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America's Cubicles Are Shrinking 484

Hugh Pickens writes "In the 1970s, American corporations typically thought they needed 500 to 700 square feet per employee to build an effective office, but the LA Times reports that today's average is a little more than 200 square feet per person, and the space allocation could hit a mere 50 square feet by 2015. 'We're at a very interesting inflection point in real estate history,' says Peter Miscovich, who studies workplace trends. 'The next 10 years will be very different than the last 30.' Although cubicles have shrunk from an average of 64 feet to 49 feet in recent years, companies are looking for more ways to compress their real estate footprint with offices that squeeze together workstations while setting aside a few rooms where employees can conduct meetings or have private phone conversations. 'Younger workers' lives are all integrated, not segregated,' says Larry Rivard. 'They have learned to work anywhere — at a kitchen table or wherever.'"
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America's Cubicles Are Shrinking

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  • Causality (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Kev Vance ( 833 ) < minus pi> on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:44AM (#34560328) Homepage

    "Younger workers' lives are all integrated, not segregated," says Larry Rivard. "They have learned to work anywhere — at a kitchen table or wherever."

    Could that be because their office space has become so worthless that anywhere else is preferable?

    • Re:Causality (Score:5, Insightful)

      by JeffSpudrinski ( 1310127 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:49AM (#34560406)

      Amazing how corporations will justify whatever they want.

      Because people are not given a choice but to work in less space, they therefore say that they don't need it or want it.

      Question: did they ask the workers (really ask them...anonymously)? .02


      • by skids ( 119237 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:59AM (#34560576) Homepage

        In other news, factory farm operators claim that today's livestock has, over time, come to crave the experience of being squeezed shoulder to shoulder.

        (Just kidding.... I think....)

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by clone52431 ( 1805862 )

          Actually, animals with herd instincts do feel most calm and protected when they’re being squeezed shoulder to shoulder. So do some autistic people.

          • Re:Causality (Score:5, Informative)

            by ebh ( 116526 ) <edhorch AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:16AM (#34560836) Journal

            I'm autistic, and yes, I occasionally need full-body pressure to calm down, but I also need quiet and space to think. I sure as hell don't want to work cheek-by-jowl with a bunch of people I know only by what went into them at lunch and is coming out of them in the afternoon.

            • Going back and re-reading what I wrote, I didn’t mean to imply that autistic people would enjoy being crowded all the time. What works well for calming down obviously would not work well for efficiently getting office work done, in this case.

        • Re:Causality (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:14AM (#34560816)

          Shocker of shockers... no, not really.

          Once upon a time, workers had to deal with crap working conditions in which getting killed was commonplace. In shitass countries like India, or Malaysia, or China where all the manufacturing has been "outsourced" to for slave-labor wages, this is still true.

          Today, the US has laws and agencies that are supposed to prevent this. But companies run by the soulless, inhuman "I have an MBA and never did a fucking day of real honest work in my life" types will try to get around it however they can.

          OSHA says you have to have an office where phone calls can be private? Fine, we'll give you one "private phone room" for 20 employees. OSHA says you have to have a 30 minute lunch break? Fine, but we'll stick the kitchen in another building 10 minutes walk away, good luck getting there and back and still managing to do anything but bolt your lunch at choking-hazard speeds, sucker, or you can take a bag lunch in and keep it in your desk and you might as well work while eating anyways.

          What we need to do is bust up the megacorporations and get rid of the top-level leech class that don't produce anything. But good luck seeing that happen any time soon. Those tax-evading assholes have too much media control to get the word out about them.

