Thinking Outside the Box, Inside Their Cubicle
From Dilbert to Office Space to just about every workplace sitcom on TV, we’ve been conditioned to think of office cubicles as the place where creativity and spirit go to die, but it doesn’t have to be that way. They may not have a corner office with windows and an actual door, but there’s no reason your employees can’t make an otherwise generic space into an extension of their personalities.
Give them more to work with
One of the biggest problems with cubicle workspaces is how much they look alike. If you’re setting up a new office, look beyond the standard neutral-colored cubicle dividers for options that include their own door. If that’s out of reach, you can still provide choices for chairs, desks, lamps, etc., to give your employees a bit more ownership of their workspace.
To Conform or Not to Conform
How much variation works for your office? If your company deals with a lot of older, more conservative clients coming in to your office, you’re probably going to want to keep things fairly tame and consistent. On the other hand, if you seldom have customers in your office or if those customers are more of the younger fun-loving set, maybe you have an opportunity to really get creative. There’s no law that says the fuzzy cubicle walls all have to be the same color or even that they all have to be fuzzy.
Even in the most open and creative workspaces, there have to be some rules to keep one person’s heaven from being their neighbor’s hell. For the most part these are pretty obvious – avoid offensive or distracting sounds and aromas that travel beyond the cubicle walls, but also consider what’s easily visible to coworkers and clients and just encourage your employees to use good judgment.
Who controls the air space above the cubicle? Consider ceding that control to the cubicle dwellers – it won’t cost you anything and you may be pleasantly surprised by what they come up with. Bead curtains demarking their territory, model airplanes suspended in mid-flight, a scale model of The Death Star being attacked by the Rebel fighters… the possibilities are literally endless.
Outer space may be infinite, but office space is finite and very precious. If you’re setting up a new cubicle layout, take your time and consider all angles to ensure you’re squeezing the most available space for your employees.
Small Space, Big Picture
The thought of working in a cubicle for the rest of your career or even for the next six months might be enough to scare away some potentially great employees, but cubicles are not jail cells – they’re workspaces. And with a little bit of effort and creativity, you can transform even the most mundane of office environments into a home away from home for your employees.
Chris Long has been a Home Depot store associate in the Chicago suburbs since 2000. Chris also writes on decor and design project tips for small businesses and homeowners for the Home Depot website.