Island Life by David Slack


Tear down this wall.

Ingrate that I am, I don’t give nearly enough thanks to the God of private enterprise that I no longer work in a cubicle. I should. Those things are death traps.

HowStuffWorks catalogues the harm they do: high blood pressure, heart attack, chronic fatigue, musculoskeletal disorders, diabetes, depression, substance abuse.

No way? Way. That place is killing you, man.

You think those walls are keeping the world out, but in truth they keep you chained to the pole, the better for all that passing office life to torture you with its inane conversations, its tuneless singing, its asinine ringtones, its malodorous microwave food.

You steel yourself to concentrate on your work, but your body trembles under the strain.

Your pulse quickens, you breathe faster, your muscles tense. The stress takes you to bad places: your doctor’s surgery, the ambulance, an early grave.

You should have opted for a career in neurogenesis: a crisp lab coat, intelligent co-workers, a quiet laboratory. You could have studied marmosets.

Some lucky person who gets to wear a white coat and works in a quiet lab put some marmosets into a stressful environment and documented the consequences.

Their brain cells retreated. They no longer produced new ones.

A second group was placed in nice surroundings. Unlike the mistreated marmosets, these ones had enriched brains to match their enriched environment. They grew more, denser, brain cells. Clever little monkeys.

You may be reading this in a cubicle, feeling your brain cells withering. You may be thinking nice for some. I say: take your cue from the marmosets. Get out while you can. Or at the very least, rise up in defence of your own best interests.

Say to your Team Leader or Chief Operating Officer: Tear Down This Wall! Please.

You may imagine that an open plan office would be a retrograde step; an affront to your sense of status; a surrender of your privacy.

Put this out of your mind. The privacy is illusory. There is no status that matters in the modern workplace, save for the significance of your accomplishments.

Tell your boss: I read about it on How Stuff Works.

There has been a study. People working in open-office environments, without partitioned walls, were more satisfied with the noise levels and their own privacy of speech than cubicle dwellers.

It may be that removing cubicle walls destroys the illusion of privacy that some must feel they have when they yap away for hours to their dog sitter. When workers can see that those around them are concentrating, they may be less likely to engage in disruptive behaviors.

If I were your boss, I’d be persuaded. If your boss is less of a soft touch than me, try these additional arguments:

1. Instead of popping your head into a cube to see if it's a good time to talk, you'd know when your co-worker might have a minute to chat, so conversations could be better timed.

2. Because tasks often rely upon the talents of an entire team, having this ability to share information quickly and efficiently could improve productivity.

3.Open plan offices are highly effective for team building. Think of all the money you've been shelling out for expensive hotels with white water rafting.

4. Simple things such as eating lunch away from your cubicle and with your co-workers can do a lot to sluice away the toxic stress of the place. Get into the lifeboat! Get to know one another!

There’s no need to thank me. Just knowing I may have brought an end to your suffering is reward enough.

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