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Cubicles a Giant Mistake

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the we-already-knew-that dept.

374

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 (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14885718)

Ha-ha, you fool. You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is "Never get involved in a land war in Asia", but only slightly less well known is this: "Never go in against a nerd, when *first post* is on the line.".
Hahahahahah.

[Vizzini falls over dead]

Re:Cubicles a Giant Mistake (1, Redundant)

'nother poster (700681) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885791)

That puts vizzini in good company since Propst, the guy who invented cubicles, died in 2000. I guess that make it hard for him to believe anything "now".

Stuff that Matters... (5, Funny)

Slipgrid (938571) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885721)

My cubicles walls help give me more free time to spend on Slashdot... And, that's Stuff that Matters...

Re:Stuff that Matters... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14885959)

According to your employer's http proxy logs, not for long.

Re:Stuff that Matters... (4, Interesting)

Slipgrid (938571) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886007)

Now, I'm a bit smarter than that. All my surfing is logged on my home computer. My home computer is my proxy. Easy enough to do, though I did study CS for many years. Funny, though, because the system admin wanted me to run a spyware remover on my desktop at work, that I've used for two years now. It came back with only one cookie that it thought was set to last to long. He was stunned. Not bad for all that time here.

I really missed out then... (1)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886238)

My cubicles walls help give me more free time to spend on Slashdot... And, that's Stuff that Matters...

I totally blew it when I didn't bother to patent double-decker desks. Imagine surfing /. and having your secretary at the desk above you... oh wait, this is /. never mind.

Re:Stuff that Matters... (1)

speed_of_light (930261) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886276)

What are you talking about? Slashdotters spend more time on pr0n than /.

Just Another Tool (5, Insightful)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885725)

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).

Re:Just Another Tool (4, Insightful)

mordors9 (665662) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Just Another Tool (5, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886136)

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.

Re:Just Another Tool (5, Funny)

RevMike (632002) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886370)

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.

Now wait just a minute... (5, Funny)

PenguinBoyDave (806137) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885727)

Without cubes, we never would have been given Dilbert, Office Space or User Friendly. Cubes aint all that bad!

Re:Yes! ...and (4, Insightful)

NoseBag (243097) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Now wait just a minute... (4, Insightful)

susano_otter (123650) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885881)

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.

Re:Now wait just a minute... (3, Insightful)

dusik (239139) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886058)

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?

Re:Now wait just a minute... (1)

Vandilizer (201798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886201)

"Without cubes, we never would have been given Dilbert, Office Space or User Friendly. Cubes aint all that bad!"

Yes but is that better then the possibility that we would never had a need for these vent in the first place. For we would have been in a better place...

Anyway we sill have our bosses and co-workers to complain about. That alone is enough for those cartoons and then some.

Cubicles are Cubs Fans ... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14885728)

Cubicles are Cubs Fans who sit in their ice-cold stadium

Re:Cubicles are Cubs Fans ... (1)

absinthminded64 (883630) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886142)

Giant cubicles were a mistake? I want one!

FP (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14885730)

cubicles are cool

In other words ... (1, Funny)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885747)

... now that he's made as much money as he can off getting people into the box, he's going to try to make more getting them back out of the box.

Considering his track record, HE should be put in a box.

Re:In other words ... (5, Funny)

timster (32400) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885773)

He IS in a box. RTFA.

Re:In other words ... (1)

Vandilizer (201798) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886231)

Don't scare us like that for a second there I miss read it and thought you wanted to RFID tag him.

Re:In other words ... (0, Redundant)

HardCase (14757) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885953)

Considering his track record, HE should be put in a box.

Yeah, and buried so deep...oh...wait...

How?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14885748)

How could a solid so platonic be a "giant mistake?"

Re:How?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14885955)

I see what you did there.

cubicles are great for raising livestock (5, Funny)

swschrad (312009) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885749)

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....

Re:cubicles are great for raising livestock (1)

anothy (83176) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886060)

dude, you get donuts?

Re:cubicles are great for raising livestock (1)

Burgundy Advocate (313960) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886074)

You get doughnuts in your cube? Dude, send me an app!

I agree completely! (4, Funny)

rob_squared (821479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885753)

To remedy this, I suggest corner window offices for all office employees.