        • Re:Causality (Score:5, Informative)

          by Gordonjcp ( 186804 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:24AM (#34560986) Homepage

          That is actually somewhat true - we got a dozen hens from a deep-litter farm. Now, in a deep-litter environment the hens are allowed to wander around a big shed with nesting boxes in aisles and a deep layer of straw on the floor. They're fed, they've got room to move and crucially - unlike true "free-range" - they're unlikely to be ripped in half by foxes. It's a pretty good environment for them, really. If you take them out of a deep-litter farm (like when they start to get old, they lay eggs less frequently and become less cost-effective but perfectly okay if you're not looking for an egg every day from each hen) and chuck them into a big field - after you've carefully shot all the foxes, otherwise they won't be there in the morning - then they will instinctively huddle together even closer than they were in the shed. They're really kind of agoraphobic. If you build a small shed for them they'll run inside and won't leave until they get *really* hungry.

          Strange, but true. At least, I think it's strange and you'll have to take my word for it that it's true.

          • by Cryacin ( 657549 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:37AM (#34561174)
            Have you considered a career in management?
          • by TheLink ( 130905 )

            Might be because they are descended from Junglefowl:
            So they'd probably feel happier in jungle-like environments - lots of cover to run into.

            Anyway a small bird that's a weak flyer, not a very fast runner and generally not a very good fighter (there are exceptions of course :) ) is likely to be a bit nervous when there's no cover nearby. Especially if getting "ripped in half by foxes" is a significant possibility.

      • Re:Causality (Score:5, Insightful)

        by cbiltcliffe ( 186293 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:00AM (#34560614) Homepage Journal

        Definitely agree.

        And to me "they've learned to work at a kitchen table or wherever" is only a small step away from "they're all on call 24/7, because they can work wherever they happen to be."

      • Re:Causality (Score:4, Interesting)

        by commodore64_love ( 1445365 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:14AM (#34560806) Journal

        I have (or had) a small cubicle which squeezed a computer, chair, and closet (for coat) in a space barely large enough to lay down.

        BUT the company compensated for that small space by replacing the 4th wall with a window which gave the impression of more space, plus other benefits like being able to wear jeans everyday (nice jeans not wholey jeans), a free lunch, unlimited access to the internet to hear the radio/watch hulu, and so on. Making the cube small doesn't matter if the workers are treated with respect.

        In contrast my new job has no cubes and open space, but you're free to do nothing (no radio, no eating lunch at your desk, no privacy). I don't hate it but I don't like it either. I'd rather have liberty even if it meant my cube was the size of my old dormroom's desk.

      • Also amazing how our executive's private offices are 30' by 40'. That's larger than many houses.

        We have 10x8 cubes (12x8 for supervisors and managers).

        On a big project, I'm in a war room at a desk with people right next to me now. I see my cube about three times a month.

        I don't think I'd leave for a bigger cube tho. I might leave for a private office. But the way policies change, I could leave for one and then not have one less than a year later. So they are probably right that this isn't a big issue.


        • by Z00L00K ( 682162 )

          It all depends on what you work with if the space needed is sufficient or not.

          But when more and more people are stuffed together into a small space you may end up in a situation where the ventilation of the building is insufficient and people will start to be less efficient due to high CO2 levels in the blood.

          And times turn good again? - I'm a bit pessimistic on that because employers will see that they can stuff people tighter and then they will continue to do so even in good times because the furniture th

        • Re:Causality (Score:5, Insightful)

          by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:50AM (#34561346)

          Executive offices are fairly astonishing in size. Part of it is due to tabulatory gigantism -- the need to have the largest possible desk, despite the fact that many don't even "work at a desk". This latter aspect drives a lot of the large executive office syndrome; they "don't work at a desk" therefore they need the space for a living room setup, complete with a big leather couch, designer table, and a couple of chairs and a large flat screen TV & entertainment setup.

          They also need a kitchenette setup (Keurig coffee machine, fridge for beer/pop, liquor, glasses, ice) and in many cases a private bathroom, because they want to be able to offer refreshments and a restroom for them and their guests.

          One of the major ironies about all this space being devoted to them is that it stands empty much of the time due to their extensive travel requirements (cf. justification for Netjets/company airplane).

