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A group of 16 people sits in front of large Mac desktops in clusters of 3 and 4 at a start-up in Brooklyn. Aside from the steady tapping away at keyboards, there is little noise. It’s six o’clock, and people just want to go home. With its open floor plan, casual dress code, and creative staff, this is considered a great place to work—but still there is something vaguely dissatisfying about the space, and it is not the only office like this.
In Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace, released this week, Nikil Saval tries to put his finger on just where the office went wrong. Certainly an improvement on factory work and types of manual labor, the office remains “at once harmless and ominous.” Saval’s story centers on the question: “Why have the best intentions of planners and architects, designers and executives, fallen short of producing a happy environment for the American worker?”
Near the end of Cubed, Saval takes a tour with a Google representative who shows him Google’s juice bar and tells him that it is the Googlers’ favorite hangout spot. The rep asks Saval why he thinks this is so. “The juices?” Saval ventures. The rep points “to the floor-to-ceiling windows, letting in a glimpse of green and late afternoon California springtime sun. ‘It’s the proximity to nature,’ he said.”
Though our world today hardly resembles our ancestral environment, our biological rules still apply. We are wired to crave the natural world.
Then, perhaps the reason office satisfaction proves elusive is because we don’t understand our primal biology. Ours is the age of the “knowledge worker,” in which people are paid to think. So what can we learn from the environments our brains evolved in—our original “workspaces”—the outdoors?
Read the complete article The Mind Does Not Belong in a Cubicle.
Ultimately, our brains evolved to work most efficiently in natural environments. Are you ever able to venture 'outside' of the cubical walls?