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Office Cubicles or Workstations - Furniture for Open-plan Areas

Office Cubicles is a general description for furniture used in open-plan areas. This type of furniture is also referred to as systems furniture or workstations. My recollection is that systems furniture began to take off in the early 1980s; although this type of furniture was first introduced in the mid-1960s.

Much research information has been compiled about the positives and negatives of office cubicles. However, most of what I have read compares open plan furniture to private office furniture. Unless my memory is failing me, in most cases I believe that office cubicles did not replace private offices. Prior to panel systems office furniture, desks were placed against walls or lined up in a row. I''ve been there and I can assure you that office cubicles are a huge improvement over a row of metal desks with absolutely no privacy.

Power, wiring, and cabling:

Major manufacturers of office cubicles now accommodate the latest technology requirements. This includes telecommunications, networking, and multiple power outlets. Access is available at the desktop level (also known as "the beltline). There are also various lighting options other than the standard task light located under an overhead storage cabinet. These are important decisions to make and not all manufacturers have identical applications. If you are in the process of planning a large project, your architect will be very helpful when deciding on your cabling, power, and wiring needs.

Although panel systems furniture absorb a certain amount of sound, it does seem that there is a great deal of noise in the workplace these days. I believe that part of this is due to equipment and phones ... speaker phones, cell phones, and the ability to crank up the volume to levels that are completely unacceptable.

There are many other elements besides panels that make up office cubicles: worksurfaces, overhead cabinets, pencil drawers, pedestals, under counter lateral files, keyboard trays, task lights, and paper management accessories.

Panel heights are critical. Several years ago the panels in most office cubicles were as high as possible. This may have cut down on some of the noise, but it also blocks sunlight and light coming from ceiling fixtures.

In recent years the team concept has come into play. It is now more common to have high panels around a group of workstations with lower "wing" panels and possibly a shared worksurface separating the workstations. In addition to teams that work on the same project, office cubicles are a great design for people who perform the same functions.

If you work in an open-plan area, here are some "courtesy" issues that will make everyone more productive and less frustrated:

Phones: Keep the ringer volume down, don''t use your speaker phone, and speak softly

Cell Phones: Unless you receive work-related cell phone calls, leave you cell phone turned off. Listen to your messages at lunch time; give your friends and family your work phone number for emergencies.

Music/Radio: Although I believe that headphones are fine in the office, I think that radio playing should be banned during working hours. And, don''t blast your music just because it''s after normal working hours unless you are absolutely the only person in the office.

Gossip: This should be obvious because you never know whose listening.

Interruptions: Respect other people''s area when they are busy and don''t interrupt someone when they are on the phone. Be considerate of other people''s time as they could be diligently working on something that has an urgent deadline.

Food: Personally, I think it''s fine to enjoy a beverage or even have lunch in your workstation ... although I know that it is frowned upon in many offices. However, be careful about foods that have strange aromas.

Neatness/Cleanliness: Over the years, it has become apparent to me that many people who have a lot of files, paperwork, etc. on their desks is because they really are overworked. Just try to keep your stuff in your area and keep it clean.

Fragrances: About 20 years ago I worked for a man who was so terribly allergic to all fragrances that he it affected him when someone walked by with a magazine that had a fragrance sample. From that time on, I stopped wearing perfumes. Even if people aren''t allergic, there are so many "odd" smelling perfumes that it''s best to save them for those "away from work" times.

Confidential/Personal Issues: At times we all need to make a phone call that is private. Find a private area to make these calls so it doesn''t cause an uncomfortable situation for you or anyone else.


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