"This isn't a cubicle -- it's hell with fluorescent lighting." We chuckle at that little witticism, but the truth is that cubicles are the modern way of dividing an office into sections of personal space. They have become necessities.
Cubicles come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They dictate the personality of an office. Cubicles function essentially as dividing walls between individual desks in an office. Depending on their construction, they can either form small, self-contained offices, or just serve as visual partitions. Cubicle walls can also usually be re-configured to suit the changing needs of the office.
An office designer will generally construct cubicles that best fit the purpose of the business. Some businesses require a great deal of interaction between employees, while some function better without much employee contact. Cubicles can be made of any material, but a fabric backing is most popular. It tends to absorb sound and acts as a built-in bulletin board. Cubicles may be built about shoulder-height or above head-height, and may or may not include doors. It all depends on the kind of interaction the employees need to have with each other.
Modern cubicles often include built-in desks, rather than individual ones. These desks are more like counter tops, with built-in drawers for storage. One of the "cons" of cubicles is that they tend to make an office look very utilitarian and sterile. This can be psychologically depressing for some people. It is therefore recommended that employees be able to personalize their cubicles within the bounds of professional, civil behavior.
An administration department will also try to have the office cubicles support ergonomic principles. They may include desktops and computer workstations at acceptable heights, ergonomic foot rests, appropriate keyboard placement, and well-placed lighting. Cubicles with built-in desks make this easier to achieve.
The world of cubicles has become synonymous with a bland corporate workplace. Often, they are also a symbol of low rank in an office. The higher-ranking people rate offices with real walls and doors. Cubicles are a strange example of how a practical idea for conserving space in an office has become a cultural icon -- albeit a somewhat negative one.