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Cubicles a Giant Mistake 374

Posted by Zonk
from the we-already-knew-that dept.
J to the D writes "Apparently even the designer of the cubicle believes now that they are a bad idea." From the article: "After years of prototyping and studying how people work, and vowing to improve on the open-bullpen office that dominated much of the 20th century, Propst designed a system he thought would increase productivity (hence the name Action Office). The young designer, who also worked on projects as varied as heart pumps and tree harvesters, theorized that productivity would rise if people could see more of their work spread out in front of them, not just stacked in an in-box."
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Cubicles a Giant Mistake

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  • by Slipgrid (938571) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:14PM (#14885721) Homepage Journal
    My cubicles walls help give me more free time to spend on Slashdot... And, that's Stuff that Matters...
    • by sgt_doom (655561) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:29PM (#14886984)
      It still beats being shackled to those damn oars...I hated those Roman overseers....
  • Just Another Tool (Score:5, Insightful)

    by tverbeek (457094) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:14PM (#14885725) Homepage
    Like any tool, the fault isn't the tool but the people using it. I've worked in (and helped design) some "cubicles" that were closer to Propst's vision... less a cubicle farm than a garden. They beat working in a doored, fully-walled office, and definitely were better than what used to come before them (rows and columns of desks, one-room-schoolhouse style).
    • by mordors9 (665662) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:42PM (#14886004)
      But there is also human nature. Someone hidden behind any sort of wall MAY take the opportunity to goof off. Having said that, the fault then really lies with management. They have to recruit good people, train the people properly, motivate them and reward them for good performance. It doesn't matter if there are cubicles, offices or an open area. We are all adults working together to reach the obejctive.
    • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:55PM (#14886136) Homepage
      They beat working in a doored, fully-walled office

      You must be on crack to believe that. Anyone who works in a job that requires any kind of concentration (software development being the most obvious example) will, given the opportunity, enter a state of "flow" where they are wholly committed to the work they're doing. Many people have likely experienced this: ever start working and then suddenly realize it's already lunch time? Have you had periods where you spend a couple hours deeply focused while getting enormous amounts of work done? That's flow.

      The thing is, getting into this state requires at least 20 minutes to a half an hour, and it can be very easily disturbed by outside distractions, such as noise, conversations, etc. And any break in ones concentration just requires another 20 minutes of recovery time. Consequently, open, cubicle-style workspaces are exactly the *worst* kind of work environment for these kinds of professions. All they do is increase the amount of distraction and make it more difficult for employees to enter a proper state of flow, when they are most productive.

      This would be why I greatly favour offices over any other kind of open concept design, at least for these types of jobs. Does that mean slackers can slack off more easily? Sure. But you'll see greatly increased productivity from the quality employees, as they'll be able to get more work done due to less distraction. And for those slackers, well, the more they slack off, the more obvious it is that they're doing it, giving you the opportunity to cut out the chaff from the wheat.
      • by RevMike (632002) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <ekiMver>> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:23PM (#14886370) Journal

        Anyone who works in a job that requires any kind of concentration (software development being the most obvious example) will, given the opportunity, enter a state of "flow" where they are wholly committed to the work they're doing. Many people have likely experienced this: ever start working and then suddenly realize it's already lunch time? Have you had periods where you spend a couple hours deeply focused while getting enormous amounts of work done? That's flow.

        The thing is, getting into this state requires at least 20 minutes to a half an hour, and it can be very easily disturbed by outside distractions, such as noise, conversations, etc. And any break in ones concentration just requires another 20 minutes of recovery time. Consequently, open, cubicle-style workspaces are exactly the *worst* kind of work environment for these kinds of professions. All they do is increase the amount of distraction and make it more difficult for employees to enter a proper state of flow, when they are most productive.

        Even in a typical private office, however, there are still distractions. The telephone ringing or your neighbor speaking too loud or any of a million other things can be disturbing.

        A good compromise is to provide flexible space, cubicles for handling the normal day-to-day stuff, team rooms for collaborative work, and small private spaces with no distractions for deep solo concentration.

        Actually, lots of companies provide the third. The room is generally tiled and has a row of tiny offices equipped with porceline chairs.

