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I Heart My Desk

Bob Goldman on

The last time the designers attacked, our beloved cubicles were exiled. In their place was the "open office," where no walls inhibited the "cross-fertilization of ideas."

Of course, what the open office produced was the cross-fertilization of stupid ideas, not to mention a constant cacophony of moronic chit-chat, ear-drum shattering whispers and endless angry telephone conversations, all mixed and remixed with random -- and disgusting -- body sounds.

The decibel level was so noxious that some office workers were forced to "do a turtle," retreating into their headphones all day. Others just headed for the hills. They started working from home, or, in your case, not-working from home. Either way, you were home, and if you didn't have a desk, you did have a couch and remote.

With the open office closed, the new, workplace design du jour is "activity-based." In place of individual desks, there are "isolation rooms," coffin-like structures where you can close the door and scream in private. There are also technology-free "quiet rooms," where you can scream in public. There are hideously named "huddle rooms," but don't despair. Add a lava lamp and they could easily be turned into "cuddle rooms,"

Another really wacko idea in the new workplace design is the concept that exposure to sunlight and outdoor views are beneficial. A University of Oregon study showed that workplaces with outdoor views resulted in 6% fewer sick days. I know the reason. Outdoor views are constant reminders of pollution and traffic jams, making you decide you'd be better off inside.

Not even senior executives are going untouched by these new concepts. IBM has forced senior executive to "depart wood-paneled offices for smaller, side-by-side glass ones without doors."

This is a problem. If a lack of privacy makes it impossible for senior executives to hibernate in their wood-paneled hidey-holes, they're likely to spend more time roaming the halls, pestering nonsenior nonexecutives, like thee and me.

If you suspect that your happiness may not be the only reason companies are adopting these new office design concepts, you may be right. The one activity these activity-based floor plans facilitate is saving money.

In the good old cubical days, each worker was allotted about 250 square feet. In the open office era, that metric dropped to 150 square feet. The new activity-based workplace designs provide each worker with a glorious 60 feet to roam wild.

If you're claustrophobic, perhaps you should work in a coal mine.

Like these changes or not, they are coming. Ironically, your best friend in this situation could be your old friend, your desk, once again proving the unique utility of this office icon.

As long as you have it, you can hide under it.

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Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@bgplanning.com. To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.


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