How Can I Get More Productivity From My Cube Farms?If you can't get rid of the cube farms at your office, the next best option is to improve the productivity of the workers in those cube farms. Workers are more productive when they are motivated. Find out what motivates them and provide it. Figure out what demotivates them and clear away as much of that as you can. Remember that these workers are individuals so the motivation and demotivation factors will vary between individuals.
When it comes to the cube farms themselves, there are four key factors that you can adjust to improve the workers' satisfaction with them. These factors are layout, light, sound, and environment.
What makes a better layout for a cube farm?Probably the most visible aspect of a cube farm is the physical layout of the cubicles. To increase worker satisfaction with the cubicle layout consider size, shape, location, height, and degree of personalization.
As a rule of thumb, workers will prefer a cubicle that is "larger" over one that is "smaller". You need to balance that against square foot costs. This can be done with a simple cost-benefit analysis. The easiest way to balance these factors is to look at what the individual worker needs to do, what tools they need, and how they work. For a Customer Service Representative (CSR) who spends their shift sitting behind a computer at their desk and talking on the phone a smaller office may be needed than for a graphic designer who needs to layout floor plans, models, and color swatches rather than just viewing them on a computer screen.
Rectangular shapes are most common. They fit best into the rectangles that most offices building are. There is less "wasted" space than with other shapes. Here again, however, the key is to consider the worker. Right-brained, creative people often feel trapped in regular, repeating shapes. They feel stymied and less creative. These people could benefit from floor plans that make use of curved shapes. Logical, left-brained workers will be less demotivated by repetitive shapes.
To make people more effective, you want to provide them easy access to the people they need to work with. This may mean putting all the software engineers together, but it also means keeping them close to the test engineers. Remember that closeness is not as important as access. A designer and a tester who are across the wall from each other actually have less access to each other than if they are across the hall.
Simply put, the higher the wall the lower the communication, but the higher the wall the greater the privacy. You have to balance these competing needs. The key, again, is to look at what the worker is doing and whether they need to be communicating with others informally or they need privacy to be able to concentrate on the work at hand. Consider also the personality of the workers. To achieve maximum productivity, introverts will need more privacy than extroverts in most cases.
The more you can let individuals customize and personalize their workspace, the more satisfied they will be. It is prudent to set clear boundaries ahead of time on what is and is not permissible, but beyond that you will want to give them as much latitude as possible. Think of it like a dress code for cubicles.