          I sometimes wonder why they don't skip all the executive suites and instead build a small hotel on corporate campuses and hire a hotel company to manage it. The executives could be given a generic "large" office (of the type generally assigned to on-site senior working managers; large enough for a desk, conference table and four chairs, but not the big suites) and a group of suites in the hotel could be set aside for executives involved in meetings for which their "living room" setup would be required; the hotel's concierge and other staff could be used for food/beverage and other conveniences.

          The side benefit would be a functional hotel that could be used for out of town employees, vendors and others needing accommodations and working on campus.

      • Re:Causality (Score:5, Insightful)

        by RapmasterT ( 787426 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @02:11PM (#34563486)

        Amazing how corporations will justify whatever they want.

        Because people are not given a choice but to work in less space, they therefore say that they don't need it or want it.

        Question: did they ask the workers (really ask them...anonymously)? .02


        This is strikingly similar to the attitude a previous CTO of mine expressed when we were remodeling workspaces (yes, the CTO got involved in cubicle design). His idea was "big open room, no walls, no foster a 'collaborative working environment'".

        I tried til I was blue in the face to explain to him we don't have a business that benefits from collaboration...individuals work on individual projects mostly. He wouldn't listen.

        After the remodel, and the office sounded like a bus station caffeteria from people talking, using the phone, typing, meetings (nope, no meeting rooms either), etc, most people you'd see would have headphones on to block out the noise. The CTO, he just went into his office and kept the door closed.

    • by dintech ( 998802 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:53AM (#34560470)

      "They have learned to work anywhere — at a kitchen table or wherever."

      I think it's more accruate that we don't work anywhere. So why should the office be any different. :)

    • If companies want to save money, they should be eliminating the cubicles and setting up the policies, procedures and infrastructure to have large numbers of employees work from home. It's green and it keeps most employees happier. Besides certain jobs that are obviously well suited for office work, the only barrier to having employees work from home now is the paranoid, incompetent middle manager.
      • I'd love to work from home. However, I'd like to point out a second barrier to you: lazy employees who goof off and become almost completely unproductive when working from home ruining it for the rest of us.

        • This may be a shocker, but they're goofing off at work, too. That's what I mean about incompetent managers: unproductive employees should be evident whether they're visible or not.
          • Re:Causality (Score:5, Interesting)

            by Endo13 ( 1000782 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:54AM (#34561410)

            Not necessarily. I know for myself, I have a much harder time staying focused and getting work done at home than when I'm "on the job" somewhere. To give you an idea how drastic it is, when I'm trying to "work from home" I barely get anything worthwhile done. When I'm "on the job", I'm one of the best, most efficient guys on the team. I get twice as much done as some of the other guys.

            I really wish that weren't the case, because I'd much prefer working from home.

            • by markov_chain ( 202465 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @12:16PM (#34561764) Homepage

              You're not alone, I'm the same way. It is so bad that I'm seriously considering building some timed interlock system where I would push a button and have the Internet down for X minutes, or a timed door lock that would keep me in a distraction-free room for enough time to get useful work done.

              The irony is I'm supposed to be doing work, and here I am designing a timed lock...

    • by kent_eh ( 543303 )
      And 15 years ago the same "experts" claimed that multi-tasking was the way of the future. That today's employees are natural multi-taskers. That multi-tasking is good for employees and employers

      We all know how well that worked out...
    • Could that be because their office space has become so worthless that anywhere else is preferable?

      Exactly. Its not like executives are standing in line to give up their large, expansive, windowed offices.

      What really needs to happen is more and more jobs need to done remotely. Employees can then have a room dedicated to work. Email, IM, phone/video conference, and periodic in office meetings are all that are required for professionals. Obviously, not everything can be addressed this way. Just the same, the foot print and utility savings can be considerable for a large workforce.

    • by mcgrew ( 92797 ) *

      More like "We can shrink these cubicles because today's dumb kids will put up with it!"

      It seems to have gotten worse and worse since the end of the Great Depression. I put up with shit my dad would never have dreamed of putting up with, my daughter puts up with shit I would never have dreamed of putting up with.

