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Cubicle, oh cubicle, how I miss thee ...
Old 12-17-2017, 07:50 PM   #1
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Cubicle, oh cubicle, how I miss thee ...

Until recently my workplace at a large company was a sea of cubicles. But they were pretty nice; 10 x 10 feet with privacy (tall walls) and autonomy; I filled mine with my photos (big hobby). And the overall layout was good in terms of team collaboration ... but we all had our own sacred domains. I'm an electronics hardware engineer, so my cube was also my lab, with microscope, soldering station, network analyzer, oscilloscopes, power supplies, components, wires ... which equals "home" for me.

Then some very senior manager got the open floor plan bug. Now we all sit in 7 x 7 foot stalls, with low partitions, ending any semblance of privacy. The place looks like an Ikea showroom. And the distractions of overheard conversations, people walking by, and the sense that the guy behind you is looking at your monitor, is the pits. Not enough room for my gear, so we use a communal lab area, much less convenient. I'm the most senior engineer in the company but my work space is now the same as a call center employee's.

THE GOOD NEWS: Next week is my last. At age 61 I'm out of there as of January 2. Given the above, it's just in time! Adios!!
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Old 12-17-2017, 08:19 PM   #2
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Just in time indeed! Good for you. When I read the title of your post, I thought you were being sarcastic about missing your cube (not), but having it taken from you only makes your decision to leave that much easier.
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Old 12-17-2017, 08:19 PM   #3
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Good for you!! On my last J*b I was downsized to a cubicle half the size of my previous one.
And I was the senior person in the department. No problem, I just picked up my hockey stick and got the puck out of there.
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Old 12-17-2017, 08:20 PM   #4
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Sounds awful. Congrats on getting out!
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Old 12-17-2017, 08:22 PM   #5
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YAY!
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Old 12-17-2017, 08:37 PM   #6
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My first job at megacorp (70's) there were 40 rows of 2 desks side-by-side. I was on the first row. I could turn my chair around and see nothing but a bunch of heads.

Then we went to smaller rooms with maybe 10 people per room. Then cubicles came into existence. We thought they were great! Then, as time went on, nicer cubes that were basically offices but the walls didn't touch the ceilings. Then, smaller but still nice cubes. Then, very small half wall crapicles. I left after that. I think they're back almost full circle to big rooms and with little privacy (in order to collaborate). Glad I'm out.
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Old 12-17-2017, 08:40 PM   #7
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Congrats on nearly retiring!

This open floor plan fad was one of many factors pushing me out of the workplace. I need some privacy and quiet to think.

I used to work as an engineer designing buildings and worked with interior design architects. Just be glad you still had an assigned workspace. I saw designs where each employee would be given a different spot each day and have to store all their stuff each night. They called them “cockpits” instead of “cubicles.” That would have made me polish my resume the first day.
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Old 12-17-2017, 08:51 PM   #8
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The folks at Bell Labs had actual offices with doors back in the day. And somehow, despite the lack of a noisy "collaborative" workplace they invented the transistor among other things ...
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Old 12-17-2017, 10:11 PM   #9
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They did not have computers and the Internet to distract them from their work.
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Old 12-17-2017, 10:31 PM   #10
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Sounds like my old workplace the last couple of years before I retired. Every minute at work [including restroom trips] was monitored by computer and put on a spreadsheet. Fortunately, I was in management by then and escaped that awful draconian leash. But I pitied those who suffered under it.

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Old 12-17-2017, 11:19 PM   #11
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We have been riding that swinging pendulum of private workspace vs collaborative workplace for a while. Our most recent innovation was packing the cubes more densely and lowering the walls to increase collaboration. The actual result was a noisy environment where anyone talking non-work up to several rows away can be heard by all the neighboring workspaces. I know more than I care to about everyone's most recent weekend, evening, favorite tv shows and excitement about sports. It's not increasing collaboration as planned because as many people as can possibly do so are increasing work from home hours as much as possible. When I actually want to talk to someone, chances of finding them are small and we end up in a lengthy email exchange instead of a quick conversion. But it seems impossible to make any progress against the "collaboration" fad that's pushing for these loud, dysfunctional office arrangements.
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Old 12-18-2017, 12:50 AM   #12
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I learned early on to only bring what was necessary to my cube. I learned from an old consultant friend that told me, "When you are still packing up here, I am already unpacked at the new gig".

Good luck on your retirement.
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Old 12-18-2017, 04:44 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffInSeattle View Post
Until recently my workplace at a large company was a sea of cubicles. But they were pretty nice; 10 x 10 feet with privacy (tall walls) and autonomy.... Now we all sit in 7 x 7 foot stalls, with low partitions, ending any semblance of privacy.



THE GOOD NEWS: Next week is my last.

First of all: Congratulations on your retirement!

And secondly, sympathy on the work arrangement. The open floor plan seems sadly common these days, despite the fact that itís clearly not optimal.
I can actually trace back the waning of my own loyalty to the firm to their move to a new office building. Just as with you, the arrangement went from large cubicles, with walls tall enough for privacy, to tiny cubicles with partitions so low that they might as well not exist. Your 7 x 7 space would have seemed palatial. Not sure on the dimensions here, but Iím 6í tall and I know I couldnít have stretched out in either direction on the floor if I tried.
It was fairly dysfunctional. Even though I liked the people I worked with, to try to be on a conference call, with oneís ear only 3í away from 3 other people on calls of their own, did not make it easy to concentrate. Iíve read that the average human has enough brain capacity to process only 1.6 conversations at a time. I used to tell folks in the office that after this new seating arrangement, I was left with only -2.4 (=1.6 - 1 - 3) of a brain!