      • Re:Just Another Tool (Score:5, Interesting)

        by kov (262834) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:36PM (#14886508)
        At the risk of drawing derision on financial software development, we couldn't possibly do what we do with offices. When the trading desk has a problem with your software system and you're bleeding money, it's battle stations. Much easier to have a big wide open room with everyone right there madly working on the solution. More sources of input, less redundant communication. The benefits of that are too good compared to the benefits of an office -- you just have to learn how to concentrate in the middle of a battlefield, sort of like that guy in the Seven Samurai who makes himself sleep when the time's available (and only when it's available!).

        Course, we don't use cubes either, just a wide open floor with desks.
        • by JabrTheHut (640719)
          When the trading desk has a problem with your software system and you're bleeding money, it's battle stations.

          There is, unfotunately, no desk system that can compensate for coders who skip the test and UAT stages and move code directly from dev to live, then wonder why it doesn't work...
      • Re:Just Another Tool (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Tim (686) <timr@NoSpam.alumni.washington.edu> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:39PM (#14886548) Homepage
        Anyone who works in a job that requires any kind of concentration (software development being the most obvious example) will, given the opportunity, enter a state of "flow" where they are wholly committed to the work they're doing.

        Yeah, that's nice in theory. In practice, the people most dedicated to The Flow (tm), are the antisocial, uncooperative nitwits who hole themselves up in their offices for 8+ hours each day, only to turn out piles of un-reviewed, un-documented, poorly-specified crap (whether code or otherwise).

        With no exceptions, the best tech workers I know are balanced, social people who prefer not to hole up in their offices. The best coding environment I ever worked in was a room of 6 developers, separated by bookshelves, with small break-out rooms available for truly private conversations. Of course, you do actually have to like your coworkers for a setup like that to work, but I digress....
        • Hip hip hoorah. (Score:3, Insightful)

          by crovira (10242)
          I fully agree. One of the places where I worked had a cubicle farm, where nobody worked, and a central open area where the 3270's were located (that should tell you how long ago it was, if you can even remember 3270 terminals.)

          That was where we were coding, reviewing stuff, learning off of each other, collaborating.
        • by aeoo (568706) on Friday March 10, 2006 @12:33AM (#14888778) Journal
          Ah, you should open up your mind more.

          I've had from about 1000 friends (not kidding) to almost none. I'm not this or that. I'm not social or anti-social. Sometimes I chat up almost anyone, and other times I want my space. Sometimes I am a party/clown type fool and others times I'm serious. Don't stick me with your idiotic labels just because you didn't have the priviledge to know me for more than 3 years, please.

          Right now I work in a cube. I love talking to others. Right now. I am not obligated to keep loving it. I am not obligated to hate it. And here's the kicker, I still enter the zone! Even in a social situation I can be as focused as anyone in a completely isolated and sound-proof office. AND it doesn't stop me from being able to chat with my cube buddies once in a while, or maybe a lot on some days. Or maybe not at all on others.

          For Pete's sake, just stop stereotyping. The zone, social, anti-social, good, bad, asshole, nice, it's not how you imagine. It's really not. It only seems you got it nailed down. But once you start asking yourself tough questions and start being really observant, you'll see that people are individuals and that many qualities you previously thought to be exclusive are not necessarily exclusive.

          Someone in an office can be very friendly and social. Someone in a cube farm or in a completely open environment can be able to enter the zone. Someone who can enter the zone can be very considerate of others. Someone who is a socialite could be an inconsiderate and narcisistic asshole. And so on. Just because you talk to others a lot and get your code reviewed doesn't mean you write good code. You might be stupid and resistant to change, no matter how much your code gets reviewed. The reviewers might be idiots. It's really, really hard to say. It's very context/situation dependent. And please, I am not trying to know code reviews -- I love open source and I constantly solicit reviews of my own code, even though code review is not even a policy in my workplace.

          In a word, just try to grow an open mind. Please. For all of us! Not just for your own sake.
      • Re:Just Another Tool (Score:5, Informative)

        by fm6 (162816) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:41PM (#14886580) Homepage Journal
        That's funny. I work at a company where almost everybody has a private office. And yet lots of people go home to work to get away from the distractions!

        The way to eliminate distractions is not to build walls, but to build awareness of people's needs. People need to be aware of how the noise they make affects others. That's not just important in cube land — somebody with a nasty case of "cell phone shout" can reach through walls!

      • Re:Just Another Tool (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Usquebaugh (230216) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:01PM (#14886754)
        I'm just starting to experiment with sensory deprivation at work. I'm using a set of the monitors in glasses and also a set of ear defenders with an old set of mini headphones embedded.

