Living and Working (and Thinking) in a Box

In the late 1970s sitcom “WKRP in Cincinnati,” news director Less Nessman would not acknowledge the presence of co-workers unless they simulated knocking on the door of his fake office. His “office” was merely a desk and chair with imaginary walls marked by tape on the floor. Perhaps this was an indication of things to come — the slow evolution of workplace layouts going from private closed-door offices to wide open floor plans filled with individual employee cubicles.

Since then, the open floor plan of amassing hundreds of office workers in one space, divided only by cubicle walls, has become standard in corporate America. However, while the design was intended to create more teamwork and camaraderie among workers, studies in recent years have revealed it has had a more detrimental effect. Today, this cubicle design — which accounts for some 60 percent of office workers — has come to further differentiate a hierarchy of power among those who work in cubicles and the more exclusive managers, directors and vice presidents who may occupy corner offices.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Our Cubicles, Ourselves: How the Modern Office Shapes American Life,” from The Atlantic, April 14, 2014.]

Studies have demonstrated that the open office floor plan has reduced employee attention spans, productivity, creative thinking and satisfaction. Compared with standard offices, employees may experience higher levels of interruptions and stress, and, instead of bonding, some coworkers feel a lack of privacy and control. Open-office environments may also lead employees to overlook the importance of their coworkers’ time.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “The Open-Office Trap,” from The New Yorker, Jan. 7, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Offices for All: Why Open-Office Layouts are Bad for Employees, Bosses, and Productivity,” from Fast Company, Nov. 4, 2013.]

Instead of having meaningful conversations with co-workers, easily overheard exchanges may be limited to small talk, and hushed private conversations can promote the feeling that others are being disparaged. But the crux of the open-space design is that it may become more difficult to foster close, treasured friendships and productive collaborations in the workplace.

Although companies continue to place workers in box-like cubicles, many employees embrace the challenge to come up with innovative ways to “think outside the box.” However, according to Liz Ryan, founder and CEO of Human Workplace, employees who are willing to think, speak and act outside the box may feel stifled by superiors who may prefer not to implement any new office initiatives.

She further observes that when people do manage to step out of the metaphorical box of their personal and professional lives, they often find that they actually built the box themselves. “When you complain about your situation rather than change it,” Ryan asserts, “you build a 10-foot reinforced-steel box to live in.”

Regardless of where you physically sit, live, work, and play, perhaps it’s time to re-assess if you have built a box around your life that has limited your options and prevented you from achieving your goals. We would like to help you emerge toward a brighter, box-less financial future for you and your loved ones. Please give us a call.

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “How to Step Outside the Box,” on, April 16, 2014.]

[CLICK HERE to read the article, “Arianna Huffington on How to ‘Thrive,'” at Knowledge@Wharton, April 11, 2014.]

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