Upon its introduction some decades ago the office cubicle was touted as the direction in which all offices were headed. And that was about the only prediction made about cubicles that actually came true. They did indeed become the shape of the American office. But they also produced a plethora of ailments that continue to baffle doctors and wound up being derided by staff members who named the experience of coming to work every day “Death by cubicle”. As the 20th gave way to the 21st century an alternative approach to office design that had been lingering on the margins finally began to take hold: the hybrid office composed of movable, interchangeable partitions or office partitions.
Cubicles or Office Partitions? Examining the Evidence
Below we’ll compare the 2 approaches to office design and layout using a number of criteria to see if we can’t determine why cubicle farms across the USA are giving way to office partitions.
- Cubicles: Cubicles have come to represent in a big way just about everything that was wrong with late 20th century ideas about work and workers. “Despair”, “frustration”, “isolation” and “degrading” are just some of the lovely words people use to describe their life in the padded box and none of them points to particularly happy staff.
- Partitions: By contrast office partitions put employees back in touch with their fellows, opening up the office, making it a more communal experience and freeing people from the ball and chain of the cubicle. Movable partitions allow for the creation of hybrid spaces that create a sense staff members are working with each other instead of just near each other.
- Cubicles: Cubicles were initially designed to give people more control over their work area but the opposite is what happened. People felt trapped in a box from which there was no escape (not even a decent view). Stress levels rose and, when combined with 8-10 hours of sitting motionless every day, staff members became susceptible to a variety of illnesses.
- Partitions: Movable partitions unshackle staff members from the cubicle and allow for more collaboration, less stagnant air, the opportunity to perhaps even see out a window now and then and the ability to stand up and move about. All of these lead to healthier, more vibrant and engaged staff members who call in sick less and make fewer visits to the doctor.
- Cubicles: Cubicles came about at least in part as a response to a perceived information overload that employees were experiencing. It was thought that in order to be able to process the ever growing amount of data that is part and parcel of modern business staff members needed to be isolated from outside distractions.
- Partitions: What’s been discovered since is that people often do a better job processing mountains of information and turning it into something useful if they work as a team. Office partitions allow you to create that type of open, team environment while also providing closed workspaces where details can be hashed out.
- Cubicles: You can look at a cubicle farm from whatever angle you wish and you know what you’ll see? A cubicle farm. Sure you can reconfigure your cubicle maze into fancy L and T shapes or even interlocking L and T shapes but at the end of the day you’ve still got a cubicle farm.
- Partitions: When you opt for office partitions you can completely remodel your office at will. You can mix and match glass partitions and opaque partitions to take advantage of light, you can select a variety of textures that can be arranged and rearranged to provide different looks and you can configure and reconfigure the walls to accommodate changing business priorities.
- Cubicles: Cubicles were notorious for creating pockets of stagnant air the HVAC system was powerless to clear out. The presence of so many walls also called for banks of overhead lights so people could see. Between the stresses put on the HVAC system and the cost of operating so many lights “energy savings” was phrase almost never heard in relation to cubicles.
- Partitions: By contrast partition walls can be configured to maximize the free flow of air in the office and take the strain off of the HVAC system. The ability of natural light to penetrate the floorplate also means fewer overhead lights and all that sunlight on cold winter days goes a long way toward keeping the whole office warmer, further reducing energy consumption.
Office partitions from I-M-T are providing businesses across the USA with the flexibility, energy savings and productivity boosts they need to stay competitive. Call us to find out more about how movable partition walls can free you from the waste and lost productivity of the cubicle farm and position your company to thrive in the 21st century business environment.