Lonely cubicle graveyards killing employee morale

Since the recession began, companies have been forced to make difficult decisions, including mass layoffs and downsizing. Among a list of other negative repercussions, those difficult business decisions are transforming once bustling gray mazes full of busy employees into barren “cubicle graveyards.”

Workers may now have more room to stretch out, but the ever-growing emptiness is having a harmful effect on remaining employees’ morale.

During the past year, the average square foot per office occupant has risen to 435 square feet, up from 415 square feet in 2008, according to International Facility Management Association (IFMA) in a recent MSNBC article.

Compared to last year, there are fewer people working in a greater amount of space. A spokesperson for the IFMA attributes the growing amount of empty space to the economic downturn and mass layoffs our country is experiencing.

While the sight of empty cubicles can be depressing to remaining employees, many organizations aren’t doing much to improve the situation.

"To some extent, companies are waiting until things stabilize so they can look at their options," says Ilene Gochman, an organization effectiveness expert with consulting firm Watson Wyatt. "People are not sure they have the right size organization yet. They don’t want to move people and then have to move them again."

Unfortunately, it’s not that easy on those left behind.

"Emotionally, workers look around the empty office, and it brings the depth of the economic crisis home for them in a personal way," says Leslie Seppinni, a clinical psychologist. "They wonder: 'Am I next?' and a tremendous amount of anxiety and depression builds as they try to figure out what steps to take next." (MSNBC)

Other workplace experts featured in the article offered some tips for offices dealing with cubicle graveyards:

  • If you’re an employee upset over the empty office landscape, speak up. Some managers may be unaware of how the empty cubes are affecting morale and usually all it takes is a simple conversation to bring it to their attention.

  • Rearrange the office and test different layouts. Take a look at how employees are using the space they already have and ask, “Do they need more conference rooms or more collaboration space, such as informal meeting areas?”

  • Let in natural light. A simple way to immediately improve the mood around the office is to allow more natural light flow through windows. Disassemble cubicles and give more employees a window view. Set up Wi-Fi in the office so workers can become more mobile and collaborate easier.


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