Wanna Be On Your A-Game Wherever You Work?

Over the past 50 years, the modern office as we know it has adapted and evolved and whether you work in a private office, a cubicle, an office with open seating or find yourself with no assigned desk at all the guidelines below will help you thrive in any environment because at the end of the day, you are the piece of equipment that is most important and the one that you take with you wherever you go.

Private Office

If you are lucky enough to have a private office at work, then you are in an awesome position to create your ideal workspace. But beware that even here, you can still fall into ergo traps that are unique to the private office.


Your Desk. Working in a private office often (but not always) provides you with the luxury of customizing your set up without worrying about upsetting the apple cart of the overall office design and other challenges that come up with shared and open workspaces. However, and this is a big however, sometimes private offices are furnished with big desks, often corner desks, that can have unique shapes such as rounded insets and cut always for your keyboarding area, built-in drawers and cabinet space and other inherent features that can take some finessing to alter the height of your desk if needed.

Windows & Lighting. Assuming you have a window or windows in your office, you will be best off setting up your desk perpendicular to the window to avoid glare and too much lighting that can get in the way of comfortably viewing your screens. Make sure your windows have coverings like shades or blinds to help control your lighting.

You also have the liberty to set up lighting which can consist of a lamp on your desk, a floor lamp, or both.

Visitors. Often, but not always, private offices are set up so that you can have visitors come to your office. If you find yourself sitting at your desk and referring to your computer monitor or take notes during your meetings, then it is a good idea to consider setting up your monitor with a monitor arm so that you can swing your monitor out of the way and pull it into the mix as needed.

Home It Up.  If your company allows it, or if you are a solo-preneur, one of the best advantages of having a private office is the ability to make it homey. Plants, pictures and personal nick-nacks can make coming to work a joy.


The good news about the cubicle is that it is a semi-private workspace with partitions separating workstations and it is modular so that offices can easily adapt to growing or shrinking headcounts.

However, unlike a private office, a cubicle set up comes with some definite challenges such as lack of privacy, negotiating interruptions, coping with noise and shared resources like light and temperature.

Making Your Cubicle Work for You

Your Desk. If you need to raise or lower the height of your desk, you may have to inquire as to whether or not your cubicle is set up to change the height.  Some cubicles are constructed so that the desk is connected to cabinets or desk legs that would then require you to consider either a keyboard tray if you are looking to lower your desk height or a sit-stand desk mount if you are looking to raise the height.

Lighting. Lighting in a cubicle situation is harder to customize than it is in a private office. But if you are needing to increase the amount of light at your desk, then task lights and even lamps from home can do the trick. If you need to decrease the amount of light at your desk, you can talk to your company about turning off the lights directly overhead (if possible) or consider installing a cube shield that shades the light from above or from a window.

Noise Levels. Whether it’s your co-workers engrossed in sharing their weekend plans, loud printers, noisy air conditioning or nearby phone calls, noise can be very distracting. Investing in a good pair of noise-canceling over the ear headphones can do wonders to block out noise and can help you boost your productivity.

Interruptions. This is a tricky one. On one hand, you want to be available to your team but on the other, since you don’t have a door to close, signaling that you are busy, you can easily be pulled off your game when a co-worker interrupts your flow. There are a few things you can do to let people know that you are not available.

  • Make a little sign that says something along the lines of I’m knee-deep in work and will be available to chat later. Or simply Please do not disturb. You can also wear headphones (whether you are listening to anything or not) and ask your co-workers to please email or text you to set aside a time to chat.

Personalizing Your Space. The good news about having a cubicle is that you do have a designated workspace and it is semi-private. So within company guidelines, go ahead and warm it up with some of your favorite pictures, mementos and whatever else makes your home away from home feel like your own.

Open Seating

Unlike a private office or cubicle, an open plan office, often referred to as open seating is an office that holds a large number of employees within an entire floor or large room without any internal walls, dividers or cubicles in the space. Employees sit alongside each other often in a series of long connected desks and often there are no private offices at all.  There may be conference rooms, private phone booths for calls and soft seating areas to provide alternate workspaces when needed.

