October 15th, 2007 by Kevin
Simply put, we hate cubicles.
Cubicles suck for jobs that require personal concentration (engineering, accounting, most computer-based jobs, etc.).
As previous software programmers for both large and small companies, we’ve spent plenty of time in the proverbial dilbert‘esque office environment. They exist everywhere, and it gets old… really, really fast. Of course, the reasons why cubicles suck have been repeated and enumerated many times over.
No door leads to mass interruptions and noise pollution
Many experienced cubicle inhabitants will tell you they get the most stuff done in the hours outside of 8-5–when no one else is at the office. It’s really terrible in some office layouts where the programmers are right next to a whole raft of customer service reps whom are on the phone all day.
The private office as a badge
Typically, private offices are relegated to employees of importance or seniority. This is just bogus and unfortunate. Not only does this stink for the lowly employees, but it also reinforces the fact that your organization is built around rank and status. Boo and hiss!
Who likes dull colors and fluorescent lighting, anyway?
There are only so many cubes that can border a window (these cubes are also usually treated as badges). The rest of the cubes are stuck in the middle of the office space, sans sunlight. Couple this with the drab, unexciting color of the cube walls, and you have more of a dungeon than a work space. Nothing says workplace efficiency like a dungeon!
Alternatives to cubicles?
If you’re not in a position to alter your current work environment, there is likely little you can do, aside from bitching and wearing headphones. Joel has some suggestions:
“Look for ways to get out of this environment. Take a laptop to the company cafeteria, where there are lots of tables that are empty most of the day (and nobody can find you). Book a conference room for the whole day… The next time there’s a crunch on and your manager asks you what you need to Get This Done By Tomorrow, you know what to say. They’ll find you an office for the day. And pretty soon they’ll start wondering what they can do to keep that productive thing going year round.
Come into work late and leave late. Those hours after the rest of the company goes home can be the most productive.”
However, if you are in a position of power, we suggest you create as many offices with doors as possible and steal some of the solutions that other successful companies have come up with.
Pixar, for instance, has replaced the lowly cubicle with small sheds/huts, which have a door, are insulated from outside noise, and have a high customization factor. How rad is that?!
What’s the best set up?
There’s no one best set up for all businesses. If you want boring, dull, and lifeless employees, put them in a boring, dull, and lifeless environment (not recommended). However, if you want creative, kick-ass employees, then put them in a creative, kick-ass environment.