News / USA

    Office Cubicle Dwellers Build 'Walls' for Privacy

    Things are pretty quiet in this small cubicle farm in Portland, Oregon - but only because no one’s working there right now.  (Asa Wilson, Wikipedia Commons)
    Things are pretty quiet in this small cubicle farm in Portland, Oregon - but only because no one’s working there right now. (Asa Wilson, Wikipedia Commons)
    Ted Landphair
    Office mazes in which just about everybody below the rank of vice president works in large open spaces, divided by partitions into “cubicles,” are the standard workplace setting for millions of Americans.

    These “cubicle farms” are ridiculed by cartoonists and often loathed by their inhabitants as symbols of conformity and all-too-public work spaces in which one cannot help but overhear every word of a loud or chattering neighbor.
    Office Cubicle Dwellers Build 'Walls' for Privacy
    Office Cubicle Dwellers Build 'Walls' for Privacyi
    || 0:00:00
    ...    
     
    X


    But as the New York Times recently reported, dwellers in these office “bullpens” are building walls to gain some privacy.
    This is an actual floor plan of an office cubicle layout in a really large, open office. One wonders whether “pink noise” would be enough to stifle distracting sounds in such a setting. (Newell Post, Wikipedia Commons)This is an actual floor plan of an office cubicle layout in a really large, open office. One wonders whether “pink noise” would be enough to stifle distracting sounds in such a setting. (Newell Post, Wikipedia Commons)
    x
    This is an actual floor plan of an office cubicle layout in a really large, open office. One wonders whether “pink noise” would be enough to stifle distracting sounds in such a setting. (Newell Post, Wikipedia Commons)
    This is an actual floor plan of an office cubicle layout in a really large, open office. One wonders whether “pink noise” would be enough to stifle distracting sounds in such a setting. (Newell Post, Wikipedia Commons)

    There are two kinds: Makeshift physical ones, by stacking file cabinets atop each other around their cubes, or lining up plants, pictures of kids, and anything else they can think of to separate themselves from their office neighbors.

    And technological walls.  Just about all day long, some cubicle dwellers listen to soothing mood music or white noise through headsets, just to block out the chatter. And a few workplaces are piping in what’s called “pink noise.”

    This is what the Times calls “a soft whooshing emitted over loudspeakers that sounds like a ventilation system but is specially formulated to match the frequencies of human voices.”  

    This “whooshing” doesn’t entirely drown out chatty colleagues.  But it muddles their conversations and mellows out distractions.

    The term “pink noise” derives from the color when the sound displays as visible light on frequency spectrums. Other sound frequencies show up as white, red, brown, and gray.

    Entrepreneurs in one New York office told the Times that the close proximity of workers to one another in cubicle farms enhances communication, idea-sharing, and office efficiency.  

    But they admitted to occasionally “retreating to a bathroom or a broom closet for private chats.

    You May Like

    Water Scarcity Could Push Conflict, Migration by 2050

    Warning comes in a new report from the World Bank titled "High and Dry: Climate Change, Water and the Economy"

    What Your First Name Says About Who You Support for President

    Bobby, Betty and Curtis tend to support Donald Trump while people named Juan, Liz or Mohammad are more likely to lean toward Hillary Clinton

    South Pole Diary: In Round-the-clock Darkness, Radiant Moon Shines Like the Sun

    You hear more and see more when the moon first comes out; it’s your senses in overdrive, tuning into a new world.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroadi
    X
    May 02, 2016 1:36 PM
    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Displaced By War, Syrian Artist Finds Inspiration Abroad

    Saudi-born Syrian painter Mohammad Zaza is among the millions who fled their home for an uncertain future after Syria's civil war broke out. Since fleeing Syria, Zaza has lived in Lebanon, Egypt, Jordan and now Turkey where his latest exhibition, “Earth is Blue like an Orange,” opened in Istanbul. He spoke with VOA about how being displaced by the Syrian civil war has affected the country's artists.
    Video

    Video Ethiopia’s Drought Takes Toll on Children

    Ethiopia is dealing with its worst drought in decades, thanks to El Nino weather patterns. An estimated 10 million people urgently need food aid. Six million of them are children, whose development may be compromised without sufficient help, Marthe van der Wolf reports for VOA from the Metahara district.
    Video

    Video Little Havana - a Slice of Cuban Culture in Florida

    Hispanic culture permeates everything in Miami’s Little Havana area: elderly men playing dominoes as they discuss politics, cigar rollers deep at work, or Cuban exiles talking with presidential candidates at a Cuban coffee window. With the recent rapprochement between Cuba and United States, one can only expect stronger ties between South Florida and Cuba.
    Video

    Video California Republicans Weigh Presidential Choices Amid Protests

    Republican presidential candidates have been wooing local party leaders in California, a state that could be decisive in selecting the party's nominee for U.S. president. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports delegates to the California party convention have been evaluating choices, while front-runner Donald Trump drew hundreds of raucous protesters Friday.
    Video

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With the conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, between the rebel PKK and the Turkish state, many Kurds are trying to escape the turmoil by focusing on the success of their football team Amedspor in Diyarbakir. The club is increasingly becoming a symbol for Kurds, not only in Diyarbakir but beyond. Dorian Jones reports from southeast Turkey.
    Video

    Video ‘The Lights of Africa’ - Through the Eyes of 54 Artists

    An exhibition bringing together the work of 54 African artists, one from each country, is touring the continent after debuting at COP21 in Paris. Called "Lumières d'Afrique," the show centers on access to electricity and, more figuratively, ideas that enlighten. Emilie Iob reports from Abidjan, the exhibition's first stop.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora