Cubicle is a brilliant word.
It’s a concise term and is well known throughout the working world. When you hear the word ‘cubicle’, you visualize a workstation. The workstation is surrounded by walls and filled with accolades and knick-knacks that help personalize the space. It’s where the office chair rolls from file cabinet to file cabinet. Where work legends are made through a tireless career in hopes of one day making the company Hall of Fame. And when that glorious day arrives, and you begin your office induction speech, be sure to thank your trusty cubicle.
Could you imagine going to work without the cubicle? No walls to help drown down the Monday morning banter from your work neighbor. No privacy. Just an endless sea of droning distraction dampening you from achieving the steadfast productivity you desire. If you were in the workforce in 1959 then this description of a work dystopia might just be the reality.
It was the start of the 1960’s, and the business world was fed up with the state of the open office space. The typical open office space was a montage of audio and visual distraction. Chaos plagued the office landscape, significantly hindering employee productivity.
In the town of Zeeland, Michigan, an office furniture design firm by the name of Herman Miller makes a great contribution to office design. Robert Probst despised the open office space layout. As an inventor, Probst was determined to create an office space system that could alleviate stress related to open office space layout systems. It turns out that Probst was a brilliant designer, and with the help of his co-workers at Herman Miller, the “Action Office” was created.
Imagination is creativity realized. The realization of the Action Office was a huge success for the Herman Miller office furniture company. Unlike his predecessors, Probst had the idea of constructing short partition walls set at 90 or 120 degree angles. This would allow for more privacy and less noise pollution. Soon, the chaotic open office of the 50’s was a problem of the past.
“Action Office II” was released in 1968. As Wired Magazine recounts, The New York Post declared the cubicle system a triumph! Workers could now enjoy more privacy! Across the country, office layouts were incorporating the “Action Office II” in the floor plan. The Herman Miller corporation celebrated great success as a workstation designer, and continues celebrating to this day.
The next time you walk into your office space you may want to give special thanks to the efforts of men like Robert Probst.
Everyday your cubicle walls shield you from the midday water cooler banter, thank your cubicle. Each time you pick up the phone a millisecond before your sales nemesis, claim the lead in private, and don’t have to endure your counterpart’s sneers, thank your cubicle. Or, the fact that you get to play Bejeweled at your desk because you were smart enough to identify the blindspots for which angles your office manager can’t see into your cubicle walls, thank your cubicle and thank Robert Probst. Thank you indeed. We salute you, sir, and your trusty office cubicle.
Cubicle: a home away from home.
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