[cajobportal Insights]Who Moved My Cube

“Man is born free, but everywhere he is in cubicles.”

This is the rechristened corporate version of the iconic Jean-Jacques statement

So, there is a lot of unbridled enthusiasm these days around abolishing the chamber/cubicle culture in organizations and move to “open offices”.

The future of work, it seems, is about bringing down the walls — not just in terms of hierarchy, but office space, too.

Companies like Microsoft, Ikea, Coca-Cola, Tesco and Vistara are trying out new techniques to engage their employees in common workspaces [1]

At beverage major Coca-Cola’s office, there are fewer than a dozen cabins occupying just about 7 per cent of the total office space. Most of these cabins have transparent glass doors, indicating that the top management is always accessible to people.

No longer do CEOs and senior management view the corner office as a luxury. Instead, more and more CEOs are moving to the floor, encouraging collaboration and a sense of community. Sharing the floor allows management to stay involved, know what’s going on and participate in a more meaningful way.

Chambers aren’t a perfect solution for everyone, rather —some find them isolating.

A lady in The Atlantic stated that she preferred “open offices” with the reasoning which made perfect sense.

“When I came to The Atlantic, I found that much-derided cubicles meant more communication, collaboration, and interaction with my colleagues. I enjoyed the spontaneous chatter that would emerge around a breaking news story or the arrival of snacks. Overall, even though cubicles tend to have a bad rap, I’ve been a happier and more productive employee here than I was when I had my own sealed-off space.[1]

Wall-free environment did help workers forge stronger relationships with each other and with their managers. “If you’re working on projects, or if you have tasks that are interdependent, it’s easier to talk to the people you need to” (Matthew Davis, Leeds University, UK)

An HBR study revealed three rather unsurprising findings about the link between work environment and feelings of “thriving.” It showed that people who use co-working spaces:

1) See their work as meaningful

2) Feel as though they have more job control, and

3) Feel part of a community.

It eliminates gatekeepers. You didn’t have to make an appointment to see someone

The “open office” culture is good for acting on those bosses who just don’t give time to anyone, always on the pretext of being busy.

But yes, the flipside of the fact that “someone” can access you so easily is that there may be instances where you might be genuinely busy, might be trying to focus on something, might be on deadline, might have an idea they really need to explore before it vanishes from your minds.

On a lighter note

In a chamber, there’s no guilt associated with watching a YouTube video or taking a break to pay your credit-card bill, since there’s no one around to see you. Others outside the chamber can only speculate about your lack of work. So they can gossip but not cause any harm to your reputation.

This liberty is not there in an “open space” office J

However, all is not that rosy

Just like all things in life, there are flipsides to the concept of “open offices” also

Too much transparency. Disruption. Lack of engagement. These are a few of the words executives have tossed around in their discussions about the once-cool open office work environment.

Companies adopt open-plan because they’ve been told it’s beneficial, but without paying attention to the tasks employees need to do

For people doing demanding, concentrative tasks, being in a distracting environment would be much more damaging. That’s a big area where open-plan offices are falling down

The HBR study while endorsing the positive impact of removing physical barriers in bringing people closer also states that open spaces reduce privacy, they don’t foster informal exchanges and may actually inhibit them. Employees in open-plan spaces, knowing that they may be overheard or interrupted, have shorter and more-superficial discussions than they otherwise would.”[1]

So is this the optimum choice for those who seek refuge from their coworkers—their chatter and phones, even their peering eye

Way Out

Some people thrive on the energy of the open office while more introverted people tend to suffer.

They key to pleasing workers of varying levels of misanthropy is to offer different types of workspaces that are tailored for different tasks, and then to allow employees to move among them throughout the day. For instance, Citigroup in New York now has 150 unassigned desks for 200 staffers, as well as an accompanying assortment of locker rooms and private spaces

Organizations have to figure out how they can create different places or a palette of places where each worker can find privacy, rejuvenate, recharge and connect with colleagues around the world.

Thanks & Regards


[1] https://hbr.org/2011/07/who-moved-my-cube

[1] http://www.govexec.com/excellence/promising-practices/2014/11/zen-and-art-cubicle-living/99518/

[1] http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/jobs/bye-bye-corner-office-its-one-team-one-space/articleshow/59430394.cms

[1] http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/jobs/bye-bye-corner-office-its-one-team-one-space/articleshow/59430394.cms