Re:I agree completely! (1)

jtorkbob (885054) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885912)

But please put IT in the middle of the building where there are no windows to burn our eyes. Thank you.

Re:I agree completely! (0, Offtopic)

StarfishOne (756076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886284)

Please insert your favourite Windows/Microsoft joke here, thank you. :D

Windows (5, Interesting)

dpbsmith (263124) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885919)

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 (2, Funny)

HardCase (14757) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885973)

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

whoosh!!!!

Re:Windows (4, Insightful)

XenoRyet (824514) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Windows (1)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886028)

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 (1)

blhack (921171) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886065)

keep in mind that in a hotel, you are paying for the priveledge to be there. In an office, they are paying YOU for the priveledge of having you there. If you don't like the conditions, leave, and your job will be out-sourced to india.

Re:Windows (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886283)

keep in mind that in a hotel, you are paying for the priveledge to be there. In an office, they are paying YOU for the priveledge of having you there. If you don't like the conditions, leave, and your job will be out-sourced to india.

Remember the context is also getting more work out of your employees.

Re:Windows (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14886145)

In some countries, it is required by law that office workers have a view of the window.

Re:Windows (4, Funny)

Zerth (26112) | more than 8 years ago | (#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:I agree completely! (4, Insightful)

infinite9 (319274) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:I agree completely! (1)

Scarletdown (886459) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886176)

To remedy this, I suggest corner window offices for all office employees.


But how expensive would it be to design and build a skyscraper in the shape of a 20 point star?

Re:I agree completely! (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886226)

I suggest corner window offices for all office employees.

Sure. Who says buildings have to be quadrilateral? I'd love to work in a dodecagonal prism.

corner offices for everybody (2, Interesting)

David Jao (2759) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886337)

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... (4, Funny)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885755)

We just move to icosahedronicles.

What the dead believe (5, Informative)

liveinthewire (648556) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885759)

"even the designer of the cubicle believes now that they are a bad idea."

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

Re:What the dead believe (5, Funny)

mopslik (688435) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885788)

he's been dead for several years.

You heard it here first: even brain-eating zombies hate cubicles.

Re:What the dead believe (4, Informative)

_xeno_ (155264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885845)

Yeah, he died in 2000, according to this FORTUNE article [cnn.com] which was posted in this Slashdot story [slashdot.org] . From the first paragraph of the article:

Robert Propst invented nothing so destructive. Yet before he died in 2000, he lamented his unwitting contribution to what he called "monolithic insanity."

You should read the article. It mentions that he's dead, and it explains (based on accounts by his still-living peers) how his original Action Office devolved into the cubicle.

Re:What the dead believe (1)

wbean (222522) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886003)

Not only that but he didn't invent the cubicle in 1968. I went to work for Honeywell in 1965 and we sure had cubicles. I still have the bakalite nameplate that slid into the slot on the outside. So I guess the article had it wrong at both ends.

Oh dear god no (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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!

Re:Oh dear god no (1)

djdavetrouble (442175) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885819)

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.

.
.

Re:Oh dear god no (1)

Snap E Tom (128447) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886116)

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 secretary called, I told her no thanks. Between the crappy space and the pompous asshole interviewer, it wasn't a hard decision.

Don't have that problem... (4, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885761)

... 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.

Too little, too late (4, Insightful)

AusIV (950840) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885762)

Unfortunately, stating that it was a bad idea decades after the fact does nothing for the poor beings trapped in these small cages.

Re:Too little, too late (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14885825)

Well, he does at least apologize for his wrong doings faster than the Catholic Church.

Of course they are a bad idea! (5, Funny)

DaveV1.0 (203135) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885768)

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.....

Goofy Off? (1)

Bob Cat - NYMPHS (313647) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886067)

I can't even do that in complete privacy!

From the perspective of a new cube monkey... (4, Insightful)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885779)

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.

Re:From the perspective of a new cube monkey... (1)

symbolic (11752) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885966)

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 almost as effective as a walled office, but not nearly as expensive as the "built-in" approach.

Re:From the perspective of a new cube monkey... (2, Informative)

Alex P Keaton in da (882660) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886018)

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....

Re:From the perspective of a new cube monkey... (1)

Prophet of Nixon (842081) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886096)

And they never clean out the sub-cielings... ours are full of several generations of wiring and old repairs and crap.

