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Are you O.K Mr. Dilbert?

Youth Corporate cubicles can actually make you nerdy G.B.S.N.P. Varma tells you how



Lost in a maze Workplace can colonize the mind

Flush with a freshly minted computer science engineering degree and schoolboy giddiness for landing a job in a big software company, Ajay walked into a three-by-five feet rectangle of his universe. The whole floor space was divided into blue grey box es and partitions. It resembled a high-rise apartment blocks in a Communist country. “Only difference is here, it is flat.” Things seemed hunky-dory for a while, but life moseyed a bit and then got really draggy.

Hunched forward tensely over the desk with what-else computer on it Ajay groped for keys, typed and clicked. And window-dressed. Meanwhile the front-end software code lucked into life while his back-end became a network of stinging nerves. “This is a living hell, this cubicle,” he murmured in a bout of existential musing. Added to this, he had to report to his pointy-haired and poker-faced boss.

Ever since Bob Propst created these cubicles as a part of Action Office initiative to boost productivity by individualsing space, it has become a de facto design of office space. Whether cubicle increased the productivity or not, it has sure created millions of clones of Dilbert--- that ‘mouth-less and hapless techno-nerd shaped vaguely like a shaving brush who performs an unspecified task at an unnamed company.’ In these tiny pens, code is written, careers are made and pay checks are analyzed.

By no yardstick it is a pretty cushy gig to sit there in the box and feel cool. “It’s very difficult to live in this small space eight to ten hours at a stretch,” cringes Yamini. And there is not “enough space to limber up and stretch.”

Meatspace

Work environment --- not just physical place---the way the organization works, the business strategy, the culture, should fit into the overall scheme of things. Workspaces can attune one to the muse, make him deliver his best and increase the overall efficiency of the company. “Definitely, spaces contribute a lot to our productivity,” admits Renuka, pissed off by the constricting atmosphere and breathing the same air that swirls. “It’s so difficult, sitting in a cave dweller’s positions with legs aching, back twitching,” she complains.

Often managers --- persons who appear and disappear like hobgoblins--- hold diametrically opposite opinions about this cubicle stuff. “If places could decide one’s productivity, you might as well close the shop,” says Arvind Rao, a gung-ho manager of a small company. The man slaved in one of those boxes for several years before he was given the authority to peek into and peer over on partitions and hold back-fence chitchats for ‘team building’. “I don’t mean places don’t have effect,” he continues, “but to make it a big issue is not wise.”

The idea of promoting ‘out-of-the-box thinking’ in the tut-tutting companies where workers are boxed in the cubicle is weird, feels Mounika who loves ‘open spaces and horizons.’ Seeing these little boxes in depressing colour, she finds the coding, testing, debugging, reporting to the immediate boss, the urge to peek over and into other cubicles, the occasional flare-ups and dust-ups, the inconvenience of leaving the itch on the back unscratched and in fact, the whole shebang of office life heart-crushing and mind-numbing. Stuck sometimes on a tricky part of the code, “I crave for an expansive view.” Not finding that, “I keep staring at the computer monitor before I start all over again.”

Workspace is the most important aspect of productivity. Designer Bill Stumpf says: “From the architectonic standpoint, there’s nothing wrong with a small place. From the ergonomic view, if you look at any desktop, we only work in what I call the ‘A Zone,’ that space you can reach with your fingers and can see. It’s 40 inches wide by 24 inches deep. The rest of the beyond becomes a mess.”

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