Cubicles - Rules for Open Offices

I received a note from a reader who has to develop a policy about what employees can and can't put in and on their cubicles. She mentioned that she gets complaints from top executives about plants that crawl over cubicle tops and other "decorations" that extend over the tops of panels, as well as about mini-fridges and other items within cubicles. She was hoping to find examples of guidelines other firms have adopted, so I told her I'd ask around.

Do you have a policy that governs what goes into (and on top of) cubicles? Is it even an issue? Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.

  • Ed,

    At the bank I where I worked we did not have an official facilities policy.  We relied on the area manager to set standards for their group and police the workstations.  Obviously the retail branches and other "customer contact" areas were the most strict.  Facilities would restrict the number of open shelves provided in cubicles and deny requests for additional shelves if it was observed that the existing shelf was used for non-work items.  All "clean desk" policies that I have been involved with are met with strong resistance and must have the backing of management.  It is best if the initial memo regarding new cubicle policies actually comes from management and the higher the better.  Several years ago I worked with a group that moved into a new facility and they published a booklet of protocols which lined out the expected usage and behavior for use of public areas and included workstation cleanliness / clutter.


  • At our company it's not an issue.  While we have had the occasional oddity appear we have handle those on a case by case basis.  Employees spend as much time in their office cubicles everyday as they did the previous night sleeping in bed, so shouldn't they feel comfortable.

    One item that an employee put on their cubicle which at first raised some eyebrows was a Cubeshield (  After we learned that the purpose of it was to block out some glare that was coming in the windows from an adjacent parking lot we actually purchased several more for employees in the adjacent cubicles.

    We do have some general rules around prohibited items like political materials, but that applies to all employees regardless of their workspace.

    Rick Collins

  • Thanks, Craig and Rick. Your very different answers reflect the diversity of policies out there. That's why it's important to match the policy to the corporate culture. My recent editorial talks about getting HR involved in setting policies to customize workstations.

  • In reply to Ed Sullivan:

    I too struggle with the issues as mentioned by Craig.  My position as Facilities Mgr was just created less than 3 yrs ago at the FI I work for and I am trying to get more consistency in policy and practices through out. We are currently building a new Administration building to consolidate our growing business.  Any advice or general policy formats would be appreciated.  I agree that policy must be supported from the Top if it is to be taken seriously.

  • In reply to Jim Davis:

    Thanks for your comment, Jim. For policies related to the workspace, one thing I've heard from other facility managers is that it's worthwhile to involve human resources - and perhaps IT - in developing the policy. The policy has to reflect the company's culture. Developing the policy can be an opportunity to reach out to other departments, like HR, and build a network that will be useful in other cases.

  • In reply to Ed Sullivan:

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