Death by Cubicle

5 Things Our Parents Didn’t Tell Us About Work

Congrats grad! You’ve moved the tassel on your graduation cap to signify the end of one phase of life and the start of another. What’s next?

As much as entrepreneurship and freelancing is on the rise with millennials, the truth is that 64% of college graduates in 2014 found work in their chosen field, with plenty of those people entering into a traditional office environment.

There are some benefits or disadvantages of cubicle life we anticipate as millennials, such as:

  • Free crappy coffee in the break room.
  • Occasional free food.
  • Pool table in the break room.
  • Developing relationships with colleagues in close working proximity to us.
  • Being asked 500 times by older colleagues how to set up the printer.
  • Punching a time card and celebrating Fridays.

These are givens. However, I’m convinced there’s some kind of secret pact that keeps the true realities of cubicle life under wraps so millennials don’t know until it’s too late.

There’s No Such Thing as Privacy

Any call placed is certainly not private. Further, any discussion with a nearby coworker is open for public input.

Don’t care to hear multiple opinions about what you did with your weekend? Too bad.

Turns out that lack of privacy is one of the worst parts about an open office environment. 50-60% of people are dissatisfied with sound privacy in that office setup.

Further, there’s a better chance you will get to know a filtered version of your coworkers, rather than build authentic relationships with the people who you spend 40 hours with each week.

“Some studies show that employees in open-plan spaces, knowing that they may be overheard or interrupted, have shorter and more-superficial discussions than they otherwise would.” –Harvard Business Review

For millennials, who tend to build deeper relationships with coworkers than generations past have, this can be troubling. They tend to show up at work as their authentic self. As many know, there is a certain amount of discretion that needs to be observed when working so close to coworkers. Millennials walk that line dangerously close.

Noise - So Much Noise

The shift to open office environments that encourages collaboration has naturally created higher volumes of background noise. Common complaints from employees in an open space are that they find the noise levels disruptive to their work.

“The number of people who say they can’t concentrate at their desk has increased by 16% since 2008, and the number of those who don’t have access to quiet places to do focused work is up by 13%.” – Harvard Business Review

Cubicles Make Us Question Our Life Decisions

A quarter life crisis is totally real. Generations past have not had such a clearly defined path of high school, college, and into the workforce. Every day there’s another twenty-something breaking down in their cubicle.

They see their friends traveling the world and buying nice things all over social media. They assume they should have been afforded the same lifestyle. Then they wonder how they found themselves in a cubicle.

Here’s some sobering news. There are millions of millennials going into a similar cubicle job every Monday morning asking the same question. Nobody posts about it on Instagram. No one flaunts it. The bottom line is that the cubicle is a real part of a real job, with a real paycheck, that pays the real bills sitting at home.

Cubicles aren’t sexy. They are, however, representative of a passage into adulthood and evaluation of life’s priorities for many young people.

Freshman 15? Cubicles Are Worse for Your Health

Many first year college students inevitably gain the “Freshman 15”, but few people warn entry-level college grads of the health risks of a desk job.

College classes involve some sitting, but are sprinkled with walking to and from other classes, sports, and outdoor activities.

The first year in a desk job can be a sobering wake up call for people who tend to be more active. The lack of physical activity during eight hours of work, coupled with the lack of motivation to workout after sitting all day, can have a deadly impact.

Combating the inevitable weight gain the first year in the office takes intention. Get a sit-stand desk that goes up and down throughout the day. Take walking breaks or replace conference room meetings with walking meetings. Walk while you’re on the phone. Use the bathroom furthest away from your desk.

Looking for the best sit-stand desk? If you already have an existing desk you don't want to replace, the Varidesk Pro Plus 36 sits on top of your desk and is spring-loaded adjustable up and down. I personally use this sit-stand option and couldn't recommend it anymore for the price point. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about it.

If you're looking to take it one step further and buy a treadmill desk, which allows you to walk while you work, I've heard positive reviews on the LifeSpan TR1200-DT7 Treadmill Desk. This comes with the ability to sync your activity to your phone.

There’s No More Syllabus

Throughout college, there was a blueprint for the classes to take. A syllabus at the start of each class outlined which assignments would be completed when.

In an office, there is little-to-no blueprint for what needs to be done next or what should be completed. Further, each employee is on a different timeline as the next employee.

Coworkers will come and go at different times. They will work on different, maybe even better projects than what you’re assigned.

The responsibility for your future career is placed completely in your hands.


To avoid being completely doom and gloom about cubicle life, there are most definitely advantages. This article was intended to prepare you for the unexpected parts of a transition to work life from college.

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