Iíve thought sometimes about the ďwhyĒ for this trend. It clearly has no basis in logic. I seem to recall a Harvard Business Review study indicating itís not helpful for productivity or morale. The much-touted cost savings of a smaller footprint canít be it, because all the saved space is used, and then some, in extra conference rooms, atriums (atria?), etc. Whatever gains in collaboration occur are clearly outweighed by the losses from distraction. Even for an extrovert or average person, it canít be helpful, and heaven help the introverts.
Then why this assault on dignity and efficiency? Can only postulate (a) misguided lust for control for its own sake, and (b) contempt - to do something because one can, without regard for the other. And because the power of corporations has been expanding in recent decades, and the power of individuals diminishing, there are fewer checks and balances to counter the trend.

On the bright side - you are about to walk away from all this!
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Old 12-18-2017, 04:52 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Senator View Post
I learned early on to only bring what was necessary to my cube. I learned from an old consultant friend that told me, "When you are still packing up here, I am already unpacked at the new gig".

Good luck on your retirement.
+1.

If I had ever been walked out, there was zero packing needed. During the corporate genocide of 2008-2009, I steadily removed my possessions. The only personal article was a small photo of DW and DS.

Because I was a road warrior, HR occasionally tried to slot someone in my cell block. Luckily, my "neighbors" looked out for my turf (my cube was prime real estate - window side).

When I walked out for the last time earlier this year, I slipped the photo into my backpack. Felt pretty good to travel light...
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Old 12-18-2017, 05:09 AM   #15
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Congrats OP - your cubicle days are fading fast!

My cubicle days started when my office had a major storm that created a torrential roof leak.
I moved to the cube farm while my office was being renovated. Then we moved to a new location where I again had a cubicle. Cubicle life wasn't so bad - i was closer to my assistants making work flow easier. And this was during my final part time work days, so I only spent a day or 2 a week in cubicles for the last few working years.
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Old 12-18-2017, 05:37 AM   #16
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Woah, congrats to you, OP.

1) First encountered the cubicle concept in 2005. For a year or two it was fine, as there were large windows, and I could look out, as in a fishbowl. That changed to cubicles away from windows, for about 5 years. The group moved and I was not a manager, so no window seat. LOL. Cubicles were 7x7 or 6x6, always with higher partitions. But one side was always left off, so there really was no privacy. I did have a very nice view from my seat, the last 3-4 years there.
2) After a layoff or two, I re-located to my home office, where I pondered the trees for a year or two. My fortress of solitude...
3) Entered the current job (my last), and back to 6x6 cubicle. Very large windows in a major city, and the view is spectacular. Really love the outdoor environment. But the partition walls are 4' or so. No 4th wall, and the woman in front of me is too curious...

Mark me down for 2019. If not gone by then, I'll be handing in my part-time telecommuting request, or permanently exit for my in-home office.
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Old 12-18-2017, 05:57 AM   #17
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I am also an electronics engineer, in a decent cubicle with 4' walls. It is ok but, other people tend to just walk into my office talking, interrupting what I am doing. the "collaboration" concept is a farce. I lose so much efficiency to the many spontaneous interruptions. A lot of my coworkers take their laptops and disappear to some small backwater room if they need to get something done.

However, it is getting worse. The open concept blight is creeping in. Parts of the building have already converted to this and I see it approaching ever closer ... like some vile, slow-moving slime mold it creeps!

I can't imaging working like that ... the guy to your left picking his nose ... the guy to your right loudly talking on the phone, and farting ... the guy/gal in front of you scratching away at patches of psoriasis ... your manager 2 rows away occasionally looking up and learing at you ... all at the very edge of your personal space.
Now that's progress !

I think it's all part of the "control-freak" style of management which is prevailing.

I'm soon turning 62 so, fortunately I will be able to "pick up my ball and go home" if the slime mold reaches me.
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Old 12-18-2017, 07:09 AM   #18
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Ah, does this thread bring back memories. I had a "bullpen" setting 1975-1978 (think of Jack Lemmon in "The Apartment", but not as crowded), a truly open office 1978-1985, my very own office with windows and a real door from 1985-1995. More stuff in between that and my last job, which was the smallest cube I'd ever occupied, no windows, within earshot of two people who had a LOT of phone calls, 99% business-related. I took to bringing my Bose headset in. It helped a bit.

Probably the worst was in my company's HQ in Zurich, where even senior VPs sat two to an office. I was in a large room with my department, maybe 8 people, and one or the other was always on the phone- in English, French, German, sometimes Italian. At first I thought I was in heaven- I LOVE hearing European languages and try to maintain fluency in French and German. It quickly turned to hell. Conference rooms, naturally, were nearly impossible to book.

So glad I'm out of cubicles and open offices.
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Old 12-18-2017, 07:23 AM   #19
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They moved a lot of us into the 'open space' nonsense at my Vomicorp, but luckily, not me. One good thing Vomicorp did was the telecommuting thing. Man ,that was great for us introverts. And zero commute for any day of telecommuting!
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Old 12-18-2017, 07:34 AM   #20
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I feel your pain, but have an even more baroquely cruel office space saga to relate:

Ever since reaching a certain level of seniority in the early 1990s I had my own office. Nothing great but at least a good private space to work. Then megacorp decided to shutter my division in 2009 and the fun began. I was one of the "lucky" 20% of my division my company decided to retain and disperse among other divisions. About half just moved right away to new locations. The rest of us weren't so fortunate and became gypsy squatters for the next several years. In 2010-11 I had a desk in the corner of a lab used by half a dozen people. Then the lab building was demolished and I got shoved into a repurposed executive conference room with 3 other guys from 2012-14. Finally they pitied us and gave us private offices again in 2015, but by then I was so far past fried I retired within the year. Even more amazing to me is that all my former fellow gypsies are still there.
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