    • by mikael ( 484 )

      You haven't see some computing labs these days - it's really how many PC's and students can we cram into the room before they start complaining? With so many buy-to-rent landlords, a two bedroom apartment with living room/dining becomes a four-bedroom student flat.

  • I have no idea.... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Haedrian ( 1676506 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:44AM (#34560330)

    Why people still like cubicles.

    The place I worked had an open plane. My team members had connecting desks to each other. If I needed anything (since I worked in ICT - needing someone else is common) - all I had to do it talk, or move my chair a bit. I think cubicles aren't very good for morale anyway.

    • This is what we do where I work, too. There are only 2 of us now, but it was pretty cool back before upper management laid everyone off. It definitely made for higher morale being able to easily communicate, both seriously and for fun, with co-workers and made staying late for projects not quite so awful.
      • by nblender ( 741424 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:02AM (#34560640)
        yeah; not so much.. As you get older and gain more experience (while doing everything possible to prevent being moved into a management track), you value your privacy... During the work day, I have to deal with personal matters (calls from the boy's school, wife, accountant, etc) and having a cow-orker 3 feet away pretending not to listen is not optimal... In an open plan, people have to get up, transfer the call to some meeting room and take it there, while running across the office with paperwork or what have you. Then there's the little mental breaks you take throughout the day to let your mind stew on a hard problem; you don't want someone staring at your monitor from behind you... Don't get me wrong, my employer gets plenty of work out of me and they're very happy with my performance and my pay is commensurate with that assertion..

        Currently, I have a cubicle somewhere in the building... I don't know where it is; I've never seen it. I assume it's like all the other cubicles in the building.. I work in a lab primarily because I need access to hardware and test equipment... The lab is somewhat open-plan but I have a private little corner that I've managed to arrange by moving benches around... It's noisy enough in the lab that I can keep from getting distracted by people milling about or make my phone calls without anyone listening in... I can focus for long periods when I need to and the restricted access to the lab prevents a lot of people from just wandering in for a visit...

        When I need to communicate with my cow-orkers, we all use Jabber.. If you're focused, you can hide your jabber window and not be disturbed... I get to choose when distraction is permissible or unwanted.
        • Hear hear (Score:5, Insightful)

          by tygerstripes ( 832644 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @12:00PM (#34561492)

          I currently work in an open-plan environment. My job requires some significant coding work (requiring total focus for long periods of time) while all of my colleagues are involved in much more piecemeal work. They have absolutely no comprehension of how frustrating and damaging it is to my productivity to be subjected to their distracted working pattern all day.

          There are definite benefits to working open-plan, but for some tasks it is simply inappropriate and detrimental.

          • Re:Hear hear (Score:4, Interesting)

            by GeckoAddict ( 1154537 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @12:42PM (#34562204)
            This is why I like to argue for a two-location approach. There are times, especially during a design phase, that collaboration and communication greatly improve my productivity. Then there are times where I have a defined coding task, where putting on my headphones and disappearing into my cube is the best choice for my productivity (working at home is even better, because people can't stop by my desk every 3 minutes there). I think the best approach is to have a shared team area that the team can use anytime (preferably with large whiteboards, a projector, etc), but a private cube/office as well. Having instant messaging (and actually using the away/available statuses) helps keep distractions down at the office as well.
    • by hosecoat ( 877680 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:09AM (#34560724) Homepage

      Why people still like cubicles.

      The cubicle wall provides a place to hide when a button-down, Oxford-cloth psycho who is sick of working in a cubicle snaps, and then stalk the office with an Armalite AR-10 carbine gas-powered semi-automatic weapon, pumping round after round into colleagues and co-workers.

    • by alcourt ( 198386 )

      People like the illusion of privacy. They like that it is a minor nuisance to bother them and that they have a space that they can make a little bit more their own than is typically considered proper in a more open environment. I know that many people where I work were uncomfortable with open floor plans for this very reason. In some extreme cases, people have effectively constructed cube walls for themselves with books and other items just to let them work better.

