19 Oct 2009

Fighting the Cubicle Uprising

Mind you, that’s cubicle, not cubical, just so we’re all clear.

Technically speaking, the cubicle uprising occurred probably somewhere in the late 70’s (don’t check my sources on that though). I’m not talking about when cubicle’s gained souls and thrust their way from poverty into national prominence, that technically hasn’t happened yet.

I’m talking about the time when Corporate America was born and decided that it was cheaper to put people in boxes to cloud their thinking and judgement. So it’s probably a futile attempt to overthrow the archetypal mind-prison for everybody. That’s why I’m just fighting my own fight. You can come too, if you want.

I can see the violence inherent in the system! Can’t you?

Today at work we had a discussion about how many more programmers we could fit into the programmers office. Our office is a 25’x20’ rectangle. We currently have 5 programmers working in this office, but we’ve had 6 before. My thought is that we could get 2 more than our old max, pushing us to 8. Now, that means we could have 8 programmers in our room comfortably.

Oh, and none of us are in cubicles… yet. I intend to keep it that way.

Fight back you coward!

When I was hired on, we had these kind of faux-wood heavy desks with hutches. Technically we still have some of those, a few of our guys are still in them. Ben and I got snooty though and decided to buy our own from IKEA. It was the best idea, still love that we did it. The company even paid us back for them, which was even cooler.

No, the back of his desk is not an appealing view. Hence the need for diffuse lighting.

The reason I was snooty and wanted a fancy desk is two-fold: 1) I didn’t really like the big desk with the hutch and stuff, it was WAY more desk than I needed; 2) I’d like to think that the cleaner lines of the IKEA desk are simply more pleasing to my design-centric eye, so I just enjoy being at my desk that much more. And why shouldn’t I? On average we spend roughly two-thousand hours sitting at our work desk each year. Why not have it be a cool desk you like, with a glow lamp in the corner and a cool green bamboo plant growing nearby. Feng-shui baby.

Back to the story, the one I was telling before my snooty tangent, the one about the programming room. The other strategy was to get as many programmers (i.e. cubicles) into the room as we could. Scratch that, apparently they are called Work Spaces now. Bah! And a Ford Focus is an M5. You might as well sprinkle sugar on a turd and call it delicious. It ain’t adding up. Calling it one thing doesn’t make it something other than what it is. Call the pot black. It’s a cubicle: a box constructed of cheap material for managers and investors to save some coin at the expense of employees hating their environment every day. “But it only has 3 sides, it can’t be a cubicle!”, you stammer. Believe me my friend, it’s just a cubicle. The same awful open-box with closed-thinking built right in!

The programmers were luke warm to the cubicle idea, but it scared the crap out of me. I thought my cube days were over, solitary confinement in the gray dungeon a thing of the past. So I spoke up, and denounced that my days of cube-sitting were gone with the days of Tech Deck skating and “¿Gracias por llamar a Morinda, como le puedo ayudarle?”.

My assertion was enough to sway the powers-that-be, so let us pray that if/when we hire those additional code monkeys we’ll be getting them some nice IKEA desks instead of the beige-cage.

What have you stood up for today?

Update: Apparently Robert Propst, the designer of the Action Office (what the cubicle originated from), called the cubicle a “monolithic insanity”. I couldn’t agree more.