what’s the deal with cubicles?

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There is something I do not comprehend about the typical workplace: cubicles.

The steps to start a new company are thought to be simple and straightforward. It turns out, they are in fact relatively simple but somewhere along the line one of the most important steps – office setup – has been wrongly perceived by many. A common practice for start-up companies is set up a flat floor space and then simply fill it up with as many cubicles as they can possibly fit. People think; “Perfect, I can get many employees in and did not have to waste a lot of money on renovations”. Well, for one that may be right, but what they do not consider is the lack of productivity that newly created workspace will bring.

A person requires concentration in able to perform a task. This in no way implies that people cannot multi-task, it simply states that for someone to perform a task correctly in the least amount of time there has to be focus. In a room full of cubicles the mere effect of sound waves and their propagation throughout large spaces decreases the ability for a person to concentrate. The sound of phones ringing and people chattering is enough to distract anyone. It is such an important factor that the efficiency of the people in that room is instantly reduced to a third of its potential.

But why did cubicles appear in the first place? Simple, a very forward thinking man (Robert Probst) designed the “Action Office” which was made to: improve productivity, provide privacy, and even encourage blood flow. The”Action Office” was thought up to help with those things – ironically – at the expense of some badly used floorspace. It consisted of a set of divisions and cabinets that could be easily assembled and disassembled without much effort or time. Some designs included sketch areas and even different desk heights for employees to work in a standing position (blood flow).

Eventually people realized the benefits of the building block model and decided that they wanted to use the concept to efficiently use floorspace – sadly leading up to cramming the most people they could in a defined area. If that weren’t enough, the department of Treasury of the United States – in an effort to stimulate business spending – made furniture depreciate faster than buildings. This in turn gave companies incentives to set up cubicles instead of normal offices because they would spend less money in the long run.

Now, why the history lesson? It all comes back to my post about life work; people have come to a point in which money is more important than human resources. Companies prefer to save a few bucks at the expense of their employees’ creativity, health, and even privacy.

For me, the workplace should be a place where a person feels at home. The work environment should be one of the most comfortable places a person visits in a day. After all, if you think about it, the typical person spends most of his/her time at the office and commuting to and from it. If we dislike our place of work, we inhibit our creativity and drastically reduce our productive potential. We should like our place of work because that way we’ll have the motivation to continue and theinspiration to go further.

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