Cubicles? Open-Plan? Workplace Designers Still Miss Mark with Office Workers
According to a study by the Journal of Experimental Psychology, the open-plan workplace, despite its widespread adoption by many of America’s trendy tech companies, doesn’t necessarily improve communication or boost productivity. CBS This Morning recently interviewed Huffington Post’s senior columnist on Life/Work/Family, Lisa Belkin, about the report that surveyed 42,000 U.S. office workers in 303 buildings. “Work space designers and others originally believed open-plan space would aid in cross pollination of ideas,” said Belkin. “Those surveyed, however, said several drawbacks hinder this.For one, open-plans don’t allow for varied work styles. In many cases, it doesn’t offer workers privacy when they need it, while others find open-plans too noisy.”
At the other end of the spectrum are cubicles which still seem to dominate most of today’s office environments despite worker disdain. Immortalized in movies such as Office Space and the television sitcom, The Office, “cubes” were introduced by furniture designer Robert Propst in 1969 and sold as “flexible, semi-enclosed workspaces” by, of all companies, Herman Miller. The Action Office line of cubicles are still manufactured and marketed by Herman Miller today, which claims a $5 billion install base.
Cubes have evolved but not in a good way, according to their creator. In 1997, Propst said that he had hoped his idea would “give knowledge workers a more flexible, fluid environment,” but regretted his idea had evolved into “rat-maze boxes of offices,” saying that “the cubicle-izing of people in modern corporations is monolithic insanity.”
In the future, Belkin thinks we will see more variety in workplace design. “It is likely we will see areas where employees can congregate, mixed in with smaller quiet spaces — places to make phone calls, stretch out on a couch and get together one-on-one,” she said. Alas, it would seem the dream of a corner office may be difficult for many of us to shake even though planners say “forget about it.” According to this study, the most satisfied workers are those with private offices.
- The top-grossing athletic fundraisers in 2012 (revenue in millions) were Relay for Life (American Cancer Society) $407.5; Race for the Cure (Susan G. Komen for the Cure) $126.8; March for Babies (March of Dimes) 107.0; Heart Walk (American Heart Association) 97.8; and Bike MS (National MS Society) 82.3. (Run Walk Ride Fundraising Council)
- 13% of American women 50 or older experience symptoms of an eating disorder; 60% report that their concerns about weight and shape negatively affect their lives; and 70% are trying to lose weight. (aarp.org)
- Americans who live in rural areas are 22% more likely to die from injuries than peope who live in cities. (Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania 215-349-8369)
- Americans who never attend religious services are almost three times as likely to smoke as those who attend at least weekly. 30% vs. 12%. (Gallup 202-715-3030)
- Increased use of imaging (e.g., CT, MRI) has led to sharp increases in the incidental diagnosis of low-risk thyroid cancers that often are treated unnecessarily, according to a BMJ analysis. Thyroidectomy is being performed more and more often, rising by 60% between 1996 and 2006. While diagnosis of low-risk lesions has tripled over the past three decades, the death rates from thyroid cancer have remained stable. (NEJM Journal Watch)