Re:From the perspective of a new cube monkey... (2, Insightful)

AlterTick (665659) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886293)

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 almost as effective as a walled office, but not nearly as expensive as the "built-in" approach.

Actually, pre-fab walls are old news. Problem is, there's a very distinct line one crosses when one goes from cubicle-style construction (which is basically classified as "furniture"), to full walls that either touch the ceiling or have their own ceiling, or have doors, or aren't "freestanding" (local building code varies). At that point it essentially becomes real construction, whether they're pre-fab panels or drywall n' stud. They then require building permits, inspections, licensed contractors, and have to comply for fire code, and health and safety regs, etc. That gets to be big, big money.

Re:From the perspective of a new cube monkey... (1)

JaredOfEuropa (526365) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886350)

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 them the illusion of roominess. If you had to work in fully enclosed offices of the same size, it would feel like working in the broom closet.

Still, anything beats open plan offices. I did see a combination of cubes and open-plan at a client office, which was a pretty good work environment. They used half height walls to section off areas for 6 or so people, each with their own free-standing desk (instead of them being pushed together like in a typical open-plan office). The desks all faced outwards in a different direction, and were far enough apart to create the illusion of privacy, yet close enough to be able to easily talk to your team mates.

Re:From the perspective of a new cube monkey... (2, Interesting)

guacamolefoo (577448) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886073)

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 or less limited access. I could probably even verify by caller ID. A simple phone number pasted to the door would probably be sufficient to instruct visitors. I could link it to our office's remote access server to keep the passwords synched.

A man can dream, I guess...

Re:From the perspective of a new cube monkey... (2, Funny)

Amouth (879122) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886280)

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 (5, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885789)

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.

Re:Not quite true (5, Funny)

wildsurf (535389) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886008)

Now, they are about 1/6 to 1/8 of the size of an office.

"Counselor, see me in my quarte-- .. er, my sixteenths."

My personal opinion... (4, Interesting)

ErichTheRed (39327) | more than 8 years ago | (#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? :-)

Re:My personal opinion... (1)

TheSkyIsPurple (901118) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885859)

>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?

Re:My personal opinion... (1)

akgooseman (632715) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885938)

The problem with isolating a cube dweller from everyone else's sounds is that you need a ceiling to do so effectively. The problem with ceilings is then you need ventilation and fire sprinklers to each cube. That's a huge cost and removes any advantage cubicles may have, in particular, being able to rearrange them into a new floor plan.

Re:My personal opinion... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14886057)

Don't forget about germs! I can't tell you how many times I've caught a cold by my co-worker in the next cube who insists on coming to work when he is sick!

Speaking as one of the annoying... (1)

Belial6 (794905) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886326)

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, because no one takes our needs seriously.

Now he tells me (1)

eviloverlordx (99809) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885818)

And here I thought that boxing myself up with the rest of the sardines was a good thing. Sheesh.

Moooo (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14885850)

Veal are forced into their cubicles, we choose to sit in these unnatural, life-negating gnome-holes. Any being that willfully chooses to spend a large portion of their life in one of these contraptions deserves their automaton fate.

Re:Moooo (1)

Forbman (794277) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886352)

Veal calfs also don't live to see more than a year of their pitiful existance, either. Perhaps you were referring to living the life more akin to that of a captive dairy cow. Sure, it's a nice twice a day drive from your house in west Beaverton to some point east, where you slog for 45 minutes to go 10 miles along US 26 (on a good day). You have a nice house (that is so much like every other house that is less than 20 years old), a trivial yard, a plethora of trivial "cool things", etc. Except unlike livestock, you do have some freedom of action, even if the short-term consequences may seem to be unacceptable. But you do have a choice. Livestock that do realize that they may have other options than the farmer wants them to have tend to end up in a freezer in little white packages in no time... OK, there was that Merlino ram that was on the lam [sic] for 5 or so years in NZ...

You should know the sordid history of this design (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:You should know the sordid history of this desi (1)

Biff Stu (654099) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886069)

Interesting? What the hell's wrong with the moderators? Don't you know a mediocre joke when you see one?

Can we kill the paging system as well? (4, Insightful)

newdamage (753043) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885873)

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.

Re:Can we kill the paging system as well? (2, Funny)

corbettw (214229) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886015)

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!

