Your Cube Used to Be a Lot Bigger

By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2007-04-11

Feeling the squeeze at your desk today? Are your elbows bumping into the file cabinet? Can you not find an iota of clear space in which to rest your coffee? Is the nearness of your cube walls making you feel a little ... claustrophobic?

If it makes you feel any better, you're not the only one with cabin fever. Research released today by the IFMA (International Facility Management Association), a professional association for facility managers, notes that in 1987, the space allocated to an executive office was an average of 291 square feet, but today that figure is down to 241. Senior professionals are also feeling the squeeze, with an average work space of 98 square feet. However, few have it worse than call center workers, who are typically assigned just 50 square feet. Ouch.

The majority of workers (59 percent) toil daily in cubes, often spending more than 40 hours and eating 10 meals each week in diminutive, partially-enclosed spaces that even their inventor, Robert Propst, has come to loathe, believing he has created a "monolithic insanity."

Yet the IFMA feels that this shrinking work space trend may be leveling off, citing a range of factors. Collective work spaces--something Propst had vowed to improve upon when he designed the cubicle--are on the rise, driven by both management's desire for increased teamwork and a trend away from private offices.

"Third offices," such as coffee shops and at-home work setups are also gaining ground, as technology has enabled large numbers of employees to telecommute.

But the final, and perhaps most amusing reason the report uses to support an argument that company-sponsored work spaces won't be getting much smaller is that it would be simply impossible.

"Space reduction can only be taken to a certain point in which the workspace remains functional," the report reads.

More or less, your company may wish to deny you more personal space than they do, but they simply can't. If this crude logic sounds familiar to you, you might be hearing the words of comedian Chris Rock in your head, who in famed explanation of minimum wage stated simply this:

"Minimum wage is like your boss saying to you, we'd like to pay you less, but we can't."

Whatever the logic may be, you'll hear few rumblings from the working stiffs of the world if cube and office sizes are trending upward, especially if there's any hope they may one day look like this.

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