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What is a Cubicle Farm?

By Ken Black
Updated May 17, 2024
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A cubicle farm is an office environment where workers are primarily separated by cubicle partitions. Usually a cubicle farm is found in an insurance environment or large corporate environment where there are many employees in a closed space. A call center is also a prime location to find a cubicle farm, simply because there are many people and the noise needs to be kept down.

The idea of dozens of employees within the same office environment is nothing new. However, in decades past, they each had their own desk, but little else separating workers from each other. This worked well, but it quickly became dated as office environments became larger and therefore more complex.

The father of the cubicle farm is Robert Probst, who invented the office cubicle in 1968. Truthfully, a cubicle, no matter what it is made of, is nothing more than a collection of temporary partitions. Of course, Probst's idea was not the massive array of cubicles going on ad nauseum that is so prevalent in current office environments. In fact, he was actually quoted before his death as being very critical of what the cubicle has become in many office environments. It seems that even the father of the cubicle is not very impressed with the cubicle farm.

Certification Magazine recently ran an article noting that the most hated part of the the information technology (IT), profession was not the long hours, those who do not understand computers or the threat of outsourcing. The biggest drawback was the cubicle farm environment. Indeed, many office workers have come to abhor the culture that has developed around the cubicle farm.

One of the main advantages of cubicle farms is to provide a cheap way to separate office workers, giving them all a sense of privacy, while actually providing very little. This allows supervisors to check up on employees regularly, but also cuts down on the amount of small talk they can have with other workers. Thus, in some ways, cubicles do help increase efficiency without costing the company a tremendous cash outlay for private offices, which are more expensive to build and require more overall space.

The cubicle farm also helps with some major office issues. With a cubicle, the employee not only has his or her desk in which to store information, but usually three walls that can be used for document or data storage as well. further, most cubicles are made with materials meant to dampen sound, allowing the office to be a little quieter.

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Discussion Comments

By Sporkasia — On Apr 24, 2014

As strange as it may sound, cubicles have been credited with helping women to move higher up in companies. During the 1960s, the cubicles created a new work environment that allowed women to enter the areas usually occupied by only men because the cubicles provided some separation between the sexes.

Hopefully, we are past the need for cubicles to allow women the opportunity to gain managerial positions, but maybe we should all be thankful to the makeshift walls for promoting equal opportunity in he workplace.

By Laotionne — On Apr 23, 2014

I have worked in a couple of large offices. At the first place where I worked I shared a large room with about twenty coworkers. We had our own desks and a small area that was designated for individual use, but other than that the room was open.

I now work in a larger office where we have a cubicle farm. My coworkers are constantly complaining about the cubicles. They complain that we should all have offices with real walls so we can have a little privacy.

I wouldn't say no to a real office, but the cubicles are much better than what I had at the first place where I worked. A little privacy is better than no privacy.

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