1. Maggie

    Flags seem like a strange suggestion. I wouldn’t try to implement a system for everyone’s cubicles. Instead, I’d perhaps spread the word (or maybe even send a company-wide email) asking people to send their questions by email, which you can deal with on your own schedule. Perhaps hang a reminder sign outside your own cubicle and ask people to email questions, make an appointment to chat, or stop by your “open office hours” for questions between X and Y hours. I think it’s much more appropriate to take steps to manage your own workflow and your own interactions with your co-workers rather than asking the company to implement a solution that may not work for everyone.

    • DS

      I disagree. Flags are indeed the right decision. Asking to send email is impersonal and lends to a less collaborative and more anti-social society. Besides, there is nothing wrong with telling people you will have to get back to them on questions that cannot be answered on the spot. The very large international corporation I work for has had flags for many many years and they work perfectly and are not offensive, so long as they are not hung all day, every day.

  2. When I last had a cubicle, I’d stand up when people dropped by like this. Conversations definitely stayed shorter…and if the conversation went beyond the boundaries of the quick question, I could always grab my coffee cup and ask the person to walk and talk, which offered a graceful way to close off the conversation (and give me a break to stretch my legs.)

  3. Erica

    Yeah, I don’t think the flag suggestion is a good idea. It just makes it another silly thing management would have to add to their already busy to-do list, and it just makes it look like your complaining. Trust me, I know how annoying the cubicle situation is. I only have a half wall and the rest is all open to the four desks around me. People come up and just start talking, since you have no door, it’s a little hard to find a solution. I often wear noise-cancelling headphones, so people need to actually stop and knock on my desk and wait until I take them off, where I can say, “just one sec… just finishing up this ‘item’…”

  4. Elizabeth

    My husband has this problem at his job, too, and it makes actually working and accomplishing anything impossible. They are on such tight timelines, he’ll get an email, and then 5 minutes later the sender will call him, wondering where his response is! I’ve encouraged him to set “office hours” – hours during the day when he is open for questions, and then other hours when he’s “not available.” So far, he hasn’t taken up the idea, but it could work in an office that has a slightly different culture.

  5. Michelle

    I had an co-worker who put a do not disturb sign on the back of her chair when she needed some time to delve into a project. It worked, and after a while people would always start conversations with “Do you have a minute to answer a question for me?” and she was able to stop using the sign. Basically, she just trained the rest of the office that her time was important. I think you can do a form of this by actually inturrupting the people who stop at your desk, and say “I am in the middle of something and don’t want to loose my train of thought. Could you come back at some specific time in the future?” Or “can you email that question to me so I have some time to put thought into my answer?”

  6. Emily

    I agree that a companywide decision is necessary, if everyone is not on bored then they are less likely to respect the system that you have set up for yourself. If you present management with everything they need to make an informed and efficient decision, I don’t believe they would look down on you for trying to make yourself and your team more productive. I like the idea of the flags as a professional way to say to the office, I’m on DND right now, come back later or email me.

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