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July 8, 2014 9:02 PM   Subscribe

What kills me about the "open plan" office reaction to cubicle hatred is that it basically is a totally reversion to the Mad Men style, zero alone time, steno-pools. Which is all fine and dandy if you're just mechanically transcribing something, but if you actually need to think? Give me a cubicle any day.

Or an office with a door, ideally, but when your company is all knowledge workers, it gets expensive to give everyone an office.
posted by sparklemotion at 9:24 PM on July 8 [3 favorites]

Bring back the cubicle!

Open office designs reduce productivity

That aside, I see the new cube-less open office designs - with all the hype re: their "encouraging collaboration, yadda, yadda etc. etc. - as little more than another perk removed from knowledge workers. It's become a "thing" to brag about "our open office". What this really amounts to is a capital savings for startups and small companies. Cubicles cost money, so as usual the greedballs at the top (who usually have offices with doors) invent some phony jive about how great open offices are.

The truth is that open offices are noisy; lack ANY privacy; eliminate ANY ownership of space; force you to be close to sounds, smells, noises, etc. that distract; and, can be terribly depressing to work in. Some years ago I walked into the Groupon offices in Palo Alto - a total zoo. Just thinking about the VCs who finded that venture, with their oak furniture, airy, private offices, made me fume.
posted by Vibrissae at 9:50 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]

This cartoon is legendary in archaeological circles.
posted by Rumple at 9:54 PM on July 8 [4 favorites]

Amazingly, I have a fantastic office with a view of trees where deer walk back and forth (and teenage stoners toke up), and I try to appreciate it every day because I will probably never again have an office, never mind an office this nice. Cubicles and open offices suck, but it's now the norm almost everywhere.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:05 PM on July 8

First, there were open office plans.
Then the people said, "Can we have a modicum of space and privacy? Please?"
And the cubicle was born.
And then the bosses said "You assholes don't need all that space"*
And that was the end of cubicles.
Now when people actually need to concentrate they work from home because trying to work at the office doesn't work.

*True story, paraphrased. That was the actual reason for taking away the cubes at a place I worked.
posted by bleep at 10:14 PM on July 8 [6 favorites]

And then they redid the bathrooms with half-inch gaps in the bathroom stall doors so everyone can see everyone in the mirror. Privacy costs money and investors don't want to hear you spent the extra $10/person on non-see-through bathrooms and working environments that are conducive to work.
posted by bleep at 10:16 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]

I've worked in open office areas and cubicles. You have no privacy at all in an open office and the boss gets to dictate your space. In the cube, I had privacy but I was very isolated. The only thing I felt surrounded by in the cubicle was ugliness. And, I suppose, for me THAT is my beef with cubicles. They are usually faded and dingy, the walls sagging inward like sad little drunks in clothes they should have thrown out ten years ago. Everybody wants to be able to rest their eyes on a little beauty. I would be happy in a cubicle, no matter how small, if they were designed well. I suppose there are cubicles out there that are but I've never worked for anyone willing to pop for them. It's all coffee stained walls and peeling particle board.
posted by Foam Pants at 10:48 PM on July 8 [1 favorite]

MetaFilter: sad little drunks in clothes they should have thrown out ten years ago
posted by coolxcool=rad at 12:02 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]

First there were open office plans.
Then the people said, "Can we have a modicum of space and privacy? Please?"
And the cubicle was born.
Then the Internet was born.
And then the people gathered on blue sites to discuss how horrible it was to work in a cubicle.
And then the cubicles went away.
And then the people gathered on blue sites to discuss how horrible it was to not work in a cubicle.
posted by Bugbread at 1:35 AM on July 9 [2 favorites]

I worked, at two different jobs, for over a decade where I had a personal private office with a door that closed and windows that overlooked the river. I didn't know how good I had it.

Now I'm in a low walled cube-like setup in a room with thirty people, some of whom are just so loud. I sometimes stay late until 6:30 just so that I can get a couple of hours of work done without so many people around.
posted by octothorpe at 4:48 AM on July 9

Sometimes you need a tiny place to focus, and sometimes you need to be in a big open place where you see other people.
posted by amtho at 6:42 AM on July 9

I'm fine with a cube since I will never have an office. Though I did have an annoying rectangular one for 2 years that had giant see-through windows on it and I was right by the door so everyone peeked in at me all day like a fish. I covered the windows with pictures of Hawaii. Much as my current job has its stressors (like being bothered about fifty times a day), at least, by god, it's a cube with as much space on one side as the other, and no fake windows.

But any thread discussing cubicles vs. open plans would not be complete without mentioning the horrors of Chiat Day taking away everyone's space entirely.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:25 AM on July 9 [3 favorites]

I find it fascinating that the inventor of the cubicle was trying to change things for the better.
posted by ShanShen at 5:09 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]

Well, so was Joseph-Ignace Guillotin.
posted by octothorpe at 6:13 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]

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