Re:Can we kill the paging system as well? (1)

yassax (416227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886050)

You could replace the receptionist with one that doesn't speak very loud. Ours is uber quiet and I can barely hear her in our section of the building. Now, if somone else gets on there.. WHOA NELLY!

Re:Can we kill the paging system as well? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14886087)

I didn't realize what a difference the paging system made until my division moved to another location. The main office's paging system was, well, abused. Incessant "So-and-so, please dial 1234... So-and-so, please dial 1234," all day, every day. (The fact that the receptionist had a whiny voice didn't help.) Then we ran out of space in the main office building, and my division was moved across town. Since there were multiple tenants, the paging system was for security only, and they almost never used it. Soon, we forgot what it was like to have Ceiling-Mounted Thought Disruptors operating constantly. Between that and the turnover, we were shocked by how bad the paging system was when we moved back to the home office. It only took two weeks of complaints from our division for the system to be reduced to critical use only.

That may be the greatest contribution we've made to the company.

Re:Can we kill the paging system as well? (1)

generic-man (33649) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886114)

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.

cubicles, open offices (2, Interesting)

l3v1 (787564) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

"Now" believes it was a mistake? (4, Informative)

Rick Genter (315800) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885911)

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...

Re:"Now" believes it was a mistake? (0, Offtopic)

scolby (838499) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885999)

OMFG, that means we're getting communciations from beyond the grave? Somebody call John Edwards!

Re:"Now" believes it was a mistake? (5, Funny)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886097)

No, actually it was after that. When he was welcomed to hell with open arms, and placed in his cubicle.

Though I'm not sure exactly how he got the message out to us...

It's All Relative Really (4, Insightful)

aquatone282 (905179) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

I don't mind my cubicle so much... (1)

haplo21112 (184264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14885991)

...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 and then twist the whole thing 90 degrees so my seated position would face me at the door. I know this would make my chair and the wall close buddies but I could live with that.

Standard Config:

    --------
    |/-----|
    || |
    || |
    --- ---

What would be better:
    ---------
    | ------|
    || |
    | \ ---|
          ------ Yeah its a little tighter but I'd actually have more deskspace and could see people approach...I'd also prefer that the wall in between the cubes be increased to 7' whcih would also serve again to get ride of that someones behind me feeling.

Re:I don't mind my cubicle so much... (1)

haplo21112 (184264) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886020)

Ok that didn't format at all like I planned...sorry about that...please ignore since I don't think I'll be able to format it right...

Or... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14886086)

You could just quit looking at dirty sites while at work!

Re:I don't mind my cubicle so much... (1)

c0WG0d (525744) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886316)

Or you could just get one of these [thinkgeek.com] .

Bullpens are bullshit (5, Insightful)

cgrayson (22160) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886080)

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.

Re:Bullpens are bullshit (5, Funny)

Cro Magnon (467622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886159)

It's especially bad if one of the people is a heavy Coke drinker. The sound of the pop tops opening! The coughing when he swallows wrong! The loud burping!!

I don't know how my cubemates could stand it.

Re:Bullpens are bullshit (1)

xornor (165117) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886336)

I agree with you completely. I think everyone would love just working on a beach with their laptop, but would they be that productive having hot girls in bikinis walking by every five minutes?

Enjoying your work environment and being productive are two different things. Open environments may be appropriate for certain occupations such as shipping centers or operations centers, but I don't think so for programming. I like to be able to concentrate on what I'm working on for extended periods of time without constant interruptions, intentional or otherwise. Ideally, you want privacy/noise-isolation but to be close enough in proximity with your fellow developers in case you need to have a 5 minute micro-meeting.

Multimedia != Better (1)

CGP314 (672613) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886171)

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]

I don't see how this could be (3, Funny)

iamdrscience (541136) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886182)

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".

The question we should be asking is this: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14886185)

In this day and age, why is stuff being stacked in an in-box?

When I see a cubicle filled with piles of papers then I know I'm in the presence of a fool.

Nothing new really (2, Informative)

houghi (78078) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

No wall cubicles (1)

Midnight Thunder (17205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886271)

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... (2, Interesting)

Bombula (670389) | more than 8 years ago | (#14886317)

... on the kind of work you're doing?

Cubicles inhibit brain growth (4, Interesting)

Doctor Memory (6336) | more than 8 years ago | (#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!
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