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How Do I Choose the Best Cubicle Configuration?

Cubicles in an office building.
Office cubicles.
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  • Written By: Patrick Roland
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 11 September 2014
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Proper cubicle configuration can be the difference between a happily functioning office and an erratic one. When planning how to lay out your office cubicles, there are four major factors you need to consider. By properly thinking about formation, function, storage and safety, you will be able to create a cubicle office that properly reflects your working environment.

Formation is a critical aspect of cubicle configuration and must take into account the space available and the number of cubicles needed. You must know how much space each cubicle will take up and how much office space you have in order to determine the number of cubicles in your configuration. Another factor necessary in calculating cubicle layout is the number of employees you have. Knowing these elements will let you estimate the ratio of utilized floor space to free space. The amount of free space will determine how creative you can get with configuration.

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Another important element of cubicle configuration is your working environment. If your office values on-the-fly communication and employees constantly are having to shout to coworkers or are having to run quickly to another cubicle, a tightly clustered formation might be beneficial to productivity. If, however, your office values quiet and privacy in order to get work done, a more isolated setup could be necessary. Working with your number of employees and available space, you can arrange the cubicles accordingly. Accessories such as cubicle panels can be put up or taken down in order to compensate for space limitations in an office.

Planning is another important phase of proper cubicle configuration. It is important to account for space and communication, but you also must leave some empty spaces. Employee numbers can fluctuate frequently, so leaving empty spaces or building unoccupied cubicles will keep you from having to reconfigure every time a new employee is brought in. Storage spaces for files and extra equipment also must be considered. Properly planning for electrical and phone lines is essential to the creation of a functional cubicle layout as well.

Finally, it is important to study local building codes when planning a cubicle configuration. For the safety of employees, there usually are requirements for offices to have a certain amount of walkway space. Many laws also require that a specific number of fire exits are accessible, so it is important that your formation not block any of these exits and result in a violation.

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orangey03
Post 9

One problem we always seemed to experience was lack of work space for interns and new employees. I often ended up having to share my desk with new people, and I would have to go work on an old, quirky computer while they used my new one.

When we finally expanded to a new building, the bosses incorporated three extra work spaces into the cubicle configuration. I was thrilled to learn that they had bought new computers to go on these desks as well.

The following summer, we had two interns, and we hired a part-time worker. There were just enough cubicles to go around, and no one had to sacrifice their space.

lighth0se33
Post 8

Our close-knit cubicle configuration allows us to work together easily. Everyone in my office has to do their part and then pass what they are working on to someone else so that they can contribute. Because of this, we need to be relatively close to each other.

Our office is a perfect square. The cubicles line the walls, and everyone faces the center of the room so that we can walk up and talk to each other easily. There is a big table in the center of the room for meetings. Also, we have a lot of free space to move around when walking to each other’s desks.

Oceana
Post 7

Everyone stays pretty busy in my office, and the bosses don’t like for us to have long conversations. They kept this in mind when laying out our new cubicle configuration.

They knew that if we didn’t have to look at each other, some of the temptation to talk would be removed. So, they decided on a circular cubicle design. Two carpeted walls cross in an x, and four people can have separate work spaces in the sections created by the shape.

We have seven of these x-shaped cubicles in the main office. No two people face each other, because everyone faces a carpeted wall.

seag47
Post 6

Since I am a designer, my boss asked for my help when deciding on a cubicle configuration for our new office space. I recommended that we use a visual, because nothing is more powerful than an actual physical representation.

Using rope and rulers, we measured out the exact space that each cubicle would occupy. We lined the area with rope. When we were done, we stood back and looked at the room. We could then see what needed adjusting.

When the actual cubicles were installed, the layout looked exactly as we thought it would. The planning method was simple yet effective.

Tomislav
Post 5

@saraq90 - From @drtroubles post I gather that some cubicle walls are easily movable. And from what I have read, all cubicle walls and partitions are by nature easy to move; however, because of company structure, how outlets have been arranged, or other non-easy-to-move products the cubicles in essence become difficult to move.

In this case you could suggest to your boss or co-workers that changing arrangements of employees could also be taken into consideration for proper cubicle configuration and for a fresh working environment. And sometimes moving other things such as a copier station, printer station, or coffee station can be more easily moved and can make a difference in some work environments.

Saraq90
Post 4

Another idea I have read about for cubicle configuration and creating a personal cubicle positive environment is going about the configuration and decorating in a Feng Shui manner.

I have never tried it, but am considering it as my office space energy starts to zap me of energy secondary to the piles (I like to think of them as neat piles, but none the less piles) all around me.

Are cubicle areas rather easy to move around after they have already been assembled? Or do you have to configure from the get go, because you cannot change them after you have put them up.

amysamp
Post 3

My dad has worked in a cubicle environment for 20 plus years and I have a feeling that they did not look at the best cubicle configuration.

A couple things that I think should be looked at based on just the few things he has mentioned to me (and with his years of experience in working in a cubicle environment; I think that almost makes him an expert) are:

Where do you put newer employees? They are bound to have more questions, so do you put them with each other farther away from the veterans so they can work out their questions together or do you place a veteran next to a newer employee so that they can discreetly ask their question without interrupting the environment.

Can you separate your cubicle area into a "likes to listen to music or other background noise" area and a "prefers no background sounds" area. My dad throughout the years was driven crazy by different radio stations, and to no fault of his co-worker who no doubt probably worked better with the distraction.

We are always looking to increase productivity in our workers and cubicle configuration definitely seems like a piece to this puzzle.

popcorn
Post 2

Nothing is better than heading into a new business that is just starting up and having say in what you think the best cubicle configuration is. So many people feel comfortable working in different kinds of places, so I think if employees have a say in what is going on then everyone is happier all around.

My office actually set up to distinct cubicle areas to accommodate the different kinds of workers we had. For those that had fast-paced jobs that required constant communication with one another they actually set the cubicles up in an open grid so that everyone could easily talk to one another.

For those with more paper orientated work the cubicles were much more private and isolated. I know for myself being in busy area always makes my day go by faster.

drtroubles
Post 1

If you are planning out the best cubicle configuration it is a good idea to make numerous sketches of what you would like your office to look like. Planning where all the cubicles go doesn't have to be a unpleasant task, and if anyone on your staff has a keen eye for design, it may be a good task to give them.

At our office we actually had a few meetings and brainstormed what we thought was best for our office. Since the new cubicle walls were easily movable we were keen on figuring out which setup would be best, without the fear of making a huge mistake. We ended up organizing our office so that everyone had maximum privacy and we think that worked out very well.

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