Still dreaming of that corner office with a view? You might be waiting for a long, long time. The majority of companies are now using cubicles to provide workers with their own dedicated work space while utilizing far less square footage than traditional offices with walls and doors.
Not only do cube farms – the nickname given to open office spaces filled with cubicles – allow corporations to save on real estate costs by fitting the same number of employees in much smaller areas, they give supervisors as well as co-workers the ability to check up on one another more easily. Although they have been mocked in the movie Office Space as well as the comic strip Dilbert, cubicles have become common in offices across the globe.
Shrinking Cubicles Lead to Smaller Furniture
Although they continue to grow in popularity because they allow companies to stretch dollars further in today’s still-weak economy, cubicles are growing considerably smaller in size since their first appearance in the late 1960s. In the early 1990s, the average office employee had 90 square feet of dedicated office space. As recently as ten years ago, the common size for cubicles was roughly 8 feet by 8 feet, or 64 square feet. Soon, 6 feet by 6 feet cubicles became industry standard and they continue to shrink below that already reduced 36 square feet size.
Smaller workspaces also translate into smaller desks and chairs, which are also less expensive for employers, but length isn’t the only aspect of cubicles that is changing. Today’s cubicles are also much shorter than those of years past; eliminating overhead storage bins and shelves because the height of the walls has shrunk as well. Even though it may go against the unspoken cubicle etiquette code, employees can easily see and speak to one another over these much shorter panels, which are also thinner and more lightweight than their bulkier, outdated counterparts.
Companies are not only trading in obsolete cubicle walls, they are turning to L-shaped desks without drawers to increase productivity. Furniture that can serve more than one purpose is also becoming the norm in today’s cubicles and most workers have traded in personal desktop printers and fax machines to use shared equipment in common areas. Monitors and computers themselves are becoming slimmer and smaller as technology progresses and some employees prefer to work on laptops or tablets, also resulting in less necessary space.
Benefits of Smaller Cubicles
There is no denying that workplaces are shrinking in an effort to save money, but other small cubicle “benefits” do exist as well. More compact furniture is more environmentally friendly, and downsizing office space in general can help reduce a company’s carbon footprint considerably. Less office space also gives more employees the opportunity to telecommute, or work from home, some or all of the time.
Employees can also collaborate with one another while sitting in closer quarters or even sharing cubicles, which is common when they work from home part of the time.
So if you feel as if the walls are caving in at work, you may very well be right, but don’t take it personally. While a larger office was once a status indicator, most employees—even executives—are making do with less space than they had in years past.