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The Office vs. The Cubicle Debate

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In the movie “The Devil Wears Prada,” Meryl Streep plays a knock-off Anna Wintour (the icy editor of Vogue for the fashion unconscious among you) who manages Runway magazine from a pristine, spacious and, most importantly, window-filled office.

As it turns out, art imitates life.

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In the real offices of Vogue‘s parent company, Conde Nast, many senior editors and publishers have offices complete with their own bathrooms and showers, and even lower-level editors have walls and a door. In fact, the only people who work in the trenches are assistants and junior staffers, according to a post on Gothamist.com.

But not for long. According to the article, when Conde Nast moves into One World Trade Center in 2014, more employees will be working in – gasp – cubicles.

For Conde Nast employees, the word itself is sends shivers up their spines.

“I think it will be horribly received in many parts of the building,” one source told the New York Post.

But before the status-oriented denizens of Conde Nast get their designer undies in a twist, they should learn about the pros and cons of life in a cubicle.

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(Cafeterias at Conde Nast)

Pros

More collaboration: Creativity thrives in places where ideas can be shared openly. Working in a more open office will allow the writers and editors to come up with unique story ideas and creative design without holding formal meetings.

More sun: If there are fewer offices, there’s a greater chance that natural light makes its way to the peons working in the pit. Research has shown that exposure to natural light helps people be more creative. Who doesn’t love a little sunshine?

More learning: When employees are exposed to other people’s jobs, they get a better understanding of the different roles people play in the office. This can make them more valuable, and might even lead them down new career paths.

Better relationships: It’s easy to lock yourself in an office and communicate only via e-mail or phone, but when you’re out in cubicle land, you’re forced to get to know your neighbors. Fostering good relationships in the office can lead to fewer turnovers and better morale.


Cons

Less privacy: One Conde Nast employee told the New York Post that while an open office might suit the needs of a regular newsroom, the type of writing they do is more about style and requires quiet. In an open office, employees will have to get used to listening to and seeing their co-workers all day long. Which means they’ll have to kiss their peace and quiet goodbye.

Less criticism: When everyone is out in the open, it might be harder for people to offer honest feedback on ideas. Being able to meet with a supervisor in a closed-door office offers a chance for employees to air out their feelings in a secure and safe setting.

More germs: During cold and flu season, offices can offer a little more protection from all that sneezing and coughing. In an open office airborne viruses can flourish.

Less productivity: While open office spaces might foster better communication and relationships, it also might lead to more idle chatter and distractions. Offices with doors allow people to shut out the din and focus on their work.

“Devil Wears Prada” photo courtesy of allmoviephoto.com. Office photo courtesy of osidc.com. Cafeteria photo courtesy of gawker.com.

Posted by James Wilkie

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