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Rethinking the Cubicle -- An Office Space Only Dilbert Could Love

Small and midsize companies, be aware: larger companies are rethinking the cubicle culture. If you want to maintain your nimbleness and your competitive edge, it's time for you to consider making some changes as well.
Small and midsize companies, be aware: larger companies are rethinking the cubicle culture. If you want to maintain your nimbleness and your competitive edge, it's time for you to consider making some changes as well.The Mercury News details how company giants like Cisco, Intel and Sun Microsystems are "casting aside the cubicle culture that has thrived in the United States since the late 1960s." Companies instead are "embracing a new workplace design that saves space and money, and encourages collaboration among co-workers."

Even Intel, which was skewered by Conan O'Brien for its "grey warren of cubicles" is getting into the act. Write The Mercury News: "Beginning this month, the chip maker will set up three experimental work sites. Open areas, comfortable armchairs, extra conference rooms and tables where people can plop down with laptops will replace the ubiquitous cubes that have been standard issue for decades."

Perhaps even more significantly, the company is also promoting more flexible work arrangements. The Mercury News article quotes Neil Tunmore, Intel's director of corporate services, who notes that "On any given day 60 percent of the company's cubes are empty because people are visiting customers, telecommuting, vacationing or in meetings. Employees work in their assigned buildings only three days a week on average and spend 20 percent of their work hours telecommuting.

Adds Tunmore, "People are just working differently these days."

Indeed they are and if, as a small to midsize company, you want to be able to attract and retain top IT workers, you need to acknowledge and accommodate that. It starts with recognizing that most of your good employees won't stand for a Dilbert existence anymore -- especially when they have other options -- and ends with employing easy and cheap ways -- telecommuting is one way but there are others -- to provide your employees not only with the feeling that they have a pleasant and viable work life but also that you care.