Privacy? You don’t need no stinking privacy!

Privacy, or lack thereof, is a hot topic. People are constantly demanding to keep their privacy, yet those same people are putting all kinds of information on Facebook, Twitter, and other public sites for the world to see. It’s really an interesting phenomenon and one that will make for great college psychology case studies one day.

Privacy in the workplace is a whole other topic. In the workplace you are told left and right that you effectively have none.

You are not to use the internet for your personal use.
Company provided tools are company property and are to be used for company business, not personal activities.

I’m sure you’ve signed been forced to sign similar company code of conduct documents. Essentially, what they say in plain English is: We own you, we can monitor what you do, say, write, think, dream, etc. And, if we don’t like it, we can fire you. Adios. Good riddance. Don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.
Still want the job?

OK, maybe that’s a bit much, but it’s not really that exaggerated. It is what it is and there’s not much getting around it. But, you are a hipster and you have a smart phone, an iPad, maybe even your own computer that you bring to the office so you should have no worries checking out your old high school flame on Facebook and perusing the interwebs. That is, unless you are too cheap to sport for a decent data plan and are piggybacking off the Man’s WiFi…

Privacy in the office has changed quite a bit over the decades. The Mad Men era with offices for everyone (except the secretaries). The Andy Grove of Intel fame era where everyone, including Andy, had a cubicle – albeit his was larger. And, at least in my company today, offices for VP’s, cubes for everyone else.

Cubes. The 3.5 walled, no door, no roof place where you spend the better part of your waking hours. Privacy? Just an illusion.

Everyone can here everything.

They are the epitome of the walls having ears. You really don’t have any privacy. You can hear people setting up doctors appointments. You can hear every argument Cubicle George has with his wife. Heck I’ve even heard people reading off their credit and salary info while applying for a loan of some sorts.

More often than not the work station part of a cube is in the far rear corner so your back is always turned toward the 0.5 wall/door. I’ve seen people move their workspace to the side. I’ve seen people get little cubicle rear view mirrors so they can see people who come up behind them. Yet, no matter what I do, not a day goes by that someone doesn’t sneak up behind me and scare the shit out of me.

And, while soiling oneself at the office would seem to be scary enough, it’s not. There’s a new trend in office worker bee architecture – the open workspace environment.

This relatively new concept has been all the rage with the second wave of internet start-ups and is often called the bullpen, which is a reference to baseball and that area beyond the fence, where grown men sit…and wait…hoping that they’ll be called into the show to “save the day”.

In the work world these areas are basically cubes without the inner walls. Workers get everything they had in the cube, sans the polyester covered fiberboard illusions of separation and privacy.

Our company recently started to implement this concept under the ruse of it saving space and fostering teamwork. In reality, yes it does save space, but then that’s just another way of saying they can cram more people into smaller spots. It’s all perspective really.

This redesign started with the engineers. I guess they big bosses felt that they were an easy target. They didn’t put up a fight. They felt it was “cool”. It would be like the offices at Twitter. At Facebook. At companies perceived to be cool. Companies that are cooler than our little slice of heaven.

But, then the boss man started to float the idea of implementing it everywhere. However, what he didn’t realize is that us non-engineer types, while we are not super-smart coders, we are street smart. We have cube-cred. We are the corporate world’s version of the West Coast Rapper. We flash our sign. We wear our colors. And, we still value what little privacy we have.

See, the bullpens or open workspace environments don’t allow for ANY semblance of privacy. Not only can people sneak up behind you, but they can sneak up IN FRONT of you. They can see and hear everything you do. Headphones? What’s the point? Headphones are great when you want to tune out the world and listen to some great Oasis song like Don’t Look Back in Anger. But, what’s really needed is an invisibility cloak (BTW rumor has it DARPA is making progress on this).

You see, sometimes you want to have the freedom to close your eyes every once in a while and think. Sometimes you want to be able to check the sports scores, your Facebook, your personal email without some schmuck looking over your shoulder.

I think we all learned long ago that time, free from distractions fosters thinking and creativity. Hence doing your job well.

Dear boss man, the office is challenging enough with the distractions of emails coming in at a rate faster than rats multiply (look it up they are horny little bastards), IM’s, phones, smart phones, people dropping by to chat, George yelling at his wife. Please don’t make it worse.
DO NOT take away my 3.5 walls.


About CubicleViews

Observations, thoughts & random bitching about cube life, food, beer, wine, whiskey and sometimes politics. Living the dream in a 6×8 doorless polyester walled cell.
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4 Responses to Privacy? You don’t need no stinking privacy!

  1. Lost in the Cube says:

    DO NOT take my 3.5 walls will be the new battle cry of cube dwellers everywhere. It may not be much, doesn’t have a door but it is my space and I plan on fighting tooth and nail to keep what little priviacy I have.

  2. minibepa says:

    I have my black lab in my cubicle right under the desk, and he is happy with no privacy. While folks are busy with him in my “doggycle” I do my work.

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