Checklist for the New Guy: Moving Into Your New Cubicles

So you’re the new guy, moving into a new job and new cubicles. Unless you’re the CEO’s son moving into the family business straight out of grad school, moving into new cubicles can be a frightening, intimidating process. With plenty of new faces, an unfamiliar hierarchy, and a completely different environment, easing into your new cubicles won’t be easy.

New cubicles don’t have to be a new challenge, though, if you follow the tips we lay out in the next few paragraphs.

Pay attention. Before you enter your new cubicles, you’ll probably undergo an orientation session with the HR department. Keep your ears open at this point: you want to reach your new cubicles with your head full of useful information. Find out how they do things in the office; this can give you a taste of the office politics and work environment in the space surrounding your new cubicles.

Ask questions. Wrack your brain for important, or less-than-important, questions that you may need to ask – in these few shining moments as the fresh guy in the new cubicles, you’re free to ask embarrassing questions without looking stupid. (This supervisor’s checklist might give you some ideas as to the questions you can pose.) You might ask questions about:

–    decorating and personalization rules for your new cubicles
–    employee benefits
–    sexual harassment policy
–    attendance policy
–    dress policy – casual Fridays

The Corner Office Cubicle as an Executive Perk.

The office cubicle is only a stepping stone to a bigger office, the thinking goes. Senior officers shouldn’t be put in an ordinary office cubicle, they should be put in an office of their own! One with real hardwood office furniture and not the usual particleboard crap of the hoi polloi!

The corner office, though, is more and more becoming a thing of the past. Real power can reside from a corner office cubicle, not an oak-panelled corner office.

Hizzoner Works from an Office Cubicle

Consider the mayor of New York City. Michael Bloomberg got rid of private offices and settled on an open office cubicle design that mimicked a Wall Street trading floor. “Walls are barriers,” Bloomberg told Time Magazine, “and my job is to remove them.”

A 2007 renovation upgraded the bullpen, adding a sweet flatscreen TV to the mix:

Cubicle Decorating Building Blocks.

Going cubicle decorating? Good start. By flashing up the ol’ workspace, you’ll make your cubicle your own, create some conversation starters for colleagues, and improve overall office morale and productivity.

Cubicle decorating begins with some pretty simple building blocks. These items are easy to find and easy to personalize: Start with these items and you can put that personal stamp on your cubicle in no time!

Plants, real plants. While plastic plants are easy to place and easy to take care of, real plants have significant advantage over their artificial analogues. Real plants exude oxygen, which is good news for your productivity (your brain needs more of the stuff, and offices are notoriously low in this life-giving gas).

Plants are also guaranteed mood boosters, and the right ones add an invigorating dash of color to a drab workplace. Just don’t get a plant that exudes pollen or a too-strong smell.

Just remember this when using plants for cubicle decorating: choose plants that won’t grow too much. You want a plant that will help you interact with your colleagues – impossible when it blocks the hallway or your view of the rest of the office.

Family pictures. Adding a framed image of your loved ones tells your workmates that you have a life outside your office. Having images of family creates a positive impression of yourself in the workplace, too.

Postcards. A real, written-in postcard from a family member abroad is cubicle decorating gold – a personal touch that shows your sense of adventure and (depending on where it’s from) a sense of belonging to a larger world.

Candy bowl. A dish of treats is more than just a cubicle decorating whim – it’s a great conversation starter and a cool way to make new friends, especially when you’re new and you need an excuse to socialize with your new cubicle neighbors.

Calendar. A personalized calendar that shows off your personality or interests can “brand” your cubicle as yours like nothing else can. Hey, you might also get to meet other colleagues who share your interests!

5 Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel You Shouldn’t Ignore.

5 Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel You Shouldn't Ignore
Image © Petr Kurecka.

Office work is hard on the eyes, brain… and especially the hands, as symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome emerge after years of abuse. Carpal tunnel syndrome should never be ignored, nor should treatment be postponed. As soon as these symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome emerge, you should see your doctor immediately.

Numbness in fingers and hand. You find that your hand “falls asleep” often when working. Or you have less sensation in the fingers and thumb. If this is how you feel after a few hours of work, congratulations – you now have the very first symptoms of carpal tunnel right in your hands.

Carpal tunnel syndrome begins very slowly – sufferers report feeling tingling or numbness in the fingers and palm. This usually happens when the sufferer grips something between thumb and forefinger – holding a cellphone, for example, or steering a car.

Decreased Grip Strength. Whoops! becomes a constant refrain in your life, as you begin to drop pens, coffee mugs, and utensils. As pain makes work impossible, your hand muscles may atrophy, decreasing your ability to hang on to small objects.

You’ll find it difficult to grasp small objects, clench your fists, or perform manual tasks around the office. You’ll have difficulty supporting yourself on stairs or climbing into a truck.

Pain Radiating up the Forearm. Carpal tunnel sufferers report feeling a shooting or burning pain moving up from the center of their forearm to their shoulder and neck. This occurs after repetitive or stressful use of one’s hands. Sometimes the pain is constant – an ache felt around the upper shoulder and neck.

Cold Hands with warm forearms. As the nerve in your carpal tunnel gets pinched, blood circulation around the area gets constricted as well, contributing to the odd sensation of having two different temperature gradients on the forearm and hand.

Loss of fine motor skills. This progresses from the swollen and numb feeling in your fingers and hand, as motor skills begin to give way to the numbness. Everyday fine motor skills like writing, moving a mouse around, buttoning a shirt, or tying a shoe become almost impossible to do.

If any of these symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome appear, you must consult your doctor immediately. Carpal tunnel syndrome, if left untreated, interferes with work, interrupts sleep, and leads to more severe nerve and muscle damage.