      The lack of visual distractions of other

    • by kellyb9 ( 954229 )
      If you work for a larger company, the likelihood that you actually work in the same location as your co-workers is extremely diminished. I'm not in the same office as any of the people I work with, so this arrangement would be far less efficient for me. Actually, it would probably be a huge distraction which is why I don't mind cubes. I think people prefer a certain level of privacy. I'd work from home, but there are far too many distractions there to occupy my time (it's really not for everyone).
    • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:15AM (#34560826) Journal
      The recommendation in Peopleware (which my father's company used, independently) is to buy a load of tall and thick cubicle dividers, leave them in the corner of the office, and let your employees arrange the office to suit themselves. This generally ends up with teams that need to work together joining their desks and using the dividers to make sure that they can talk without interrupting anyone else (and vice versa).
    • by mcmonkey ( 96054 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:28AM (#34561060) Homepage

      The place I worked had an open plane. My team members had connecting desks to each other. If I needed anything (since I worked in ICT - needing someone else is common) - all I had to do it talk, or move my chair a bit.

      I would love to go back to a cubicle.

      I am the guy stuck sitting next to you. While you get your quick response by leaning over, I get my train of thought derailed.

      And most of the time, you're bugging me for something you should be able to find for yourself in the documentation or something you should be doing yourself.

      The rest of the office does not exist to do your bidding. Maybe having your own space is bad for your morale, because then you'd have to do your own work, but for me, having my own defined space where I can concentrate without interruption, increases my morale by about 1000%.

    • by Chemisor ( 97276 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:53AM (#34561380)

      I have no idea how the whole country has become so oversocialized. Privacy is important to be an individual. How can you know who you are if you have never been alone? Without working alone, how can you realize that it is the individual that does the work, not the collective? How can you get any work done at all when you are constantly distracted (and spied on) by other people? Forcing "togetherness" was a great socialist tool back in the Soviet times, to ensure that you never imagine yourself as an individual, that you never have unapproved thoughts, and that if you do either of those things you can get ratted out and sent to Siberia.

    • by dbIII ( 701233 )

      The place I worked had an open plane.

      If it was open how did you keep the snakes out?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:45AM (#34560350)

    I'll be in the basement, clutching my red stapler.

  • by Errol backfiring ( 1280012 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:47AM (#34560372) Journal
    In the USA, office employees are kept in a sort of shoe-box with a size that, for understandable reasons, is measured in feet. Those boxes have shrunk.
    • by thijsh ( 910751 )
      Plus the overall amount of red staplers available to the workforce has decreased by an incalculable amount that, for unfathomable reasons, is measured in a library of congress amount of staples times Boeing 747 total stapler length.
    • LOL! Thanks, that really cracked me up. Now, here's an alternative translation for us wacky metric system users:

      In the 1970s, American corporations typically thought they needed 152,40 to 213,36 square meters per employee to build an effective office, but the LA Times reports that today's average is a little more than 60,96 square meters per person, and the space allocation could hit a mere 15,24 square meters by 2015. "We're at a very interesting inflection point in real estate history," says Peter Miscovi

    • Briefer version: In USA, shoebox holds you.

  • Brazil (Score:3, Informative)

    by fussy_radical ( 1867676 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:50AM (#34560418)

    Next they'll expect us to share a desk too: []

    I'm sitting in about 64 ft^2. It sucks but I like making money too.

  • by spamking ( 967666 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:53AM (#34560474)
    Our freaking cubes are so tight (less than 100 square feet) and small that simply talking on the phone is a total pain. There's a guy in the cube next to me who always has to use his speaker phone for EVERY call. I can't even hear myself think when he's on the phone.

    That alone should be reason enough to not support cubicles.
    • You think you've got it bad... I have TWO people in adjacent cubes on loud speakerphones with clients somewhere and every idiotic thing they say echoes three times.

      Then there's the guy faintly humming weird music in the adjacent cube on the other side, along with the chick nearby whose phone rings some awful song whenever she leaves it on her desk.

