, but it does.

tanstaafl.
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#289608 - 10/11/2006 19:34 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: wfaulk]
Redrum
old hand

Registered: 17/01/2003
Posts: 994
Quote:

One, yes. I'm sick of bigwigs telling me how I work the best, and I'm not afraid to say so.



Increased productivity due to increase collaboration might be the reason, Or it might be so management can more easily see who is working and who is screwing off.

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#289609 - 10/11/2006 20:25 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: Redrum]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
I am the only IT guy in the office. Not much collaboration for me to have.
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Bitt Faulk

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#289610 - 11/11/2006 08:12 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: rob]
peter
carpal tunnel

Registered: 13/07/2000
Posts: 4153
Loc: Cambridge, England
Quote:
The down side was a stilted atmosphere - everything was so open that rather than being too noisey the place was often deathly silent, a kind of a public library effect. I found it disconcerting at times, but perhaps it got better with more people.

Yeah, when there's a lot of people on holiday or ill or whatever it can feel fairly non-warm. At or near full occupancy it works well. (Mind you, I sit right in the middle. Maybe someone like Dave, who sits on the periphery and facing outwards, gets to feel a bit more isolated.)

Quote:
The second mistake, I think, was fitting the place out with Herman Miller everything, minutely trimmed and platted miniature trees, bloody expensive lighting and other stuff that made it feel like a classy solicitor's office more than an R&D centre. I got carried away with the sudden availability of money but it was the wrong vibe. One of my more pointy haired moments I have to confess. I know the Sigmatel folks tinkered a bit since I left, with lots more plants and so on and I'm really pleased to read Peter's positive comment as Andrew (the office manager) and I put a lot of effort into making it somewhere nice to work.

The only thing I'd really change is the trimmed and plaited miniature trees (and the other elaborately manicured plants that we got later) -- the new place is somehow a bit sterile compared to the cosy, ramshackle world of Empeg Towers, and plants that were a bit more wild and less regimented would make it feel more comfortable. Those bloody expensive uplighters are rarely switched on nowadays, as they have an alarming tendency to droop forwards and shine directly into people's eyes. The one by Andrew's desk is the worst for that; when you first come through the front door you feel like you're about to be interrogated by the Gestapo -- but then maybe that's the effect Andrew's looking for

Peter

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#289611 - 11/11/2006 09:13 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: peter]
frog51
pooh-bah

Registered: 09/08/2000
Posts: 2091
Loc: Edinburgh, Scotland
In most of our UK offices we have between 200 and a thousand people per floor, and the current pointy-haired wisdom is that open plan is the way.

Gakkkkk

Luckily, we put together a business case saying this was not suitable for information security staff, so we have our own spaces - still open, but limited to 20 or so folks, maximum.

Which works nicely:-)
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#289612 - 13/11/2006 16:24 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: furtive]
JeffS
carpal tunnel

Registered: 14/01/2002
Posts: 2858
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Quote:
Open plan offices with low partitions and no cubicles makes for a much more pleasant working environment IMHO
Best situation I ever had was a private office. It is horribly frustrating when I am deep in thought and some conversation (even work related) bursts out around me and I am distracted. This happens all of the time when I am working in the current cubes we have. Yeah I use headphones a lot, and that helps, but sometimes when I'm deep in thought I don't want even songs distracting me.

As for supporting documentation, Steve Mconnell says that noisy environments cause delays in software project schedules (see "Rapid Development"). I assume that different jobs have different needs, but for a mental job that is mostly problem solving, having a private space (it doesn't have to be large) is a huge productivity booster.
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-Jeff
Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings; they did it by killing all those who opposed them.

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#289613 - 14/11/2006 03:48 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: wfaulk]
Cybjorg
addict

Registered: 23/12/2002
Posts: 652
Loc: Winston Salem, NC
I think you should pull a Pixar, go down to Lowe's and pick up a garden shed, set it up in the building as your own "private office", and deck it out with all sorts of goodies that make you feel at home.

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#289614 - 14/11/2006 04:19 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: Cybjorg]
wfaulk
carpal tunnel

Registered: 25/12/2000
Posts: 16706
Loc: Raleigh, NC US
Would that I could. They jammed it so full, they almost forgot to leave room for an electrical closet.
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Bitt Faulk

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#289615 - 15/11/2006 00:58 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: JeffS]
lectric
pooh-bah

Registered: 20/01/2002
Posts: 2082
Loc: New Orleans, LA
Quote:
It is horribly frustrating when I am deep in thought and some conversation (even work related) bursts out around me and I am distracted.

Amen to that brother.... I have a cow orker that does that. A lot. He typically waits until I'm leaning forward reading something on the screen, the blurts out "Mason! I saw this really cool Warcraft vid yesterday, wanna see it'?

FRICK.... Now I have to re-read that entire paragraph about how to properly set up security settings in Exchange 2003 again. It's like he has no sense about when it's apropriate to goof off, and when it isn't, or when I'm busy and when I'm not. There are only three of us in the office proper, with the manager sitting in an adjoining office. For myself, I'm constantly working out fairly complex things by myself. I would be MUCH more productive in my own office. A few years ago, when I did more (I do almost none now) actual end-user tech support, it was great to be able to bounce ideas off each other. With my new position, people interrupting me can completely kill my train of thought, making me much less effective. And MUCH more pissed off.

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#289616 - 15/11/2006 19:00 Re: Extending short cubicle walls [Re: lectric]
JeffS
carpal tunnel

Registered: 14/01/2002
Posts: 2858
Loc: Atlanta, GA
Quote:
Amen to that brother.... I have a cow orker that does that. A lot. He typically waits until I'm leaning forward reading something on the screen, the blurts out "Mason! I saw this really cool Warcraft vid yesterday, wanna see it'?
LOL- yup. I have a cow-orker who I turned onto online poker, and now every morning he comes over to my cube to tell me about whatever bad beat he experienced the night before. I'm OK with talking poker, but it'd be cool if he'd stop to see if I was actually doing something before just blurting out his story.
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-Jeff
Rome did not create a great empire by having meetings; they did it by killing all those who opposed them.

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