Space Crisis for Office Cubicles.

As employers attempt to lower costs and maintain productivity with a shrinking workforce inhabiting their office cubicles, some offices are taking the game one level up by shaving the cubicle space each employee gets.

The Wall Street Journal reports that office cubicles have now become prime real estate in the recession. Companies are taking different tacks. Some are creating open floor plans and removing cubicles from their office spaces. Employees are now given rotating or random workspaces, instead of being assigned an office cubicle of their own. Other employees are given more opportunity to telecommute.

Manufacturers are following suit – new workstations designed by design group HOK now have an average area of 48 square feet, down 30% from five years back. Other companies “are reducing per-employee office space by as much as 50%, and their total footprint by as much as 25%,” the article reports.

One former office cubicle rat – now a telecommuting writer working from her own home – remembers the old days with mixed feelings. Says True/Slant’s Caitlin Kelly:

That’s one good thing about working alone at home. Right now, the only sound I hear — loud and clear — is my neighbor’s laughter and phone conversation. I’m not sure, short of a cabin in the woods, you can escape noise or other people and get your work done.

I can’t agree with you more, Miz Kelly. Although I’d add that some of these companies are plainly misled – why cut down on cubicle space and call that savings, when they can just buy remanufactured cubicles at a much lower price and keep their office cubicle inhabitants happy with a little more real estate? Just a suggestion.

Secret Santa Gift Ideas for your Office Cubicle.

Your co-worker’s office cubicle looks like it’s about due for some sprucing up. Here are some gift ideas you can use to help him jazz up his space (or yours):

Cubicle life can be lonesome, so how about printing a cubicle companion? Printing? You heard me. Head on over to Cubeecraft where artist Chris Beaumont provides over two hundred free designs that can be printed and origami’d into “Cubees” depicting favorite pop culture icons, from the well-known (Superman) to the obscure (Jailbot from Superjail!). The cubical design is linear cool, with none of ’em looking out of place in a Herman Miller cubicle.

Each Cubee is ranked on a difficulty scale that gives you an idea how long it’ll take you to put it together – ideally in time for the office party. Print out thirty, and craft ’em for the rest of the office; just have an excuse handy when the office manager asks about your massive printing expenses.        read more..

Pranks, Parties, and Other Fun Cubicle Activities.

How do you put a constantly-complaining colleague in his place? Simple: make his complaints of “I’m being buried alive in my work!” a reality, if only a little: Your next project: how to bury your whiney colleague’s cubicle. All in good fun, of course.

Frivolous? Hell no, you need these stunts to make life on the cubicle farm more bearable. Play is an integral part of a productive workforce – managers ought to tolerate a little prankery like the demonstration above.

Or an office party – with the holidays coming up, even businesses weakened by the economy ought to have an opportunity to celebrate, boosting morale and building teamwork.

Carin Warner’s workforce will be celebrating more humbly this year – “We’re going to scale back and still have fun together,” said Warner, proprietor of the Boston-based public relations firm Warner Communication, is based in Boston. Potluck party on the beach replaces weekend getaways for Warner, but no matter – the party is the important thing.

Teamwork will be reinforced by involving employees in the planning process – “The very coming together over a non-work task is in itself delightful, delicious and engaging,” said employee retention consultant Beverly Kaye.

Call Center Workers Appreciate Ergonomic Thinking.

Earlier we discussed new thought on ergonomics – namely, how we’ve discovered that movement is essential to proper ergonomics, not proper posture.

Therefore, comfort and long-term protection from injury doesn’t come from knees locked at a ninety-degree angle all the time. Proper ergonomics comes from adjusting one’s chair, stretching extremities, resting one’s eyes from looking at the monitor, or standing every few minutes to avoid being locked in a seated position for hours on end.

One group of office workers is extremely grateful for this new ergonomic thinking – call center workers, who suffer a great deal from the injuries that come with bad ergonomic habits.    (read more)

Office Furniture: Re-used or Remanufactured?

Office furniture being the expensive, long-term investment that it is, it behooves you to figure out how you can get the biggest bang for your office buck.

Brand new office furniture might burn you in more ways than one – you might end up paying top dollar for chairs, desks and cubicles that just won’t get the kind of use that justifies the expense. (Especially during these parlous economic times.) When your big operation cuts its workforce, what are you going to do with all that extra office furniture?

Consider alternative number one: used office furniture. With office closures being far too common these days, it’s a buyers’ market for used office furniture: barely used, and much cheaper than their brand new counterparts.

How much should you expect to pay for used office furniture? It depends on what’s available, and how much of it you need. Of course, quality will be highly variable, and you can’t expect to get exactly the color or make you want.

Now consider alternative number two: remanufactured office furniture. What’s the difference? Remanufactured office furniture comes from previously-used office furniture, but put through a remanufacturing process that strips off the old surfaces, refurbishes the structure, and refinishes the surface so the whole thing looks practically brand new – despite prices that may be up to 80% cheaper than comparable brand new furniture!     (read more)

Cubicle Farms Making Way for Apartments?

We saw this happen in Soho – a run-down work area is transformed into a hip residential community. Of course, this happened after a long process involving penniless bohemians, urban gentrification, and soaring real estate prices. Could it happen again to recession-hit office cubicle blocks?

It just might – office vacancies are rising to 13 percent in Manhattan alone; pricey office towers are losing tenants fast, and older office buildings are facing a crunch they just might never pull out of.

In New York, ground zero for the recession is putting its toe in the residential water; the New York headquarters of the American International Group (AIG) at 70 Pine Street will undergo a transformation at the hands of developer Young Woo, who plans to split the building’s 66 stories between condos on the top floors and commercial establishments on the lower floors.           read more

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