What’s so bad about cubicles?

For so many years I have heard people make fun of cubicles and the people who inhabit them.  Everything from TV shows to comic strips have long loved to insult the ever hated cube.  Even the people working in them yearn for that corner office to escape the “cubicle monkey” namesake.  I for one, don’t really get it.  In my relatively short career I have worked at 3 different companies across 5 different office buildings and I have yet to find a cubicle I don’t enjoy.  Have I just been lucky?  How did I escape winding up like this guy? (this was later found to be fake, but the point is the same)

Office Berzerker

I can understand the cubicle monkey mentality, and I have seen some examples of really poor cubicle layout which makes it seem like you are working in a sweat shop, I think a lot of these setups are found in companies which are not technology focused.  Possibly you will find the typical tiny shared cubicle layout where everyone is almost elbow to elbow in companies focused on customer support, telemarketing, or some sort of sales; however it seems the people who are most commonly labelled as cubicle jockeys are people in tech careers such as myself.  For exaple, I can see how the below image would simply suck.  If I had to guess though, this layout is some sort of sales force or low-paying telemarketing job.

Cubicle Farm
Cubicle Farm

The other end of things, where us uber high-end tech folks live for 8 hours a day is more like my cubicle.  My day is spent in a cube which is about 8’x8′, I have a nice L-shaped desk, two sets of cabinets, two sets of drawers, my own closet, a nice private doorway, 7′ high walls, and room for a couple of extra chairs in the back.  I have my own phone, with my own phone number, I have two 20″ LCD monitors, and I am rarely bothered.  To be quite honest, my cubicle is quite a pleasant place to work.  It’s not an office, but its definitely the next best thing.  I even have nice little personal items scattered about and my own white-board.  Across from me is a window with a nice view of some trees, and less then 100 feet from me is a nice outdoor patio with picnic tables.  Is this that uncommon?  Am I just incredibly lucky?

I tend to doubt it.  I work at a 100 year old company who is highly tech-centric yet very old-school at the same time.  If you look at the layouts of some of the newest most up-to-date tech companies you will find their office layouts to be even more comfortable.  Even members of my family think of me as some keyboard mashing, vampiric cubicle dweller who is treated like Milton from office space.  How can we break this stigma?  Do I have to get a job at google, who has one of the most highly regarded office environments in order for people to believe that I am not just another Dilbert depicted cube dweller?

I really hate the way people in IT get labelled by the rest of the world.  All of the folks who work in other industries think of us as having the super easy sit on your ass all day jobs that everyone dreams of.  We get made fun of for sitting like cattle in large grids of cubicles with the only light our skin is exposed to being the beautiful hum the fluorescents above our heads.  Since when is being smart, and using a computer a bad thing?

I don’t know about the rest of you fellow IT people out there but I for one don’t spend my entire day mashing away at a keyboard, my PC is simply the tool I must use to accomplish my job, and my cubicle is quite honestly a very comfortable and private place to get that work done.

Next time you want to make fun of one of your IT friends for their mindless lazy cubicle job, maybe ask for a tour of their office, or see if you can come to work with them one day.  I think most people would rather keep their construction or waitressing job after spending a day in my shoes.

11 thoughts on “What’s so bad about cubicles?

  1. oh, my, poor little IT person…..wah, wah, wah! A lot of us in tech-centric companies don’t have a palatial cubicle like you do. Consider your pompous a$$ lucky.

  2. I agree 100% with the last paragraph! Most people would keep their other jobs. The way to really get away from a controlled environment, or “cube farm,” is to start your own business! My cube was a van I drove around everywhere. Now, it’s wherever my feet take me!

  3. I work as an in-house software engineer, under the umbrella of the IT department, and I agree here. Sure, I’m in a cubicle but it’s a good working environment. It’s about 24′ by 24′, partially split down the middle with a half-height wall and with a single entrance. I share this space with 5 other developers (which helps foster a collaborative environment) and it’s so large that we all have plenty of room.

  4. You are lucky… You sound like you have a wonderful space to “live in” for 8 hours a day while you collect a paycheck. My partner is in IT; he is respected, sought after and consulted with. I know most of his co-workers and it is an easy ride. You get paid for what you know not what you do in IT. I am in a call center that is loud, short walled cubicles that I can hear co workers screaming at customers about their bills. I come home wiped out and feeling down. So enjoy your space, your window and your 7 foot walls, your quiet and stop worrying about others think, they are just envious for not having a cushy job.

  5. Although many despise the confinement they feel in a cubicle the alternative is worse. Forty years ago designers hired to modernize the business office accidentally discovered that a normal feature in everyone’s physiology of sight could cause mental breaks. Designers see only light exposure from Subliminal Distraction in offices and believe the “episode” is only harmless confusion. My wife had a full psychotic break when the University of Alabama changed her office eliminating Cubicle Level Protection.

    The “special circumstances” to cause exposure are so simple you can create them at home or in a dorm room. Every semester there is a new list of student disappearances and strange suicides. Schools do not provide Cubicle Level Protection everywhere it is needed nor do they warn students.

  6. One way companies are trying to create a more spacious feel for cubicles is to use a honeycomb layout. It’s possible to fit a large number of these half-hexagon workspaces into a fairly small foot print while still giving employees the sense that they aren’t “boxed in”. It is nice to hear from someone who is thriving in a cubicle environment. If you’re lucky enough to have one that really is the size of a private office, their not bad.

    D. McCarty
    San Diego Office Furniture

  7. Found this article when searching for proof that I do not work in the worst environment humanly possible. Now I hate you. hahahaha! Kidding, of course. Really though, I wish corporations and call centers realized what they put people through with the short walls and lack of personal space. I never had “anxiety” symptoms in my life until I worked in a call center where, no lie, everyone is forced to share a long desk with another person and the only way to pretend you have your own space is to turn and face the end of the cube with your back completely to the other person. Good luck if you get stuck with someone chatty, smelly, rude, unprofessional, messy, or who eats gross things at their desk. Have fun sitting next to the office busy-body who knows everyone’s business and feels it necessary to share with you daily for hours. Down with sharing cubicles! Up with taller walls! Cube workers of the world UNITE! lolz

  8. I also came upon this when I was researching whether or not I had the worst cubical situation in the world. I am a technology worker. I share a low-walled, meant for two people cubicle with three people. I sit in the middle. Not a glimmer of natural light. I have an auto-immune disease — I catch everything and they both have kids. I’m sick for the 5th time in six and half months. Loud talking, smelly food, chewing on ice…. not to mention curry smells from adjacent cubicles. And what do I read this month? That I should be glad I am not housed on campus where my employer can wake me in the middle of the night and put me to work so that some fat cat miles higher up the company chain can make his deadline and thus get his big bonus.

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