Survivor: Cubicle Farm


CJ_HELPMost of my friends would say I live in a sitcom, but we all live in reality…regardless of what’s on reality TV.  And the reality of today’s business community is an ever-increasing reliance upon technology.  Nothing new here.

Also no surprise, the business community, whether private sector or government-based, tends to focus on the knowledge, skills and abilities related to job performance or career development.  But rare is the job advertisement that warns:

– Successful applicants should be prepared to remain seated for biologically unnatural periods of time.

Or how about:

Ability to withstand lengthy stares into pixelated HD computer screens a plus.

It sounds ridiculous, but these two “KSA’s” are integral to such a wide swath of job types, albeit to varying degrees, that we end up taking them for granted.  Many of us have come home from work with migraine-quality headaches from staring at screens all day…and then help it out by staring at the TV. Many of us have also experienced a stiff back, or sciatica making your thigh numb from sitting down for extended periods…and as the masochists we all must be, we help this out by sitting for our commute home, followed by sitting down for dinner ,etc.

Cubicle-Farm-Motivational-Poster-300x240Two things for everybody to remember:  20/20/20 and Andy Warhol

20/20/20 is a little something I picked up from a friend in optometry.  Every 20 minutes, for 20 seconds, look at something 20 feet away.  Aside from proper eye health, glasses, drops, etc. this little trick has saved me from many a headache.  You too can easily give your eyes a much needed chance to get a different perspective.

Andy Warhol, among other things, was famous for his perspectives on fame…everybody wants their proverbial 15 minutes in the spotlight.  Whatever helps you remember 15 minutes is key, not the 60’s Renaissance man.  Many places have two 15 minute breaks per day, usually only smokers take advantage, but why not everyone?  Get your Warhol on, take your 15 (hopefully outside, but at least away from your desk) and recharge.

Feel free to share any of your cubical survival tactics with the rest of our “Tribe.”

Paul Grugin is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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Rachel Niebeling

Great post Paul! Thanks for the tips! I also find doing little stretches a couple times a day really help with keeping my neck loose. Also, when I make time to take a quick walk to get my blood pumping, it helps get some energy for the afternoon surge!

Terrence (Terry) Hill

First tip – get out of the cubicle altogether by teleworking.
Second tip – use a standup or treadmill desk. Even better have one at home.


If I really need to focus, I have been known to wear big obvious headphones that may not even be plugged into anything. Shh, this is just our secret.


Very good post and great ideas. I will commit to the 20/20/20! Lauren, I totally agree with you on using headphones.

In addition, wearing ear-buds helps me tune out sidebar chatter as well as keeping me focused and on task.

Otherwise, I would be in a constant state of distraction. Open office spaces have not added to my level of creativity nor production. Who’s bright idea was it anyway to put introverts in open spaces? Ugh


I wish I could look up and stare 20 feet away but my cubicle is just big enough for me to sit in my chair in front of my computer. I do have a free software program [http://www.techerator.com/breaktaker/] on my computer called BreakTaker. It reminds you to take breaks with a pop-up box every 55 minutes [you can set it for a different time]. The reminder is different every time – get up and look out the windown, take a walk, stand up and stretch, etc.