        It's going pretty well and I can pretty much stay in the flow no matter what. Although I do worry about the fire alarms. Next I'm going to try a recliner.

        Ideally I'd like to dump the keyboard and mouse, but I can't think how.

        I'm much better at getting through work, although my wierdness factor is just gone up an order of magnitude.
      • Re:Just Another Tool (Score:5, Interesting)

        by ltbarcly (398259) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:58PM (#14887593)
        Actually, that isn't 'flow'. It's Attention Deficit Disorder. It's very, very common among computer programmers, as intelligent people with ADD will self select CS because the instant feedback gives an immediate reward for concentration, and therefore they feel more successful at computer work than other endeavors.

        See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperfocus [wikipedia.org]
        • Re:Just Another Tool (Score:4, Interesting)

          by RocketRainbow (750071) <[moc.xoblaerym] [ta] [lrigtekcor]> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @10:20PM (#14888273) Homepage Journal
          SNAP!!!

          Yes, if you are easily distracted, have trouble getting into a mental/emotional state where you can work and think clearly, and once in "the zone" you are hyperfocused on your goal, then you may have ADD. It might be associated with hyperactivity, or with inattention/phasing out. In my case, it's associated with an astonishingly small amount of mental RAM and extreme sluggishness in the morning before my first dose of (no I don't believe in Xenu) drugs.

          If you're a coffee addict or smoker, and you feel large amounts of these stimulants help you to function normally (and when you try to come off them you just CAN'T), that's more evidence that ADD may be responsible. Ask your doctor for a referral to a (good) psychiatrist!

          By the way, ADD can be successfully managed with a lot less drugs and a lot more yoga, and it has been associated with people like Einstein who clearly had a "nerd personality" but definitely not ASD. So it's not a delinquency/criminal illness and it's not mental retardation and it's DEFINITELY not an excuse for lazy people to get high! (I am a Buddhist and I hate drugs - I won't even take strong herbs without a doctor's orders.) Actually, there's often a genetic cause and usually related to the ASD gene (but with a different expression in brain function).

          Bring on the pink Hello Kitty labcoat for use in all those laser labs where my sparkly things are banned!

          xx
          Rocket
      • Re:Just Another Tool (Score:4, Interesting)

        by eric76 (679787) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @08:26PM (#14887748)
        I now have two offices. Both are in the same building about 30 feet from each other.

        The larger office is my public office. It used to be a conference room but is now packed with book shelves, a several tables and desks, and a number of computers. Any more, I spend about three fourths of my workday in it.

        The smaller, private office is very quiet. It is well insulated and has no telephone. It has a large comfortable easy chair pushed up to a desk with a couple of computers and a monitor. It also has a CD player and small speakers, but I hardly turn it on. Everyone knows to bother me there only if it is really important.

        I can usually accomplish more software development work in two uninterrupted hours in the private office than I can in 8 hours in the public office.

        All it takes is one or two interruptions in that two hours and my productivity drops to about the same as in the public office.
      • Coffee flow (Score:3, Funny)

        by Trejkaz (615352)

        You must be on crack to believe that. Anyone who works in a job that requires any kind of concentration (software development being the most obvious example) will, given the opportunity, enter a state of "flow" where they are wholly committed to the work they're doing.

        I certainly enter a state of "flow" when I've had too much coffee during the day, but I'm not sure it's the kind which actually enhanced productivity.

      • Re:Just Another Tool (Score:3, Interesting)

        by DerekLyons (302214)

        You must be on crack to believe that. Anyone who works in a job that requires any kind of concentration (software development being the most obvious example) will, given the opportunity, enter a state of "flow" where they are wholly committed to the work they're doing.

        The thing is, getting into this state [flow] requires at least 20 minutes to a half an hour, and it can be very easily disturbed by outside distractions, such as noise, conversations, etc. And any break in ones concentration just requires ano

  • by PenguinBoyDave (806137) <david.davidmeyer@org> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:15PM (#14885727)
    Without cubes, we never would have been given Dilbert, Office Space or User Friendly. Cubes aint all that bad!
    • Re:Yes! ...and (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NoseBag (243097) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:26PM (#14885851)
      ...don't forget the - to me - absolutely precious term:

      PRAIRIE DOGGING! ...naturally I mean the cube-farm-heads-popping-up kind, not the "I have to go to the rest room really bad" kind. Although the latter is mildly amusing too.
    • by susano_otter (123650) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:29PM (#14885881) Homepage
      Without cubes, we never would have been given Dilbert, Office Space or User Friendly. Cubes aint all that bad!

