Given a choice between working in walled office or a cubicle, most people would be pick the office. So, when Community Living British Columbia announced it would be moving many employees out of their offices and into an open space environment, at least three staffers tried to convince their boss to reverse that decision. On March 10, 2006, one employee in Nanaimo emailed community living chief executive officer Rick Mowles to express her concern with that announcement - part of an open space office initiative to make authority workplaces more "welcoming" for the developmentally disabled.
She noted that, before cubicle inventor Robert Propst died, he "renounced his idea because of the damage it has caused to personnel working under these conditions." In fact, she and a colleague also found several Websites "which talk about the brain actually being physically altered by being compelled to work in a cubicle."
"We would appreciate your comments (even though we DO understand, from when you met with our team, that you do not enjoy receiving emails [Smile!])," the employee concluded.
But her manager Mark Christie had different worries. In a separate email to Mowles - which was also obtained via a freedom of information request - Mr. Christie wrote "the issue in this office is not so much that Cubicles are a bad idea if we were starting out with a new building, but in an existing building that has the correct number of offices the expense and time/work of removing the walls to put up cubicles doesn't make much sense."
And what was Mr. Mowles response to the employee? "The critical issue to keep in mind is the focus of the new [work] model [at the authority] is about working outside in the community (families, individuals, agencies and community development), not sitting in offices or cubicles," he wrote. Although he promised to meet with staff to discuss the issue.
In an email, communication director Sally Greenwood stated, in the end, the Nanaimo quality service office wasn't renovated - although, like other community living workplaces, it will be if and when its lease is renewed. Two of the authority's seven quality service offices have moved to an open space environment.