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Our office area has several designated 'guest cubes' - desks that are usually empty and available for visitors to use. However, it seems that random visitors to the office prefer to sit in my cube. If I am out of the office for a day, I generally come back to find that some stranger was using my space. I keep my area tidy and clean, have not spilled beverages or food on my chair, etc.

How can I make my cube less inviting to random visitors?

  • Do you have any idea why they might choose your cube over the designated guest cubes? – David K Aug 24 '16 at 15:09
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    Is it possible that the guest cubes are filling up, so yours is the next available cube? – David K Aug 24 '16 at 15:24
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    learn to use a Dvorak keyboard... – Rory Alsop Aug 24 '16 at 15:37
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    Do you have any personal effects in the cube? Photos of people, pets, vacations, etc.? Even if you just print some stock photos of people (so you don't have to use people from your life) and put them in a cheap frame from Wal-Mart, it may make the cube appear more personal to a visitor and keep them at bay. – alroc Aug 24 '16 at 17:49
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    @RoryAlsop to that effect, a trackball would also work, or a keyboard with no labels. – Nelson Aug 25 '16 at 2:47
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Expanding my comment into an answer.

People will feel more uncomfortable invading someone else's cube if they need to move things around in order to make it usable. This is inherently true of very messy cubes, hence why your tidy, minimalist one gets treated as a guest cube when you are not there.

You have a nametag and a couple of schedules up, so people can already tell it's occupied. You need to set things up to make people feel more awkward and invasive trying to use it.

Messiness is one way to do this, but you clearly prefer things to be extra-tidy. Another way, as a couple of people mentioned, is having an unusual keyboard that's going to be harder for someone used to a standard keyboard to use.

Another possibility is to leave something on your desk and/or chair that people would have to move out of their way. A box to place on the chair, and/or a shawl or jacket draped over the desk. All other things being equal, people will choose a cube that doesn't require moving a jacket to get to the keyboard over one that does. (As the saying goes, you don't need to be faster than the bear, you just need to be faster than the slowest guy. Make it so the "slowest guy" is always a guest-cubicle, rather than yours.)

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    Thank you! I could definitely leave a decoy jacket or sweater on the chair when I leave. I've been shoving the chair under the desk as I go, so that it takes effort to pull it out, but apparently people like that challenge. I don't use a docking station or monitor or keyboard (i just have a laptop), so adding a weird keyboard isn't really an option. I have asked (3 times) to move to a different cube, and pointed out specific cubes that were empty/unused, but to no avail. So, i think i could tolerate some plants and a couple of decoy jackets on the chair, to see if that helps. – molly Aug 24 '16 at 16:23
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    @molly How about a big "Back in five minutes" sign, or post-it in plain site as well? That combined with the sweater and other things will give it that used look. – Richard U Aug 24 '16 at 20:45
  • You can use some sort of desk cover and just cover everything up. It'll keep it even cleaner and also add that extra barrier to use it. Something like a light cloth over it would work. – Nelson Aug 25 '16 at 2:46
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    @RichardU: A "Back in five minutes" sign might be frowned upon by coworkers or bosses who are trying to find you and aren't aware that you are actually out for the whole day.. – James Aug 25 '16 at 11:48
  • @James It's no problem if you let management know. – Richard U Aug 25 '16 at 13:16
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As an alternative to Ouroboros's answer, you could hang some sort of rope or string across your cube's door. It can stick to the sides with pins or velcro so it can be easily left off when you're in the office. This marks very clearly that the cubicle is not for guests while still allowing you to keep your space neat and tidy.

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Mark it as your personal cube by putting a personalized mug on it, some notes, a photo of your wife/kids/dog/turtle etc. Most probably, visitors will refrain to use it and use one of the empty, dull cubes instead.

EDIT: after my post, the OP commented

my cube has my name tag on it, and i have several calendars, schedules, etc hanging on the walls, so i think it's pretty obvious that it is occupied.

One solution to this could be to clutter the desk with your personal stuff so there's no free space left. But probably the best solution would be to talk to the manager, and have him direct the visitors to the other cubes.

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    Thank you for the suggestion....as much as i dislike 'clutter', i think you may be right....i will add some plants and 'personal stuff' to see if that helps deter strangers from feeling at home in my cube – molly Aug 24 '16 at 15:25
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    Perhaps that's the problem -- your cube is too tidy :-) – Ouroboros Aug 24 '16 at 15:32
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Let the manager know that there appear to be too few visitors cubes and ask to relocate.

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One of my colleagues has a Microsoft split keyboard - one of those ergonomic ones. Most people seem to dislike them so don't sit at his desk.

Another colleague has his monitors wired up back to front - so the left should be the right etc. That also really annoys people, so they don't sit there,

My technique is to have a desk full of clutter. Not personalised as such, just a lot of it.

  • All my visitors bring laptops. No need to borrow keyboards or monitors. – Laconic Droid Aug 24 '16 at 21:34
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Have a discussion with your fellow cube-mates about how you feel. Try to get them to suggest to people to use the guest cubes first before using an employee's cube when you're not there. Let them know you will do the same. It's not perfect, but could help.

Also, other staff like the receptionist should be instructed to recommend the guest cubes and not just say, "help yourself to any open cube." For security reasons, we allow guests to use designated computers and not employee computers.

If they're going to let people use your cube, they could at least instruct the nightly cleaning crew to check for spills, garbage, etc. I know this can get touchy when they throw away things you really wanted.

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I suggest embracing use of your cube, while you are out, by those who share your views on tidiness. That makes it less likely to be available to messy users.

Post a sign when you are going to be away all day saying something like:

If you use this cube, please leave it as clean and tidy as you found it. Please do not eat or drink in here.

Put it center front on the desk, so that anyone using the cube will have to see and move the sign.

  • I like this solution. It's more up front than using clutter, but less aggressive than a rope across the door. The wording is friendly, but reminds people that they are using someone else's space and should respect that. – thelem Aug 25 '16 at 10:17

protected by Jane S Aug 24 '16 at 21:20

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