I picked up this link to a Fortune magazine article on Cubicles from this post by MrDee. The article looks at the history of the Cubicle, some of the challenges to its dominance and how its inventor thinks that its use has turned what might have been a great idea into a failure.
One of the gripes that I have with the current enterprise working environment is that it isolates people that are supposed to be working as a team from each other and it encourages a culture where people put up arbitrary process walls between them and the outside world. It wouldn’t be so bad if the cubicle was a comfortable space that allowed you to get into the zone.
Joel Spolsky tried to tackle this problem at FogCreek software, and while I think they did a good job (hell, I’d work there) my personal tastes are somewhat more casual. At the moment I am doing some work for Microsoft, and when I am in the office I have the first cubicle in a group of three (the entrance to all three goes past my desk). As far as cubicles go its pretty good, there is lots of desk space of which I only use about a quarter, and there is power within easy reach (what idiot puts the power rails below the desk?).
What I would prefer is for the desk not to be there at all and just have a couple of very low set shelves (to hold my laptop/devices when I am not using them, and my cup of coffee). A slide in table when I do need a work surface would be useful, but when I need that kind of stuff I am normally collaborating directly with someone, so I would rather go find a shared space.
Of course – at Readify we don’t have offices so we really only use them when they are required by our customers. I much more comfortable working out of Starbucks than just about anywhere else. Actually my perfect office would be something like the Qantas Club lounge in Sydney where instead of a bar (OK – the Bar can be there after 5pm) they just had a service counter/locker room facility.