      Should I appreciate the sight barriers, even if I don't get a noise barrier? It's hard to say.
  • by niks42 ( 768188 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:54AM (#34560500)
    My personal office space is 36 square feet; I am lucky enough to have a window along one edge. I spend most of my working life with a headset on to shut out the interference to my concentration from my near neighbours, four of whom I could hit with a baseball bat (quite cheerfully, as it happens) without leaving my chair. Welcome to the world of being an IT Architect.
    • I had a large office at my last job. In fact, it was an office designed for three people, but with layoffs it became my office solely. Now I sit in a fairly small 36 square foot cubicle as well, but I don't feel cramped. I don't need to store file folders or anything like that. My desk is large enough for three monitors, my phone, a digital photo frame, and I still have plenty of room.

      Our cubicles really only have one tall wall, so we have an open space down a row where I can talk with my coworkers. We all

    • I haven't had but once a window for my shared office/cube in 15 years of IT.

      I think that EU building architects are way ahead of US building architects for sunshine and Natural Ventilation.

      Wireless really helped when it was permitted to work that way. To many coworkers abused that flexibility. We had garden quads within walking distance that helped as well. If upwind of the smokers you could actually feel naturally human at some point during the work day.

  • I've had this idea for a while - why not exploit the third dimension. Bunk desks - they're the answer!

    Seriously, here in the UK open plan offices are the norm. We've recently escaped plans to reduce the size of our desks to little more than the width of keyboard + mousemat.

  • by petes_PoV ( 912422 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:57AM (#34560546)
    maybe it's the occupants getting larger.
  • by phrostie ( 121428 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:58AM (#34560552)

    I just checked mine and it's 6' x 7'.

    OMG, 42!
    it all makes sense now!

  • I am new to this whole work world thing. I write for the most part. My problem with cubicles is this: at times all my co-workers in the cubicles around are making sales calls, or discussing web dev stuff, or just hamming it up, and I find it extremely hard to concentrate. It may just be that I am new to the game, but it does get a bit frustrating.
    • Re:new (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Lilith's Heart-shape ( 1224784 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @02:01PM (#34563330) Homepage
      Bring a personal music player and two sets of headphones. Your first set should be a lightweight, open air design. Wear those when you're willing to tolerate interruptions. Your second set should be a big set of noise-reducing headphones that look like something a record producer would wear in a studio. Those are your "Fuck off and let me work!" headphones.
  • by Wansu ( 846 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:58AM (#34560572)

    In most areas, commercial real estate is going empty.

    This is being driven by a desire to control employees. They want to huddle them close together so they are easier to watch and they tend to police each other.

    • Also, as with ladybugs, it's an effective strategy for overwintering.

    • by jimicus ( 737525 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:58AM (#34561458)

      I don't know how it works in the US, but if the UK is anything to go by your view is probably wrong.

      Commercial landlords - indeed, the entire commercial letting industry - is a law unto itself. My own employer moved offices when our previous landlord would not reduce the rent (even though the going rate was dropping as offices were becoming empty). They were told clearly, in simple terms: rent goes down or we go out. Rent did not go down. We left a couple of months after a number of other tenants in that building did. I wouldn't be surprised if that building is 70 or 80% empty today.

      There's all sorts of other things you can get in commercial leases which anyone who didn't know the industry would think absurd. "Repairing leases" (where you have to carry out any repairs to the fabric of the building - all the responsibilities of ownership, none of the benefits!) aren't that uncommon, and if you happen to take on a building which requires a lot of repair work - tough. You can actually be forced to return the building to the landlord in a better state to how you took it on.

      Another one I've heard of is where the landlord charges you £X/square foot then includes things like staircases and toilets in their calculation of how large the office is. (You don't normally include these things when you do this arithmetic - £X/square foot usually means £x/useful square foot, not including staircases, kitchen areas etc). Next thing you know you've accidentally signed yourself to a contract paying double the going rate, you can't get out of it and you can't sub-let it without losing money unless you can find someone equally stupid. For bonus points, the landlord has demanded that the director of the business acts as a personal guarantor - only way out of the contract then is to declare yourself bankrupt.

