Life Behind Cubicle Walls

CUBICLE

Senior Loan Coordinator, Danielle Ashton, likes to personalize her cubicle to make it more like home with things that fuel her during hard days at work.

When it comes to considering office jobs, people usually run in fear. There aren’t many five year olds who say they want to work in an office cubicle for a job when they get older. Senior, Zach Robinson, says that he would never work in an office because he wants to be creative with his profession and feels an office job would keep him from that. He continues by saying that he would rather do a job that allows him to share what he knows, like teaching dance.

Are this generation’s goals and aspirations different from those of the baby boomers? Is that the reason Generation Z seems to be avoiding office jobs for their future career path? In a recent interview done by HRzone 36 14-18 year olds were questioned about their future. The average answer when asked what profession that they’d like to take up, only five answered with very conventional answers, doctor, lawyer etc.

But there are many local adults who have found satisfying careers in traditional office jobs. I visited Residential Mortgage Services in South Portland to talk to three office employees about their work and how they find satisfaction in the office setup.

Mike Wilson, a Senior Loan Officer for 10 years now says at the age of 25 he knew he wanted to be in the mortgage business. Mike switched from telecommunications to the mortgage business and said, “It’s all about the money.”

Mike isn’t the only one who said he would stay in the business if he had the choice, Rudy Ferrante a Mortgage Banker of 11 years realized his path earlier in life when he was in college.

Rudy said that he wouldn’t leave because he enjoys working with numbers, appreciates that his hours are flexible, and enjoys helping people with their finances.

I didn’t intend to be in this business, I fell into it and found success,”

said Danielle Ashton a Senior Loan Coordinator of 10 years at RMS who shared that she always wanted to be a lawyer and never had the chance, so even though she loves her job she would probably change to law if she could rewind her career.

Liking the job isn’t the only thing that you need in order to make it in an office job, being able to communicate and collaborate are also very important. In a recent survey by ClearCompany, 39% of people said that their own workplace does not collaborate enough. 97% of employees and executives said their lack of alignment with their team directly impacts the outcome of a task or project.

Danielle is happy that for the most part everyone is close at RMS and has good communication however, like a family, they have their days that are stressful and people tend to bicker and sort of fall out of communication suffers. She said at her workplace, these days are temporary and always resolved.

All three think one of the best parts of working in an office environment is being part of a team

“A lot of my success depends on myself but at the same time I couldn’t be successful without the support that I have here, you can’t do it alone but you definitely have to lead the way,” said Rudy.

Mike and Danielle agree that their success and workplace satisfaction heavily depends on their colleagues.

All of the interaction with other people is obviously a good thing, but could also be a bad thing especially if you work in a cubicle and are easily distracted. Mike who happens to work in an office said that the noise level varies, but usually does not interrupt him.

“I am definitely the loudest person in this office,” he said.

However, for Danielle and Rudy who work in a cubicle, things are a little bit different.

Danielle said that distractions are definitely there, but after a while you have to learn to block any noise out. Rudy said that noise levels do interfere and when he’s on the phone he can’t always hear the person on the other end because people in the surrounding office are having conversations.

Another huge part of working at a desk job is how it affects your body. Ergonomics (the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment) is taken very seriously in office environments so people don’t end up with musculoskeletal disorders as a result of their work. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2011, there were 387,820 MSD cases and this type of injury made up 33% of all worker and illness cases. Also, work related MSD’s are one of the leading causes of loss or restricted work time. This is why employers are responsible for creating healthy ergonomic principles and making them clear to the employees. According to the United States Department of Labor, to make sure that employers are doing their job by creating the “rules” relating to ergonomics and the employees are following them, work site assessments to voice concerns, hazards and suggestions are required to reduce risks. If a complaint is filed or there is any reason to believe that the workplace is not a healthy workplace, businesses can get a visit from OSHA for a professional assessment.

Rudy said that he has no chronic pain from 11 years being in the business. However, he is aware that sitting all day cannot be good for you and he goes to the gym after work to exercise. Mike goes to the chiropractor every few weeks and said that he has back and neck pain and Danielle said the same.

All three admit that as much as they like their work they can get cabin fever after being cooped at their desk for so many hours.

“Sometimes I’ll go shopping, sometimes I’ll stress eat, and sometimes I’ll just plow through it,” said Rudy.

Danielle said that she likes to get up, walk around, visit with other people and offer to go out and get lunch. She goes on to say that sometimes you have to joke around or sing or dance in order to stay sane.

When it comes to the difference between a cubicle and an office, you would think that open space and privacy would be easier to work with and overall better than having a cubicle which is what Mike thinks who happens to work in one. Rudy, who has worked in an office before but currently works in a cubicle, continues to say that working in a cubicle is actually “fun”. He enjoys the conversations that he is able to have during the day which wouldn’t be as easy in an isolated office, although he admits the privacy and quiet would be nice sometimes. He also said that working in an office can get very lonely. Danielle said that she like working in a cubicle because if she ever has questions or needs help, her colleagues are just around the thin wall, it’s also a lot easier if you are sharing files with someone.

When asked, privacy is the biggest that separates working in a cubicle and working in a separate office.

Even though he works in an office, Mike said that when he is on calls people can hear him talking. This does not bother him, but he admits that he probably makes a lot of other people feel uncomfortable with his loud voice. Danielle and Rudy both agree that it bothered them in the beginning but it’s just something that they have to get over. Danielle however, does like to take some of her personal calls outside the ears of those that can hear her.

Another difference that happens in the cubicles/offices is the difference between and man and a woman’s space.

“Woman’s look more like Pottery Barn whereas a guys might look more like a gross hotel room” he also said that smell better and have way better hygiene and that they also tend to decorate more with pictures, art and plants. Danielle has the same opinion, she said she likes to make it feel more like home with decoration and color. Men see it more as a job and don’t personalize as much.

“If I could give my office one hashtag it would be #MikesWorld”

“#CreativeZone” said Rudy.

“Probably would have to be #WayOfLife” Danielle shares.

So at the end of the day, is working in an office really as bad as our generation sees it? Danielle said that her and her team are like family. “These are people who you’re essentially spending more time with during the week with your own family.” She also said that she has made lots of close friends during working in this business and during the day they have a lot more fun than one would think. So, have YOUR views changed on work behind cubicle walls?

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