Yesterday, I read two separate articles about the death of the cubicle and how forward thinking executives (particularly those hip execs in Silicon Valley) are cultivating collaborative workspaces by knocking down those dated cubicle walls.
While I love looking at pictures of innovative workplaces, I don’t think I could work in one. No doubt it would be fun at first, but I get distracted easily and working in an open environment at a table, on a couch, or in a hanging chair—I think my productivity would take a hit.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of those cubicle walls tumbling down. I just don’t know if I’m ready to give them up completely. Right now I sit in an open collaborative environment with pony walls (those half cubicle walls), but even they bring their own set of problems—everyone hears each other’s conversations, talking on the phone is annoying to colleagues, and headphones are a MUST. In fact I read in the NY Times that headphones are the new cubicle wall and I couldn’t agree more.
If you look around our office floor you’ll see that about 75% of us wear headphones at some point during the day. When you sit with 30 people in an open space they're sometimes the only way you can get anything done—even if they’re not dispensing any music.
However, my one big complaint about not having a traditional cubicle is that my coworkers’ manners seem to have fallen by the wayside. Because I don’t have a door or high walls, teammates are constantly approaching my workspace and diving right into their questions—there’s no “How ya doin’?”, “Do you have a minute?” or “Can I ask you a quick question?” Because they’ve seen me sitting at my desk while they made their 20-foot approach, they assume I saw them coming my way and am ready to converse. But in reality, I most likely had no idea you were walking towards my desk because I have my noise canceling headphones on. So even though I’m out on the floor like a sitting duck, make sure you preface your question with “Do you have a minute?” It’s just the polite thing to do.
As for the death of the cubicle, I think we still have a ways to go before I’m sitting in a hanging chair examining the latest employment trends—figure out the noise distraction issue first and then we’ll talk.