Every time you check in to your cube for the day, you lose momentum. The walls closing in on you are beige foam & metal. The air is cold, dry & dusty. And windows? Who do you think you are? Management?
Supposedly, it was organizational psychologists that determined cubicles to be the best way to insure productivity in a standard company. It’s about time we changed that notion.
In the past three years of “real jobs”, I have often lamented the lack of creativity and personalization allowed by the traditional corporate company structure. Between cubes, meetings, and an overload of policies, employees feel stifled. This business environment may have worked well in decades past, but we are a new generation of workers. Our ideal workplace is influenced by our other environments, which have been altered dramatically since the youth of our parents.
There are many books and speakers currently drawing attention for their remarks on the Millennial generation. At a convention I attended in January, one speaker looked out into a crowd that was predominantly over 50 and male. He pleaded the case of the young workers asking for a more friendly work environment. Citing various researchers, he described how fun and work are not mutually exclusive to this passionate, collaborative generation. A group who is native to the digital world is one deeply aware of alternatives. They do not just accept the workplace hierarchy or that working long, hard hours will pay off. This new section of the workforce believes each colleague is on their team rather than their competition and that working smart is better than working hard. They lack the super-independence of the latch-key kids of Generation X but don’t require hand-holding. The speaker spoke of new designs like the famous Google offices and others. The generation entering the workforce today will find more inspiration in a business culture that is open and welcoming to fresh ideas. Whether or not a company has the funds to redesign their cube farm into an office with desks, couches, ping pong tables, and lots of windows is not the most important part. What is vital is the ability of a company to recode their offices’ business culture from the traditional hierarchy to a collaborative, communicative team.
In a dream office, I would love the ability to change position at any time. It’s defocussing to sit still in a chair (albeit a comfy one) in front of a screen for long periods of time. My best work often occurs when I change my perspective. This is why I’m often found sitting on countertops, curling up against a window, or laying out across the floor. Sitting still dulls my brain cells now just as it did 4 years ago when my butt graced the desks of St. Norbert College. Many people learn best kinetically, by doing. With most office work now done on computers, our bodies have less to actually do. After a while, typing becomes plodding along at the keys, and you end up working hard just trying to push through until the sun goes down and the clock hits 5pm. It’s important to readjust where and how you work in order to keep the creative juices flowing.
I vote for less cubes! More windows! Your own choice of operating system! Pool tables! But this isn’t a democracy… so I’ll settle for an office where ideas flow freely between colleagues and spending more time researching is praised over pushing through the same old stale processes. Companies that embrace the Millennial generation are going to find incredible success this decade, but the change won’t be easy.