Controlling traffic at your cubicle

August 22, 1999|By Edward Gunts | Edward Gunts,Sun Staff

It's the bane of anyone who works in an open office: All day long, people come by your desk or cubicle and talk, even if you're busy. What can you do? Some people wear headphones or write on chalkboards to note when they're not free to chat. Others hang curtains. But now there's another solution.

The partners of Ai, a national architecture and interior design firm based in Washington, have designed a product called Protoblocs to help the estimated 25 million office workers in America who have no office doors.

Protoblocs consist of three stackable foam shapes, less than four inches tall, that are the color of a traffic signal. The top shape, a green pyramid, signals that it's all right to come in. The middle shape, a yellow sphere, alerts co-workers to use caution in approaching. The bottom shape, a red cube, means do not disturb.

The product has been used at America Online, the World Bank and Freddie Mac. According to Rusty Meadows, an Ai principal and co-designer of Protoblocs, it already has affected the culture and jargon at these three companies. "As a manager at one recently said, 'It looks like it's going to be a red cube day!' "

A set of three Protoblocs costs $14.95, plus shipping and handling. Contact Protoblocs at 877-229-BLOC, or by fax, 202-783-0413. Ai is at 1445 New York Ave., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20005. The Web site:

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