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Do You Get Cubicle Anxiety?

Man Trapped in a Cube

This post is written as being somewhat sarcastic, but I do personally get a case of cubicle anxiety sometimes. If you really do have bad anxiety, consult your physician.

You don’t necessarily have to sit in a cubicle all day long to develop what I call “cube fever”, or cubicle anxiety. Just sit in one place for hours and hours just staring at a computer screen, and you are bound to have some idea of what cubicle anxiety is all about.

It’s a restlessness. You sit down and immediately don’t want to be anywhere near your computer. Call it technology burnout. Call it not wanting to work. Or call it cubicle anxiety.

What are the symptoms of cubicle anxiety?


The first major symptom is restlessness. You just don’t want to sit down. You find yourself having to take breaks every fifteen or twenty minutes to escape the torture that is being inflicted upon your senses. When you return, you immediately think about how to escape again.


The second major symptom is boredom, which ties into restlessness. For those having the luxury of desk jobs, sometimes there just isn’t enough to do. Surfing the Internet gets old real quick and the minutes only go by so fast. An eight or nine hour day of boredom can be excruciating. You come home tired, even though you didn’t do anything. Your morale is low. You don’t want to go back to work. Your anxiety is starting to climb.


The third major symptom is a constant tension on your stomach. It’s as if you feel this constant pressure on your stomach/upper chest. It’s not an anxiety attack, but you can still feel your stomach churning as if you’re really nervous.

What are the cures?

Although there are no long-term cures, there are some things that help alleviate some of the anxiety.


The first helper is music. Drown out the normal office sounds with your favorite MP3 player. If you can’t bring one into work, sneak in a CD or something and play it on your computer. If you can’t bring in a CD, then you might have to go for another solution.


The second helper is friends. Get to know people. Visit their cubes. Do you remember those breaks every fifteen or twenty minutes? Use this time to mingle. Get your mind off of work for a little while and then return refreshed.


The third helper is decorating. Don’t let your cube look drab. Invest in a nice chair, put up some pictures, and change the lighting. You can usually bring in your own lamps if you need to.


The fourth helper is exercise. After those excruciating days full of nothing to do, finish out the day with working out. You’ll at least feel like you accomplished something that day.

Be Busy

The fifth helper is to be busy. Sometimes you’ll be so busy you’ll forget about your cubicle anxiety all-together.


The sixth helper is wine. For those with really bad cubicle anxiety, a glass of wine during dinner time might alleviate some of the anxiety / stress. For those really adventurous, a lunchtime alcoholic beverage may help. Just don’t let the boss catch you snoozing.


Can you relate? Do you have your own cures? Do tell.

Writer and software engineer Ronald Huereca has been a developer at notable agencies like iThemes and 10up. His varied background has him working with WordPress since 2006, eventually creating his own plugin which, of course, lead to more. He spends quite a bit of his time volunteering with the WordPress project as a core and polyglot contributor. With all of his passions, writing has been the way Ronald expresses himself best. He has written both technical books as well as fiction. Some of his works include Project Mayhem, Mindefusement, and WordPress and Ajax. โ€œYou can only delay the inevitableโ€ is his favorite quote. Ronald enjoys reading Stephen King and John Grisham. When heโ€™s not writing, Ronald dreams of building websites filled with cats yawning, disclaimers his strong opinions, sings karaoke, and advocates for empathy surrounding mental health.

21 thoughts on “Do You Get Cubicle Anxiety?”

  1. Nice topic. I like your idea of being busy or listening to music while inside the cubicle. Taking breaks is also a good thing. In the end, I think it comes down to using the cures as a way to get adjusted to the smaller space. Being busy is also a good solution. However, if one is drenched in some bad situation, they might get upset or frustrated easily because of their unconscious awareness that they do not like small cubicles.

    A good thing to do is to make sure one does not bring office work outside the cubicle. That way, when you go home, you will not associate bigger spaces or things to your work and thus will get used to the cubicle as a workplace faster. Also, I always like leaving work at work.

  2. Yeah… I don't know how people blog for a living. I'm curious to know what their hobbies are.

    I really want to get a laptop so that I can go from environment to environment and not get "trapped" into one place anymore.

  3. I should get a laptop again also. I am in the San Francisco area now and some days I am on the move a lot. Having a laptop on the subway or outside would be awesome.

    Also, about people blogging for a living: I know that for myself, I cannot simply do one thing forever. Even if I blog for a living and everything for me depends on blogging, I still have to go out and change the surrounding environment once in a while to make sure I do not get fed up.

  4. Cubicle anxiety. That pretty much sums up my life. I have been a cubicle prisoner for about 8 years now, and I really identify with the Andy Dufresne character from Shawshank Redemption (well, except for the homosexual attacks…that hasn't happened…yet). Like Andy I've been trying to tunnel out for awhile now, covering up my tunnel with distractions like happily leading meetings at work, in general doing a good job, BSing my way through reviews, etc. My plan is to bust out of this cubicle prison and flee to Montana to live the life of adventurous outdoor writer, photographer, poet, fly fisher, hiker, bamboo rod builder. Even if I have to crawl through a tunnel of sh** like Andy to do it. So there you have it, that's how I feel about cubicle anxiety. I live it.

