Is Working In a Cubicle a Punishment?


Kyle McCarthy at Smart Living Network draws an interesting parallel between the ubiquitous office cubicle and childhood memories of being put in “timeout”. He says working within the confines of those four foot tall partitions makes him feel trapped in perpetual stasis. He points out that the cube can make employees feel claustrophobic while stifling communication. Does it have to be that way? Or, are there solutions that will make your workers feel less like 6 year olds who’ve been naughty? Why don’t we play off this idea of the cubicle as a timeout space and see what we come up with?

“Calm Down Corner” Cubicle

This alternative to the classic timeout has been popularized by shows like America’s Supernanny. Basically, the calm down corner isn’t intended as punishment. Instead, it’s a place for a stressed out, overstimulated toddler to reflect, regroup, and emerge in a better mood. For best results, it should be a locale that’s decorated and furnished to be as soothing as possible. For little kids, a parent might include objects like a favorite blanket, a coloring book, or a snow globe to shake. For adults, soft music played on headphones or a picture of a favorite vacation spot might be better. Give employees some leeway in decorating their cubicle so they have what they need to create a calming atmosphere.

Obviously, there are times when we grownups need to calm down at work. If we’re being honest, many of us would admit to hiding out in the bathroom to get a grip on our worst days. Ideally, a cubicle should serve as a sanctuary where your employees can really take a deep breath and have a little privacy. Accessories like the CubeGuard that let people know when a worker needs some space can be useful.

What about when employees are feeling great and ready to rejoin their coworkers? Some offices are catching onto the idea that not all employees do their best work in a cube all day. You might consider converting some cubicle space into open lounge areas where employees can sit and work without feeling so closed in all the time. Just make sure you have systems in place to measure productivity regardless of the environment in which your employees work.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Ken Wilcox


Leave a Reply