A cubicle desk is a flat horizontal surface that usually is suspended from the center of a modular partition and typically is used in an office environment. The partitions normally are organized to create multiple small workstations within an office space. The average cubicle area is roughly 6 feet (1.8 m) tall and 6 feet (1.8 m) per side. The segmented nature of the partitions makes it possible for cubicles to be grouped in just about any shape to fit within most offices.
Office areas with multiple cubicles sometimes are referred to as “cube farms”. In this environment, the cubicle desk is positioned facing one of three walls. The forth side is either completely or partially opened to allow access in and out of the cubicle.
Short filing cabinets are made to sit underneath the cubicle desk surface. Additional shelving can be added to the tops of the partitions along with bins and other attachments. This creates storage space for the small area. There is no door or ceiling to the cubicle desk space, so privacy is limited.
Employers often elect to provide cubicle desks as a means of monitoring the activity of their workers and create a sense of accountability. Some believe that the close quarters increase productivity. Among other professions, it is common to see cubicles in telephone sales environments. The theory is that the salesperson would become motivated by the success of another, and the competitive spirit would ignite greater production.
Some employees might find a cubicle environment beneficial because they are exposed to more of the day-to-day operations of the company. Sales techniques of coworkers can be learned and adopted. Ideas can be shared easily. Some employees prefer the lack of privacy because they feel it makes them more productive. They are less likely to give in to the temptation of "goofing off."
Others believe that the cubicle desk is restrictive and counterproductive. It can be distracting when the conversation of others is easily overheard, resulting in reduced overall performance. It also is believed that conflict among coworkers is more prevalent. This might be because of the lack of etiquette that some fail to adopt when working in close quarters.
The most common cause of cubicle work frustration is a coworker's lack of common courtesy in the office. Excessive laughing or speaking loudly can be quite distracting to employees who are not part of the conversation. Employees who eat at their desk also can become a source of aggravation. In some cases, strong food smells or the sound of another employee snapping gum can affect the employee's overall satisfaction with his or her work.