      The creators of these works are essentially profiting from helping us to relieve the stress and pain caused by bad work environments and policies.

      Imagine what rewarding and fulfilling work they could do, if society had no need for them to expend their creative energies helping us to relieve the stress of working in cubicles.

      Imagine what more we could all do, if we didn't have to relieve that stress in the first place!

      Dilbert, Office Space, and User Friendly all make the best of a bad situation. I'd rather their creators never had a bad situation to make the best of, in the first place.
    • Some of the best jokes I know came out of the Soviet Union. Although, most of them aren't even that funny to someone who hasn't had a chance to live in the USSR.

      As Heisenberg said, "There are things that are so serious that you can only joke about them."

      The question is, is the suffering worth it to you?
    • This is a bit OT, but what the hell...

      In the 80's, I worked for a Major Software Company that is now little more than a brand name for a larger company. We had recently moved into a brand new building carefully designed for developers (i.e., adequate power and network connectivity, server areas), which happened to implement a strong preference for private offices (although some space was left open for potential cubicle space.

      Enter a new CTO, who expresses a disdain for private offices, and embarks on a

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:15PM (#14885728)
    Cubicles are Cubs Fans who sit in their ice-cold stadium
  • by swschrad (312009) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:17PM (#14885749) Homepage Journal
    tell me you all aren't pumped full of donuts, chained to the desk, allowed to get big and fat, and then sold for slaughter right before the holidays....
  • by rob_squared (821479) <rob AT rob-squared DOT com> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:17PM (#14885753)
    To remedy this, I suggest corner window offices for all office employees.
    • Windows (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dpbsmith (263124) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:33PM (#14885919) Homepage
      I don't think it's practical to give everyone a corner office, but everyone _could_ have a window.

      In Peopleware, Tom DeMarco & Timothy Lister observe that work better in offices with windows. When this is pointed out, management usually says "sure, but it's impossible to give everyone a room with a window."

      DeMarco and Lister's reply is that in fact every hotel in the world manages to do this.

      • Re:Windows (Score:3, Funny)

        by HardCase (14757)
        I don't think it's practical to give everyone a corner office, but everyone _could_ have a window.

        whoosh!!!!
      • Re:Windows (Score:5, Insightful)

        by XenoRyet (824514) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:40PM (#14885986)
        Yes, but hotels try for the most appealing use of their land space, not the most efficent. You could give everyone a window office, but it'll cost you. I imagine the price per day per square foot is much higher in a hotel than an office building.

        It is, of course, entirely possible that the cost will be worth it, due to the incresed productivity, reduced stress, and general worker well being. It's just not as straight forward as it may appear.

        • Also: A hotel room has more floor space than the average office (that I've been in). This means they can arrange the rooms so that they all have a window without shrinking the building to hugely.

          Oh, and I've been in hotel rooms without a window.
        • Re:Windows (Score:3, Funny)

          by StikyPad (445176)
          So you just put windows in everyone's cubicle. Problem solved.
      • Re:Windows (Score:5, Funny)

        by Zerth (26112) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:20PM (#14886348)
        Hell, I don't even have an office, let alone one along an outside wall, and I have a window!

        In fact, nearly everybody here has a window, because the building used to be a window factory, so the previous company used their own product nearly everywhere in the construction. If it was to showcase them or to cut down on the cost of drywall, I'm not sure.

        Of course most of them look out onto stairwells or warehouse shelves, but at least they are windows:)

      • Re:Windows (Score:5, Funny)

        by Bull999999 (652264) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:23PM (#14886379) Journal
        work better in offices with windows

        This is Slashdot. I recommend that they get Linuxes instead.
    • by infinite9 (319274) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:52PM (#14886110)
      To remedy this, I suggest corner window offices for all office employees.

      I would be far happier in my cube if the walls went floor to ceiling, and there were real sound dampening materials in the walls. I can hold a conversation with the guy on the other side of the wall while speaking in a low voice. And I'm sick and tired of impromptu speaker-phone conference calls in the cube next to me.

      I feel exactly the same way about bathroom stalls.
    • To remedy this, I suggest corner window offices for all office employees.

