The New Cubicles: Liberation or Dilbert Run Amok?
Now, office furniture designers are rethinking the cubicle. For workers, they seek to make the office more ergonomically sound and visually appealing. For bosses, they promise greater productivity and more efficient use of space.
Some of the designs offered by cubicle inventor Herman Miller, Steelcase and other office furniture vendors hardly resemble the traditional cube (boo hoo!). The typical gray or almond fabric-covered panels are replaced with colorful plastics, brushed steel and translucent panels -- even, in Herman Miller's new My Studio, closet space and doors.
Herman Miller "My Office"
The new designs are meant to offer a sense of privacy, muffle voices (having to overhear others' conversations is a top employee gripe), and accommodate modern electronics (an afterthought in cubicles designed in the age of typewriters). Designers are even offering modular "conference rooms," where two or more people can gather to talk away from others.
Designers are hoping that workers will be so impressed with the new designs that they won't notice that workspaces are, on average, about half the size they were three decades ago. Back then, the typical cubicle measured 12'x12'; today's counterparts average 6'x8'.