Our office space is pretty traditional: hard-walled offices surrounding a sea of 8x8 cubicles. About 5 months ago I moved out of my office and into one of the cubes...I'd forgotten what it's like sitting in a fish bowl and wanted to experience it again. Some coworkers thought I was nuts (actually, more nuts describes it better). Here's what I've learned so far:
1. When I was in my office, it seemed like I had frequent 'private' conversations. That frequency has dropped significantly, to almost none. My theory is those conversations happened out of convenience, not necessity. Open conversations are quicker, healthier and less messy.
2. I don't need nearly as much "stuff" as I thought I did. I left most of my files, books and other items I've collected over the past 15 years in my old office; whenever I need something, I grab it and find a place for it in my cube. Turns out, I don't need 80% of the stuff I had.
3. The office made me lazy; I could hide behind email, the door, the phone.
4. The loudness of a conversation is conversely related to the attention it garners. Two people standing 6 feet away talking loudly to each other is far less noticeable than two people whispering a conversation in an office 10 feet away. Are they talking about me? The company? Why are they whispering? I wonder if a cube makes you naturally paranoid?
5. A well-aimed, well-timed koosh ball can ease a coworker's tension without giving away the identity or location of the trouble-maker.
6. There is a natural superior/inferior connotation that happens in cube conversations. If you're sitting in a cube and someone stops by to talk, you're trapped and you can't escape. The person standing over you has the natural upperhand. We'll be changing our cubicle configuration in the coming months to help.
It's been an interesting lesson so far.