It’s the end of an era. The cubicle dweller has died, and we should all be jumping for joy.
In 1960 a project was underway that would change corporate culture forever.
It was the invention of the office cubicle.
The office cubicle was created by designer Robert Propst, supervised by George Nelson and released by furniture maker Herman Miller.
It was developed as a result of a research project by Herman Miller to solve problems related to the use of furniture.
In particular, Herman Miller sought to solve the issue of employee privacy and distraction limitation in the workplace.
Prior to the cubicle, employees worked in open room environments at desks lined in rows without walls.
In 1967 the cubicle was released. It was a major success, with sales over the next 40 years topping $5 billion.
Despite the success of the cubicle, George Nelson who supervised its release disconnected himself from the entire project. In 1970 he wrote a letter to Herman Miller stating his grievances, not the least of which was the office cubicle’s “dehumanizing effect as a working environment.”
This disdain should really come as no surprise as the word cubicle comes from the Latin word, cubiculum, which translates to bed chamber. Is it just me or does this sound like a resting place for the walking dead?
The cubicle dweller has died this year, and 2014 marks its death because a tremendous shift has taken place this year that changed everything.
In 2014 we witnessed the solidification of social media, and not just from the context of useless platforms to waste time viewing pictures and videos and perusing breaking news headlines.
In 2014 social media finally became accepted as a means of communication that was here to stay.
This year we saw the rise of several new social networks and we saw many from the past two years gain further in popularity, proving that the business model of social media is scalable, able to be duplicated and financially viable. This has forced the business community to accept and embrace social media as users and platform advertisers, and whenever businesses adopt something, it’s here to stay.
As it pertains to the corporate cubicle culture, the social media-driven generation of Millennials are ill-prepared to accept this working environment where walls are built around them. This may have worked for their parents who were raised in a world that was much smaller and much more closed off, but Millennials were raised in a global economy, without boundaries and without walls. To place them in cages after being free for 25 years would be a reverse-engineering of slavery.
What social media has done to the human psyche’ is open up the mind of human beings to see a world without boundaries and this has made Millennials far more social creatures than their elders. This presents a tremendous problem as it pertains to the cubicle culture which aims to establish walls, rules, boundaries and limitations.
Don’t get me wrong, when I say the cubicle dweller has died, I’m not talking about the cubicle. While many companies, especially those in Silicon Valley have gotten rid of the cubicle culture, rest assured that cubicles aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
However, what is gone is the cubicle dweller. I say that from the perspective that cubicles are no longer effective working environments; not for the future workforce at least.
Just as Herman Miller set out to solve the problems of effective working environments in 1960, we need someone to take on this challenge today in 2014, because the cubicle has run its course. The new generation of employees that employers would like to stick in these environments will not be effective on the job.
They’re simply too weird, too outspoken, too creative, too social and too cool for the old school.