      Faced with an industry full of sharks like that, anyone with any sense will do everything in their power to minimise their exposure.

  • by shadowrat ( 1069614 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @10:59AM (#34560582)
    I have no need to even be at the office. I can work remotely just fine. Gone are the days of piles of paper and shelves of reference books. I never have to file away physical files. Most of my communications with my coworkers is via instant messaging and email. For reference i am a software engineer. I am currently working on convincing my company to let me work from the road in my RV.
  • hate it. Had an office and when I really needed to concentrate I could close the door. Then they said they needed the office space so moved me into my lab. Fine, I spent a lot of time there anyway and I could ignore the sound of the equipment running. Now there are three (3) cubes in my lab space, I'm in one. The space in each is only 44 sq ft. But at least the partitions are 6 foot tall; so, I can pretend to concentrate. In 4 month we're moving into a new building, with cubes. And the partition wal

  • Sq F (Score:5, Funny)

    by FrostedWheat ( 172733 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:00AM (#34560596)

    American corporations typically thought they needed 500 to 700 square feet per employee

    Who's running these corporations? Millipedes?

  • In the 1970s, American corporations typically thought they needed 500 to 700 square feet per employee to build an effective office, but the LA Times reports that today's average is a little more than 200 square feet per person, and the space allocation could hit a mere 50 square feet by 2015.

    Then in 2025, everyone's cubicles will be two square feet! In 2035, it'll be negative 10 square feet! Zager and Evans will have NOTHING on this!

    Sorry, I'm just enjoying the silly extrapolation.

  • by retech ( 1228598 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:01AM (#34560616)
    The copious amounts of space top level executives in the USA take up has grown exponentially in the last 30 years. It is estimated that in the next 10 years they will need infinite space to just barely function. "I need more space than a third world factory just for my golf stuff. I have no idea where I'll put all my awards and toys. I'm really super worried about this." One Fortune 500 CEO is quoted as saying.
  • by decipher_saint ( 72686 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:02AM (#34560644)

    "Younger workers' lives are all integrated, not segregated," says Larry Rivard. "They have learned to work anywhere -- at a kitchen table or wherever."

    Y'know when I was younger I would have worked on a shelf if it meant I had a job and I was doing something I loved, I don't see this as anything new.

    I really can't think of any cube environment I've worked in that was conducive to work, the best environments always seem to have been open, yet not too big. An open room with 6 to 8 people seems to be the magic zone.

    The biggest cube I worked in was at the Provincial Gov't, they had this massive 1960s job that had two chairs, a proper desk, a fully adjustable "computer" desk and a coat rack. I kinda liked that cube because there was enough room for small meetings, pair programming and it gave you some space for thinking (without having three other noisy people two meters away from you all the time). In fact it wasn't until I got into a modern cube farm that I had to go out and buy noise cancelling headphones (though very nearly a noise cancelling shotgun).

    It's weird, with walls people are loud and obnoxious, with no walls they have respect for each other.

  • Issue everyone a laptop and phone with a camera and a Jabra. Let them work where they want. Measure by task and project completion and quality. How much physical interaction is necessary for most information jobs?

    • by alcourt ( 198386 )

      Tell that to those who have the job of escorting the field engineer onto the computer room floor, preparing the backup media for removal to secure storage, inserting new blank media into the backup silos when they run low, etc. They are also the ones I call when the monitoring tools are borked because the LOM card is on the fritz and I need someone to physically touch the system or look at it.

  • For some reason I am reminded of that ISS living quarters tour [].

