Rich Sheridan, CEO of software firm Menlo Innovations, in Ann Arbor, MI, recently asked the cubicle question. Then, annarbor.com ran an article about his post under the title “Death to Cubicles.” The battle lines were drawn.
On one side, there are those like Rich Sheridan. He says cubicles “kill morale, communication, productivity, creativity, teamwork, camaraderie, energy, spirit, and results.” On the other side are those, like one person responding to his post, that say they “like the privacy of cubicles” and “would be too distracted by an open environment.”
So, where does the furniture company that pioneered the cubicle stand? We think they’re both right, and the designer who birthed the cubicle, Robert Propst, would agree. For us, the best places to work give people a choice of where to work and how to work—if wide-open spaces suit the kind of work you do, go for them.
But people will always need privacy, and organizations around the world have found the good old cubicle a wonderful way to organize heads-down work and minimize distractions. The point is that to dictate any mode of working is not a good idea—even the most creative and team-oriented people in the world need to work alone sometimes.
That’s why we make everything from desks that snap together to cubicles that invert the landscape (higher walls on the aisle and lower ones where a team collaborates). And, then too, there is the original cubicle, which is doing very well 40+ years after it transformed how people work. In the end, it’s less about “Long Live the Cubicle” and more about “Long Live Choice.”