I sit in a cubicle. For seven hours a day. Five days a week. Every week for the entire year. Minus vacation days and personal days, the difference between I haven’t managed to figure out yet. It is a lonely quiet place, the cubicle…isolated from the rest of the world, even from people on the same floor sitting in their own cubicles.
The very function of a cubicle is to isolate workers from sights and sounds they might find distracting to their work. The problem is I find the absence of sights and sounds distracting. The hours of my typical workday are divided as such:
- 32% on email chains that could probably be condensed into 5-minute conversations
- 14% on Facebook (4% spent on pages of people I know, 10% on those I have never met)
- 11% reading news and blogs (and writing my own)
- 5.2% walking back and forth between floors pretending I have important documents to copy and fax
- 10% chatting on G-mail with people who sit a few feet away
- 6% looking at bank statements making sure that I actually don’t owe my first born to Sally Mae
I may have good reason to believe a quiet, sterile cubicle is not necessarily more conducive to productivity. Cognitive scientists have found that while parents and teachers recommend quiet rooms (e.g. the library) to study or work, students performed better when they studied in different types of locations and with varied materials.
I wrote most of my dissertation in a raucous non-Starbucks coffee shop in my neighborhood. The CD player blasted all my favorites…Sam Cooke, Bob Dylan, The Cure. The customers—all regulars for the better part of their lives—chatted vociferously about politics and the superiority of everything Brooklyn. The shop was cluttered with pets, old records, drug-inspired art, books of beatnik poetry, and a life size cutout of Sarah Palin for dart practice. Sometimes, I sat at the high tables by the window. Sometimes at the makeshift stage in the back where artists would perform on Sundays. Always, I took frequent breaks to talk to others around me—like the architect with his floor plans for the rich and semi-famous, and the jazz guitarist whose You Tube videos I later checked out on Facebook. And then I would return to the work refreshed and refocused, inspired by this breathing living world around me.
Perhaps we need a transformation in how we think of work and productivity. Perhaps people don’t work their best in cubicles or at desks or in offices. Perhaps they would get more done if they worked on days and times not arbitrarily set by when markets open and close. Perhaps they would be more productive after a siesta, which provides time for doing what they may otherwise try to squeeze in at their desks.
Until then, I will continue to frequent my coffee shop when I really want to get something done or when I need to throw some darts.
To learn more about Adriana,
visit Radical Ideas.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.