Office Space 2.0: Not Your Dad’s Cubicle.

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office space rendering of a typical office layout in the 1980s

Remember the days when cubicles were synonymous with bland, gray partitions, fluorescent lighting, and a sense of isolation? Most of us have seen the movie, “Office Space” or read a Dilbert cartoon and it’s time to rethink those outdated stereotypes. Cubicles are making a comeback, and they’ve undergone a modern transformation that defies expectations. These aren’t the same dreaded three walls that had your old man rushing home for a beer. Let’s revisit just how far we’ve come…

The Birth of the Cubicle

The 60’s gave birth to the cubicle. A no-nonsense space for worker drones to do just that, work.

Although Robert Propst originally intended for cubicle workspaces as a means to help promote productivity, privacy, and health. His original design was instead used to save money in construction and development costs for building out offices.  In other words, pack-in as many employees into as small a place as possible.

The 80’s and early 90’s saw the rise in popularity of the cubicle. After so many buyouts and mergers it was the most cost-effective way to cram together a lot of employees.

My first introduction to a cubicle came in 1985 when I got to see my dad’s “office” for the first time. Rows and rows of gray walls and beige trim. One or two had pictures hanging or maybe a plant. Then in 1995. I enlisted in the Army and found that like most businesses or government facilities at the time, inexpensive utopian office furniture was apparently all the rage.

The Fall of the Cubicle Workspace

The 90’s gave rise to dot com startups, portable computing, and the internet. It also led to the decline of the cubicle. The cube fell and gave way to the open office concept. The continued miniaturization of the personal computer and the rise of the laptop meant we no longer needed to make room for bulky office equipment. Hot desking also started to take off, and open-office designs complemented this new way of working perfectly.

The initial intention of the open office concept was to break down the barriers of the work environment, fostering greater collaboration and interaction among colleagues to enhance productivity. However, the implementation of an open office floor plan has proven to be counterproductive. Despite the initial optimism, the absence of cubicles and the transition to a large shared space led to increased noise levels and distractions.

Surprisingly, this environment hindered collaboration rather than promoting it. Productivity declined instead of improving, and workers actively sought ways to minimize interactions with their neighboring colleagues. 

Continued Below


The Revival of the Cubicle Workstation

COVID-19 completely changed the office landscape and culture, with more and more people returning to the office from remote work, safety protocols still need to be followed. The open office and hot desking which had previously dominated corporate culture was no longer a viable option.

If employees were going to return to the office from the safety and comfort of home, then they insisted on working in an environment designed for their safety, not corporate conveniences and profits. 

The cubicle workspaces from years earlier were inherently built for social distancing. The walls help isolate workers and limit the spread of germs. Unlike the cubicles from our parent’s generation, cubicles have come a long way. Glass panels, colored panels, sound dampening & noise reduction products, and even locking doors are now standard. Storage management that includes filing cabinets and overhead storage bins are always a nice addition as well.

Need A Office Redesign?

SKUTCHI Designs bestselling Sapphire Cubicle System features everything needed to create individual or grouped cubicle workstations. The Sapphire Cubicle System is safety, privacy, and functionality all in one. It’s fully customizable for heights up to 65” with the panel wall options of your choice.  You can choose from thermal-fused laminate panels, tempered glass panes, 100% recycled PET (recycled plastics) panels, or white board surfaces. 

No other cubicle system easily compares.  You can see for yourself by clicking here and then contacting one of our project managers.

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