  • ... that you give them. And if they don't work there, they get fired.....
  • by kellyb9 ( 954229 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @11:09AM (#34560732)
    I think the reason for cubicle shrinkage has more to do with how irrelevant desk space has become over the past 30 or 40 years. Everyone works off of computers and doesn't need a large amount of desk space - at least not as large as they had in the past. I have very little on my desk, mostly personal items (pictures, cell phone, MP3 player, etc.). 30 years ago desks would have to accomodate stacks of paper and notepads, and they would also need the ability to spread these items out.
    • by DerekLyons ( 302214 ) <> on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @04:07PM (#34565180) Homepage

      That was my first though when I read the summary too... "duh, how obvious" - as we move closer and closer to being truly paperless, officer workers need less and less space to spread out papers or to store files.
      I hate to invoke 'kids these days' - but it really does apply here. Anyone under thirty or so has almost certainly never experienced an 'old style' office - when PC's became ubiquitous in the 90's, things changed radically.
      My wife is an accountant and CFO for a local business and keeps a set of the ledgers from the 1980's in her office - they fill a shelf three feet long. (She says when she's frustrated because the server is slow or down, looking at that shelf reminds her of how good she actually has it.) She also points out all she has is the ledgers, the ancillary material like invoices, timesheets, sales tickets, etc... would take up even more space. If she wasn't required to keep a physical paper trail of some things for legal and tax reasons, she wouldn't even have a filing cabinet in her office. The old storage room for such stuff is now an employee break room. The refrigerator in the break room is bigger than the annual amount of paper she has to store nowadays.
      She also points out that in the 1980's the business required an accountant, two full time bookkeepers, and a full time filing clerk. Today, despite the business being ten times larger, there's just her and a full time data entry clerk. The phone girl files in her spare time.
      For another example: In my book collection, I have a book on office organization intended for professional engineers, draftsmen, and architects from the 1950's - it dedicates three entire chapters (almost half the book) to the theory and practice of laying out work spaces for engineers and draftsmen. You lay it out one way for buildings, another for ships, a different way for airplanes... All trying to solve the problem of mapping a 3D physical object onto/into a 2D drafting room such that guys (and it was all guys back then) working on adjacent parts/rooms/spaces/systems were close enough to each other to collaborate. (When something like the working drawings for the engine room of a ship could stretch thirty feet or an entire deck could stretch a hundred or more if laid end-to-end this was a real problem.) The offices were open plan because they had to be, because there was no other way to collaborate but to physically transport yourself or the drawing to the individual(s) you needed to communicate with.

  • This has to be taken in context. In my first jobs I have maybe many linear feet of bookshelves, a work table table that was maybe 100 square feet itself, separate telephone, separate fax, large space for computers. The office was maybe 400 square feet. Pretty quickly that moved to a fewer books and small computer. Office shrank to maybe than 200. I recall one place where the office would have been huge except I had a big printer in it. By the time the late 90's hit my required reference and reading shru
  • To a certain degree, I guess this probably makes sense.

    A few years back you'd be working with physical paper. You needed room for filing cabinets. You needed a big enough desk to get work done. You needed paper, pencils, pens, a typewriter, whatever.

    These days you've got a computer. You just need room for a monitor and keyboard, and you can cram the box itself under the desk somewhere.

    But I think the bigger picture is that employers are genuinely squeezing as much out of their employees as they can.


  • I need to concentrate. My requests at work for a small pocket universe have gone unanswered, sadly.

  • I'd be fine with space even half of what I have. Just give me full-height walls and a door. Thanks.

  • by digitig ( 1056110 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @12:17PM (#34561778)
    49 feet seems quite big for a cubicle. But what's the other horizontal dimension?
  • by lwriemen ( 763666 ) on Wednesday December 15, 2010 @01:59PM (#34563304)

    "effective office" cubicle is an oxymoron. There have been many studies over the years that show that open office spaces are counter-productive. The book, Peopleware, by DeMarco and Lister covers this and other topics, related to the management of knowledge workers. At the time Peopleware was written, DeMarco and Lister couldn't find a single productivity study that supported the installation of cubicles.

    People not found at their desks are often practicing the productivity enhancement called, "hiding from the boss". It is often the only way to get work done around a micro-manager.

"In matrimony, to hesitate is sometimes to be saved." -- Butler