    I enjoyed your article, Ronald. I've gone through all your solutions in the past, and they actually do help a lot. Especially the music, friends, and staying busy. Becoming a coffee connoisseur helps pass the time as well. But these are only superficial bandages for one not meant for office work. Montana (or some other remote, still wild, beautiful place) is my only option. Take care,


  5. What's with people and Montana? ๐Ÿ˜›

    My instructor at Devry always made fun of Montana and two of my good friends are from there. I hope you get to live your dream. You and your wife should just buy a house out there near a river or lake.

    Cubicle anxiety can be a joking matter, but for some people, it's all too real. Thanks for sharing all.

  6. I only find cubicles unnerving if people can approach my back without me knowing. The last place I worked was like that, but my work laptop had a glossy screen. Acted just like a mirror with the right desktop wallpaper. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I think music is the best solution for me. It really helps me block out the noise of coworkers.

    Montana is the perfect place to get rid of cubicle anxiety. Not too many places left that have that much wide open space without people to bother you. Go Montana! (disclaimer: I am one of the good friends that is from Montana…) ๐Ÿ˜€


  7. Pingback: Do You Get Blog Anxiety? »

  8. cetroyer,

    Some people actually place those automotive mirrors (those little round ones) on their computer monitors so that they can see who might be sneaking up on them. I plan on inventing the invisible tripwire so that you can sleep in your cube and be alerted if there is anybody nearby.

    I'm also going to invent the cubicle noisemaker for those who have a home office and yearn for the cube farm. The sounds that will be generated will be: clipping nails, farting, burping, eating, seat shifting, speakerphone, laughing, and snoring.

  9. You may have cubicle anxiety but the alternative is much worse.

    The first cubicle was introduced in 1968 by Herman Miller Inc. It was designed to solve a previously unknown problem with human physiology.

    Workers using the first prototypes of close-spaced workstations had begun to have mental breaks.

    The cubicle blocks peripheral vision for a concentrating knowledge worker. This prevents the subliminal detection of threat movement to trigger an attempt of the startle reflex.

  10. I’m in my cube now…I hate it. In fact, it’s the only part of my job that I HATE! Almost all of my cube walls are covered with pictures and posters. I grew up on a farm, outside all day….summers coming, it’s only going to get worse!
    I just moved to this department so my thoughts are that I’ll show how good of a worker I am and in a few months ask for a laptop and the freedom to work from home…or the hammock at my grandparent’s house in FL ๐Ÿ™‚ We have other telecommuters, so I’m just biding my time.
    Wish me luck ๐Ÿ™‚

    Oh, and thanks for letting me rant and moan about being in a cube.

  11. lostdmw »

    Yes, being in a cubicle all day sucks, especially if you’re used to being out and about. I have to take constant breaks.

    You’re welcome on letting you rant ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Thanks Ronald….I’ll make it I think. Yesterday I discovered a park that’s not too far from my office. I plan on frequenting it during lunch breaks to help my sanity. ๐Ÿ˜Ž

  13. That’s some great advice, It wasn’t until I finally decided to open up and talk to my best friend about my problems that I finally found the solution to my answer. She too had experienced panic attacks for most of her life, and like me never wanted to tell anyone. Surprisingly it wasn’t therapy that she suggested. She helped me realize that in order to successfully cure my panic attacks that I’d have to take action myself.

  14. I spend 25 years in a cubicle job as an engineer for the Department of Defense. I was very anxious the whole time. Luckily I got to retire early and realized my dream of becoming an artist. I feel like I have been reborn now. It all was worth the 25 year wait.

  15. thanks for about information…Yesterday I discovered a park thatโ€™s not too far from my office. I plan on frequenting it during lunch breaks to help my sanity.

  16. I imagine cubicle anxiety is much more prevalent than you might think, but I’m not a fan of most of your suggestions to deal with it. Just because you don’t know of long term cures doesn’t mean there aren’t any. Alcohol should never be used as a treatment for anything and if you don’t know how to deal with your moods to a serious degree it can make things worse. And the bulk of the list seems to be the equivalant of “pretend to do your job, distract yourself, and screw the company.” You did say that the post was “somewhat sarcastic” though. Maybe I misunderstood where this sarcasm was applied.

  17. Except for relatively short periods working for state agencies I have had an office, but during those periods, my cube mates probably suffered more than I did because I am NOT a quiet person (duh), and when I was on the phone with a client, I tended to forget I had dividers rather than walls. I was usually too busy to get bored, but there were several Fridays when none of us were particularly busy, and I would crank up the music, and we would dance or sing along…or sail paper air planes over the dividers. I have worked from home for nearly 3 years (don’t get me started on my adjustment issues), but for 6+ years before that, due to the unusual acoustics, it wasn’t unknown for someone 30 feet away to come and close my door when I was on a phone call. NOT A CUBICLE PERSON!

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