Adding to Overwhelm at Work: Annoying Cubicles

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As one who studies the impact of peak performance environments on achievement, I was not surprised when open cubicles was listed as one of 2010’s Most Annoying Workplace Trends. The article cited being distracted by inconsiderate co-workers talking on the phone.

A 2008 Fastcompany article provided research on the impact of interruptions. Did you know it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds to get back on task after being interrupted? One psychological cost of switching between tasks is significantly more stress.

So how do you avoid stress, overwhelm and distractions if you’re a cubicle dweller?

1. Put on the Music. A Stanford study found that music engages areas of the brain involved with paying attention. Music can also be a mood shifter. I’m not suggesting that you disturb others so headphones or earbuds would be a good idea. (Check work policies and procedures to be listening to music is acceptable in your workplace culture.)

2. Get away. When it’s particularly noisy or distracting take a break. Go outside and get a new perspective. Run office errands — go to the copy machine, visit someone on another floor, deliver a fax. Getting away can free up your mind and dissipate frustration with neighbors.

3. Seek consideration. Using tactful communication skills, let your co-worker know how distracting it is to overhear personal calls. Suggest they use a conference room or other location for more privacy.

Have more tips for cubicle living? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Linda Hardenstein, MPA, PCC helps overworked executives and entrepreneurs get relief from overwhelm and burn out and creates peak performance environments to support the achievement of your goals.

Find out more about peak performance environments in this free telesummit on July 21 at 1 pm (Pacific time).