      Maybe you meant it as a joke, but it is actually possible to get light on two sides of every room. See Joel's bionic office [joelonsoftware.com].

  • Easy fix... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:18PM (#14885755) Homepage
    We just move to icosahedronicles.
  • by liveinthewire (648556) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:18PM (#14885759)
    "even the designer of the cubicle believes now that they are a bad idea."

    Unlikely, since he's been dead for several years.

  • Oh dear god no (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:18PM (#14885760)
    Open plan is even worse, jesus christ I can't bear open plan, oh dear god please don't make me go back to open plan, please!
    • Open plan is even worse, jesus christ I can't bear open plan, oh dear god please don't make me go back to open plan, please!

      it was all so fake too, at (flashy dead dot.com) it was all open, EXCEPT for the two top guys and the managing director. It was
      all a strategy to spend less money on renovations and more money on cocaine and boat parties anyway. and aerons.

      .
      .
      • I went to an interview last summer at a dot com. I walk in and see two huge dining room tables with workstations setup all around it. Each table had about 8-10 people. The place was eerie stale quiet except for people working.

        About 13 of the first 15 minutes was the guy spouting off about what he's done and the graduate program he just got into. At minute 16, he gets a cell phone call. He scheduled another meeting at the same time. He apologized and said he wanted to schedule a second.

        When the secreta
    • Re:Oh dear god no (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mykdavies (1369) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @06:49PM (#14887097)
      I find open plan by far the best working environment for concentrating: being part of the environment means that I can let it all pass me by without breaking my concentration. If you hear a thud, you can just glance over, see that one of your colleagues has knocked over the water-cooler, and carry on working without breaking the flow. The buzz of background noise means that no noise really stands out - unlike say a library, where the noise of the person shuffling their papers may lead you to want to kill.

      Of course it works the other way as well - if you really needed a break at the point where the water-cooler toppled, what better excuse could you have?

      Perhaps you've never worked in a well-planned open-plan environment? I'm used to offices with sufficient space, lots of noise-absorbent material, and laid out so that you never have more than 10-15 people in direct sight.

      This [findarticles.com] article is a bit wanky, but makes some interesting points towards the end about the effectiveness of the environment (BA's headquarters at Waterside, a building I've worked at) being dependent on the motivation of the management team. This article [knowledgeboard.com] is an interesting review of how office layout can affect your team's effectiveness. Both well worth a read.

      Cheers, Mike
  • by creimer (824291) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:18PM (#14885761) Homepage
    ... theorized that productivity would rise if people could see more of their work spread out in front of them ...

    What if your work is in front of you, behind you, on both sides of you, and even hanging above you like a 100-ton anvil? Some cubicles are death traps waiting to happen. Especially if you got a Star Trek nut in a cube.
  • by AusIV (950840) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:18PM (#14885762)
    Unfortunately, stating that it was a bad idea decades after the fact does nothing for the poor beings trapped in these small cages.
  • by DaveV1.0 (203135) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:19PM (#14885768) Journal
    Do you have any idea how hard it is to goofy off properly with people walking by?

    It bothers me even when I actually doing work.

    And here comes someone now.....
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:20PM (#14885779) Homepage
    My first real programming job had me working in a lab with a few other students at an internship. We worked in an environment where we could all see what we were doing because of the total lack of privacy. Now that I am a graduate and a cube monkey, what I see is that cubicles offer the worst of both worlds. They give people the illusion of privacy, which is why a lot of people look at porn at work, and it also makes it much more casual to walk in and engage in idle chit chat since you have no door to knock on or authenticate access to.

    Cubicles are, however, a very good way to cheaply maximize space use because you don't have to build the walls, buy the doors and install the windows that are, well, kind of par for the course with having a bonafide office of your own.
    • Something just dawned on me - cubes are nothing more than movable partitions with junk that can be attached (like desks, shelves, etc). Walls are nothing more than floor-to-ceiling partitions, if you will. Maybe the next step is to back off from the standard cubicle and go for an office space that has detachable, movable walls. After all, building in doors, walls, etc., is the expense that companies are trying to avoid. It seems to me that it wouldn'd be too difficult to come up with something that might be
      • Most leased office space is as you describe. Most of the inner walls are more or less temporary. When you agree to sign a multo year lease, they will move walls around for you. That is why many leased office spaces are so crappy. The walls are quickly thrown together dry wall, with doors etc....
      • Something just dawned on me - cubes are nothing more than movable partitions with junk that can be attached (like desks, shelves, etc). Walls are nothing more than floor-to-ceiling partitions, if you will. Maybe the next step is to back off from the standard cubicle and go for an office space that has detachable, movable walls. After all, building in doors, walls, etc., is the expense that companies are trying to avoid. It seems to me that it wouldn'd be too difficult to come up with something that might be
      • It seems to me that it wouldn'd be too difficult to come up with something that might be almost as effective as a walled office, but not nearly as expensive as the "built-in" approach.