The popularity of open-plan offices came about as an effort to enhance communication, increase collaboration and team work and foster a more social culture by breaking down the physical barriers of walls. For some people, this is the ideal work environment, while others struggle with a lack of personal space, privacy, noise levels, and too many interruptions.

If you work in an open seating environment, here are some suggestions on how to make it work for you.

Your Desk.  Where open seating desks or what is known as benching gets tricky is that you and your co-workers may be working at a long desk that is connected. If that is the case, if you need to raise or lower your desk, talk to your employer about the option of a keyboard tray or sit-stand desk mount that is placed on top of the desk.

Privacy. A lack of personal space and privacy is one of the biggest challenges of an open seating plan. But there are a few things you can do such as:

  • Invest in a privacy screen for your monitors
  • Set up dual monitors that can help with your productivity and create a physical boundary between you and your co-workers.
  • Use noise-canceling headphones which can help you cope with noise as well as signal to others that you are doing your thing and need personal space.
  • Take advantage of working at off-peak hours, booking time in conference rooms and using private phone booths for calls.

Productivity. The verdict is out whether or not open seating is good for your productivity, with the main challenge being interruptions and noise that can take you off your game. Here are some productivity hacks for you to try that really do work.

  • Invest in a pair of really good noise-canceling headphones. Not only does this help to block out external noise, but listening to certain types of music as well as ambient sounds have been proven to help sharpen your focus and raise your productivity levels.
  • To avoid interruptions, make a little sign on your desk that says something like Deep Work in Progress. Or Up against a deadline – I’ll resurface at noon.
  • Take advantage of private work areas such as conference rooms, phone booths or private seating areas.

Hot Desking / Co-Working

Much like an open office, cubicle and bench seating, Hot Desking, also known as Flexible Working, Work Anywhere and Hoteling, if most often in a shared working environment. However, the big difference that puts Hot Desking in its own unique category is the fact that no one as an assigned seat. So that means that each day, you can find yourself working at a different desk. Now, maybe your organization has neighborhoods that house the members of your team, but technically, seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis.

For some of you, this is a dream come true. But for some of you, this is a downright disaster. And with regards to ergonomics, well, this is new territory for all of us.

Hot-Desking Survival Tips

Finding a Spot. Hot-Desking has many upsides and can make you more productive. But if you don’t have a strategy in place, you may find yourself losing precious work time just looking for a place to park yourself for the day. In fact, some studies say some of us are losing up to 2 weeks per year just looking for an open space to work. If your workplace has an app that shows you what desks are available, use it. If not, you can suggest that your company adopt technology to assist with this. Short of that, take note of arrival patterns at your company and arrive at a time when you know desks are open and open where you like to work!

Adjust. Adjust. Adjust. Adjusting your workstation before you start working is critical.  This includes the height of your chair, your desk (if adjustable), your laptop (plug into docking station or external keyboard mouse and monitor) and anything else that needs adjusting.

Alternate Seating. One of the perks of Hot-Desking is the freedom of being untethered to your desk. More and more companies and co-working spaces provide a variety of workspaces including comfy couches, soft chairs, cafe-style tables and phone booths for privacy. At first blush, these seem like very comfortable work choices, but if you look around, you will probably see some of the worst ergo offenses happening in these alternative spaces. Be smart and if you use your laptop or iPad in these additional workspaces, consider using a lap desk, laptop riser and an external mouse and keyboard if needed.

Plan Ahead. In order to make Hot-Desking successful and up your productivity, it is critical for you to plan ahead. This includes making an airtight to-do list, bring any and all work items that you will need (chargers, earphones, electronics, etc.) and if you have a variety of workspaces available to you in your office, like workstations, soft seating, cafe tables and even phone booths, you can plan your day accordingly. You may decide to work on a project in one environment and then switch it up and work on something else somewhere else.

Now we’d love to hear from you.  What works and what doesn’t?  Please share in the comments.




  • Bev Bachel
    Posted at 12:04h, 12 February Reply

    Perfect timing as I am just about to rearrange the computers in my home office.

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