Growth Strategies

Are Your Employees Comfortable?

They spend one-third of their time at the office. Is the environment worthy?
Magazine Contributor
3 min read

This story appears in the April 2009 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Considering Employee Comfort

I spend about half my waking life confined to a 5-foot-by-5-foot space. It's not as depressing--or claustrophobic--as it sounds (unless I really start thinking about it). I have high walls for privacy, good lighting, a comfy chair, even a shelf and some drawers for storage. Yep, I'm talking about my cubicle. My cube may seem an insignificant factor in determining my happiness on the job, but with so much time spent in my home away from home, it does make a difference.

The work space at my previous job was the absolute worst. Imagine sitting only a foot away from the person next to you and having two people sitting so close behind you that if you both stood up to leave at the same time, you'd bump chairs. Now imagine rows upon rows of desks in this arrangement in an open space that spans the size of half a football field. This is how I spent nearly two years of my life--now that's depressing.

The owners described it as "open seating," so communication and ideas would flow more easily. Well, in addition to those ideas floating around, there were also germs, personal conversations and odors. I was literally sick for nearly the entire time I worked there. If someone at one end of the office was sick, you'd see the virus slowly make its way down the rows, like the plague. I guess the good thing was that you always knew when you were about to get sick and could plan accordingly.

As far as opening up communication, the seating arrangements actually had the opposite effect. If someone came to talk to the person sitting next to me, I couldn't help but be distracted from my work. Conversely, if I needed to talk to someone, I was reluctant to distract all the other people surrounding him. It got to the point where I would IM the person sitting next to me.

So when I started looking for a new job, I aspired to move up in the world of office real estate. There was no way I could put up with another sweatshop-style work environment. In my interviews with various companies, I took note of the office space as I walked to the interview room and always asked to see where I'd be sitting if I got the job. When it came down to two very close job offers, the big difference was the seating arrangements. The company that offered me higher pay had a seating arrangement similar to my last company, while the other company provided individual cubicles to every employee. Guess which offer I ended up taking?

If you're an employee or know an employee who wants to vent about or praise an employer anonymously, e-mail us at .

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