        Most offices I've worked in are like that: basically a huge open space with a few semi-permanent but movable walls in them.

        The idea doesn't work if you want to give everyone their own office anyway, not without renting a lot more floorspace. Cubes can be as small as they are because of the half-height walls, which give t

    • They give people the illusion of privacy, which is why a lot of people look at porn at work, and it also makes it much more casual to walk in and engage in idle chit chat since you have no door to knock on or authenticate access to.

      I think I see a market opportunity here. I'll hook a spare line from my desk phone to a RADIUS server and maybe some sort of electronic lock. Anyone who wants in my door must call me first on their cell phone and enter their code. I could probably even set times of day for more o
    • I just picked a corner in the server room.. set up two 8ft folding tables.. used some extra file lockers as a rear wall and moved in..

      everything i need is right here. shure it is a little noisy and cold.. but who cares.. no one really bothers me
  • Not quite true (Score:5, Informative)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:21PM (#14885789) Journal
    Some of the other articles speak about that he still likes the cubicles. What he objects to, is small cubicles. When he designed it, they were about the size of a standard office. Now, they are about 1/6 to 1/8 of the size of an office. Big difference.
  • by ErichTheRed (39327) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:21PM (#14885792)
    I tend to agree, although don't forget that cubicles are a huge imporvement over rows and rows of desks with zero privacy whatsoever. Personally, I'd rather have an office, or at least a cubicle-sized space with a door I can close. It's very distracting for some people to hear everyone's phone conversations, music choices, etc. When I work on a problem, I tend to go lock myself in a lab or some other closed space so I can have "alone time" and carefully consider things.

    It wouldn't be hard at all to give current cubicles full-sized walls and doors. I think it would greatly improve productivity. Think of how many times you've had to listen to people talking two feet away from you while you're trying to concentrate.

    One of the main barriers to adoption is the fact that you can't oversee your staff like you can in a cubicle farm or open office. But then again, if you have to constantly watch them, do you really want them as employees? :-)
    • >But then again, if you have to constantly watch them, do you really want them as employees? :-)

      More importantly, If you have to constantly watch then, does your boss want you as an employee?
    • I am one of the annoying people that are loud, pace, act goofy, and in every other way you can think of, annoy the other people in the office. I'll tell you, noise and activity help me be more productive. The fact that I have to dramatically tone it down, just to be tolerable causes a hit to my productivity. Luckily I am now a telecommuter, I have always found that my jobs with offices got way more productivity out of me than my jobs with cubes. Those of us that thrive in noise are perticularly screwed,
    • It wouldn't be hard at all to give current cubicles full-sized walls and doors.

      It's not a technical problem, but it's a logistical nightmare. Any partition that spans from the floor to the ceiling is classified as a wall by most building codes, and would need to be constructed as such, and pass relevant inspections. While the cost for cheap walls might rival the costs of a floor-to-ceiling cubicle, cubicles are defined as furnitre, and may be devalued after only 7 years. Buildings can't be devalued for 4
      • The word you want is depreciation, not devaluation. Office furniture is usually depreciated with a period of either 5 or 7 years, for example stock shelves are usually figured at 5, file cabinets at 7, and so on. (if memory serves, the lawmakers in the New York legislature that first set up this system in the US (about 1790) actually had a debate where it was argued that shelves handled by the general public depreciate a bit faster than most office furniture since the latter is only being handled by people
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:28PM (#14885869)
    I worked on design of the cubicle. The original idea had us placing workers inside transparent spheres, but testing revealed some office environments devolved into crazy pinball machines or a bumper car ride from hell. Our second revision merely squared off the spheres and lowered the height for visibility. There was no long-term view to our design. We were just trying to meet a deadline.
  • by newdamage (753043) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:28PM (#14885873) Homepage Journal
    The tandem of tiny cubes and the paging system is enough to drive one to insanity. Nothing like finally slipping into the zone to get some real work done when everybody leaves for lunch when suddenly there is the blaring overhead, "Will the owner of a black jeep please come to the front desk? Your lights are on."

