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The Incredible Shrinking Cubicle


If you’re having trouble finding extra room for your prized collection of sports mascot bobbleheads, you’re not alone. Turns out your colleagues might also be having trouble finding homes for their Star Wars action figures, pig figurines and other office knickknacks on their increasingly more crowded desks.

According to the International Facility Management Association, 1994, the size of a cubicle has shrunk 15 square feet for the average American worker. Your bosses are also feeling the squeeze: workspace for senior office workers has gone from 115 square feet to 95 square feet and for executive management from 289 square feet to 245 square feet.

While it seems kind of cruel that cubicle sizes are shrinking as the average American is growing, there are perfectly good reasons for the decrease.

First is the go-to scapegoat for all downsizing lately: The economy. As companies look to decrease costs, they’re also decreasing the amount of space they’re leasing, which is putting the squeeze on you and your co-workers. (To be fair, many of these same companies are getting rid of executive offices, which means that your boss might be joining you out in cubicle world).

Technology is another reason for shrinkage. Unless your office is circa 1990, chances are your computer is a bit more streamlined. Gone are the days of huge monitors, which also means gone are the days of huge desks. And lets be honest, if you had a choice between a giant monitor (which probably only displays green type on a black background and requires a solid smack every 10 minutes to prevent flickering) and a giant desk that you’d inevitably fill with empty bottles of Diet Coke, or a fancy technicolor flat screen monitor on which you can watch videos of baby elephants or Josh Groban singing Kanye West’s Tweets and a slightly smaller desk, we’re thinking you’d go with the smaller desk.

“It makes sense. Years ago, our technology took up every square inch of our work station. Now technology is lightweight. Years ago, we were paper-intensive and we needed our work surfaces. But you can get just about any file you need on the laptop,” Angie Earlywine of the architectural firm HOK told the Baltimore Sun in February.

The portability of technology has also made it easier for employees to work offsite. More people can work from home or the local Starbucks, necessitating fewer workspaces in the office.

Finally, many businesses want to promote a more collaborative work environment. In order to do this, they’re tearing down walls and seating employees closer together. Sure, this might mean you’ll get to hear your neighbor’s rendition of “Silver Bells” (which, for some inexplicable reason, he sings all year), but you’ll also be able to discuss upcoming projects more freely.

Another big win for office denizens everywhere with the advent of smaller cubicles and lower walls: Sunlight. We don’t know about you, but much like the office fern, we thrive with a little natural light.

Obviously, there are advantages and disadvantages to any cubicle size scenario. Traditional cubicles offer more room and more privacy, but could contribute to a feeling of isolation. Smaller, more open cubicles my open employees up to office din, but it could be a catalyst for new ideas and innovative thinking.

Luckily, companies like Arnolds Office Furniture have a variety of cubicle sizes to fit your needs.

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