Welcome to the cubicle farm



Stuck in the cubicle farm? Well you’re not alone, and it’s bringing down morale.

According to Ron Friedman Ph.D.,


Ask the average CEO how to optimize a workspace, and she might suggest you consult with an interior designer. Ask the same question of an evolutionary psychologist and he’ll direct you to a very different set of experts—our ancient ancestors.

Evolutionary psychologists argue that many of our current design preferences can be traced back to our shared history on the savannah. We’re drawn, they argue, to environments that promoted our survival as hunter-gatherers, and feel uneasy in situations that would have put our forefathers at risk. Such preferences are largely unconscious; we simply experience safe settings as pleasurable and dangerous ones as a repellent, without being able to identify exactly why.

One example: Most of us instinctively enjoy sitting in sheltered locations that overlook expansive areas like parks and oceans. Think waterfront property (or apartments overlooking Central Park). In the past, the desire for settings that offered security and a view of our surroundings kept us alive and well-positioned to find our next meal. Locations offering prospect and refuge are inherently pleasing, while areas that deny us shelter or a view tend to generate discomfort.

We no longer need these features in order to survive, yet we can’t help but prefer them.

Brain-imaging research demonstrates the deep-seated nature of these preferences: Our desire for prospect and refuge is so strong, it even affects our perception of art. A 2006 study found that the pleasure centers of the brain consistently light up when we view landscapes, especially when their vantage point is one of refuge.

Our desire for safe locations also explains why sitting with our backs exposed can leave us feeling tense. We don’t enjoy having others sneak up on us and seek to minimize the potential threat. As environmental psychologist Sally Augustin points out, this is one reason that restaurant booths fill up more quickly than free-standing tables. Mafia folklore has it that it’s best to sit with your back to the wall. It seems our ancient ancestors felt the same way.

Another evolutionary insight: We’re happiest when we’re close to the outdoors. As hunter-gatherers, being outside was essential to our survival. It meant proximity to food, water, and other people. And an extensive body of work reveals that nature is essential for psychological functioning. A 1984 study, for example, found that patients require fewer painkillers, and fewer days to recuperate from surgery when assigned to a room overlooking trees. Scenes of nature, researchers argue, reduce our anxiety and lower muscle tension, which helps our bodies heal.

Having a view of the outdoors has also been shown to promote performance in the workplace. Employees who sit near a window are better at staying on task, show greater interest in their work, and report more loyalty to their company. A 2003 study found that when call center employees—who often rotate seats—are placed near a window, they generate an additional $3,000 of productivity per year. Research even suggests that the amount of direct sunlight entering an office can reliably predict the level of employee satisfaction in the workplace.


When the fluorescent lights become too much, SwiftLease can break up the monotony and bring in some sunshine in your new office. Contact us today, leasing@swiftlease.com