If you do a quick web search for content about cubicles, you’ll come away with a pretty bleak picture of how employees feel about this type of workstation. Most articles offering advice make it clear from the outset that the goal is simply to make cube life a little more bearable. This excerpt from Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht’s “The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Work” is a good example. The authors write about ways to survive in a tiny workspace.
Many of the tips are tongue in cheek (they recommend suspending your stapler and tape dispenser from the ceiling to free up valuable desk space and hiding luxury items like your TV and hair dryer). But a lot of the recommendations are reasonable. For example, they caution against picking a cubicle near a supply room or other high traffic area. Employees who actually have a choice about where they sit can benefit from this tip and some of the other advice as well.
Of course, their statement that standard cube size is 8×8 may be a little outdated for a book published in 2008. Cubicles have been shrinking in size over the past couple of decades. So, chances are your employees are feeling more cramped than ever. Is it possible for workers to actually be happy and productive in such tight quarters?
We believe the answer is 3-fold:
- First, the company culture and especially the employees’ relationship with their immediate supervisor is the most important factor in satisfaction. Employees with flexible schedules and a boss who is “on their side” are likely to adjust well to their work environment – even the dreaded cubicle.
- Second, the nature of the work assigned is very important. For example, employees at startup companies who are thoroughly excited about the innovative project they are working on are less likely to be bummed out by shortcomings in their workspace than those who do boring, repetitive tasks. Cross training employees may break up the monotony and help them stay interested in coming to work.
- Finally, the quality of the design, layout and materials used for the cubicle do matter. Even a small cube can be outfitted with a comfortable chair, ergonomic tools like a keyboard tray and adjustable monitor arm, and panel extenders that add privacy and reduce noisy distractions.
How do you help your employees thrive in the cubicle workspace? Share your advice in the comments.