    And suddenly I'm back to square one. I don't even think industrial strength ear plugs could block out most corporate paging systems.
    • Nothing like finally slipping into the zone to get some real work done when everybody leaves for lunch when suddenly there is the blaring overhead, "Will the owner of a black jeep please come to the front desk? Your lights are on."

      Especially since, if you just wait a little while, the lights on that jeep will magically go off! It's a self-correcting problem!
    • I've never had to deal with a PA system for any extended length of time; you can accomplish similar things with e-mail or corporate IM if you know everyone's at their desk with their "interrupt me" applications constantly polling for input. At least with a PA system you can wear headphones to drown it out.
  • by l3v1 (787564) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:31PM (#14885905)
    Back when I was in my last year at university I went to a job interview to a .net dev company. Everything went fine, the fellas I talked to seemed ok, tests I had to pass were not that PITA, the money seemed ok too. Yet, I didn't work there, not even for a day. Why ? Yes, "open" office.

    Back to the present, I have now a full time and a part time job. In the part time job my place is in a cubicle, sort of, 3 workplaces in a box, about 2m high "walls" between boxes. I only took it, because I only have to spend max. 2 days/week there, and I can also work remotely at times.

    And I know I'm not alone with this. FYI, I'm not a bad team player, still, I need my place where I can do my part alone. And yes, music.

  • by Rick Genter (315800) <rick.genterNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:32PM (#14885911) Homepage Journal
    If you read TFA, you'll see that Probst, the inventor of the cubicle, died in 2000. It was actually before then that he realized that cubicles were a mistake...
  • by aquatone282 (905179) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:40PM (#14885989)

    Prior to starting a second-career as a software engineer for a medium-sized defense contractor, I was an avionics technician in the USAF. My work areas were either windowless labs, aircraft hangars, or aircraft parking areas.

    I'll take this cube in climate controlled building with big windows any day. I have more privacy and more comfort. Plus, my co-workers don't fart, spit, and discuss goose-hunting all freakin' day long.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • ...my only real complaint is that the standard config of the cube is angled into the corner effect that allows people is creep up behind you. Not so bad if your listening, its when the headphones are on nad they have been stnading there and you had no idea. The whole thing creeps me out. I hate having my back to the flow of traffic. I tend to sit a little sideways as I can catch the door in my side-vision (which of course leads to neck and back stress.

    I'd really like a way to move the "door" off center
  • by cgrayson (22160) * on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:49PM (#14886080) Homepage

    The collaborative power of people working on the same project sitting together is crap.

    For every time it saves time for one person (in a (typical?) four-person bullpen to be able to call out a question to the others, there's exactly three times it distracts and breaks the flow of the others.

    And that's purposeful interruptions; it's not even counting incidental distractions (phone calls, thinking-out-loud comments, etc.).

    I've worked in both private offices and open environments, and I'm with Joel [joelonsoftware.com]. Privacy and lack of interruption is key for developers.

  • Anyone else find it impossible to read an article that has not one, but two sets of scrolling photos next to it? Jeez, I'm trying not to get my work done here, but the distractions are just too distracting.

    -CGP [colingregorypalmer.net]
  • by iamdrscience (541136) <michaelmtripp&gmail,com> on Thursday March 09, 2006 @04:59PM (#14886182) Homepage
    Cubicles a Giant Mistake
    Impossible. Most cubicles are very tiny, and even of those that aren't I have never seen one that could be described as "giant".
  • Nothing new really (Score:3, Informative)

    by houghi (78078) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:03PM (#14886216)
    I have removed the typical cubical wall in several places and always the working together improved, wich is something you would want in general.

    Places that still demanded some sort of cubicle were given lower cubicle walls, so people could see each other when sitting down, not only standing up.

    Once when asked what type of cubicle people wanted, the answer was none. Taking away cubicles made people generaly happier, because they could see other people and also had the idea that their desk was much, much larger.

    There still is enough posibilaty to give people a bit of privacy or the idea of privacy when you place the desk in a good way.

    yes, you need to enforce 'clean desk' with it and generaly that is experienced as a good idea after a week or two. In general: trow out everything you did not use in the last year and remove anything from your desk (also stuff in drawers and such) you did not use in the last month.
  • How about the space of a cubicle, but without the separator? It would certainly help in the feeling of space and you would be able to breath better.
  • Doesn't it depend... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Bombula (670389) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:15PM (#14886317)
    ... on the kind of work you're doing?
  • by Doctor Memory (6336) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:18PM (#14886333)
    Check out the article here [typepad.com] by Kathy Sierra (of Head First fame). She quotes neuroscientist Elizabeth Gould of Princeton saying "complex surroundings create a complex brain". Basically, a monotonous environment causes the brain to stop producing new neurons. For years, it was thought that we were born with all the neurons we would ever have, largely because all studies of primate brains involved keeping the monkeys in cages -- an environment that inhibits neuron formation and growth! Now research shows that a stimulating environment fosters neuron formation and reduces brain stress. Time to bust out the electric screwdriver!
  • Les Nessman (Score:3, Funny)

    by Derling Whirvish (636322) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:23PM (#14886371) Journal
    How about a strip of masking tape around you and your desk and a pretend door? Would that be any better?
  • by Ratbert42 (452340) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:28PM (#14886425)
    In my office, one guy used cardboard to increase the height of his cube walls. We almost put in a masking tape / Les Nesman 4th wall and door for him, but he got moved to an office because he whined so much. Which led to everyone whining.

    I did something similar to keep my chatty neighbor from driving me nuts. I started by putting up a huge whiteboard so it stuck an extra foot above the cube wall. Then he couldn't Kilroy over the wall and chat. Then I put two extra desktop machines at the end of my desk to keep him from sitting on my desk to chat. As bonuses, it blocked the view a bit more and the extra white noise drowned him out. Then I had to put an old monitor and desktop on the floor behind my chair so there was nowhere left to stand in my cube to chat. My cube looks like something from Sanford-n-Son, but it keeps people away.
  • by B5_geek (638928) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @05:56PM (#14886717)
    Am I the only one who likes cubes? *
    I hate seeing anybody else, leave me to my own world and I can space-out and do the job better. I wish I was in a cube at my current job. (4-man open bullpen/closet with 2 desks, 2 PC's and 2 phones.) A cube would be an UPGRADE!

    *I only like the cubes that allow me to see the 'door' when sitting. Nothing is worse then sitting in a cube and not seeing people standing behind you. (yes I have a mirror taped to my monitor, I tell people it's because I enjoy the company.)

  • by ylikone (589264) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @07:34PM (#14887443) Homepage
    With open-concept, I can't concentrate! I keep seeing things in my peripheral vision. I keep thinking somebody is staring at me. I feel like I am constantly in the spotlight. It would drive me mad I tell you.... MAD!!
  • by jonwil (467024) on Thursday March 09, 2006 @10:46PM (#14888416)
    I still dont understand why companies dont like telecommuting.
    In the modern world of email, instant-messaging as well as things like VOIP/voice chat and video confrencing, there is no reason that you couldnt have, say, developers working from home.
    No need to spend money even on cubes or open-plan office space.

    Have meeting rooms for those times when a face-to-face meeting is the only way to get things done and other alternatives wont work.

    Management can see how much work is being done by looking at how much code employees commit to the reository. Or by looking at how many of their assigned bugs or features or tasks they complete and sign off on (including how long it takes them to do each one).

    Advantages of working from home as I see it:
    1.No need to commute to work (saves money and time as well as saving the environment)
    2.Saves the company money in that they dont need to spend as much on cubes/offices/space, electricity etc etc etc.
    3.Allows workers to work a little more flexibly (in that as long as they are working the right number of hours, they dont necessarily need to be 9-5 mon-fri). Want to go to the movies? Work late other nights that week and take friday afternoon off.
    Living with school-age kids? Start work when they are off at school, work through until they come home, then do stuff with the kids until bed-time and spend a couple hours working after the kids are in bed to make up for the hours you didnt work in the afternoon.
    Need to go to the bank to sort something out? Go to the bank and make up the work later that day.
    4.Allows workers to work in what they might consider a better environment (Want to have your music playing? No problems. Dont want to wear a tie? No problems.)
  • by Tom (822) on Friday March 10, 2006 @04:33AM (#14889350) Homepage Journal
    It took him that long? For all I know, he and some corporate PHBs (who themselves, of course, have nice little offices) were the only ones who ever thought cubicles are a good idea.

I have never seen anything fill up a vacuum so fast and still suck. -- Rob Pike, on X.

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