Jumping beans. A simple amusement of kids ages three and up. I remember myself being amazed as a kid, seeing those colorful little plastic capsules standing on its end, rolling, tumbling as if they had lives of their own. It was only when I dissected one of them seeing how a little ball bearing that I realized that it was all there to it – a small ball shifting the capsules weight from inside, making the “bean” come alive.

Today, as I still work as an office drone (Never mind the classy position title as most human resource departments would try to market positions through classy names, in any case corporations are more interested in the honey more than the drones), I’m shifted to a new desk – a 2.5′ by 3.5′ structure of balsa (or whatever cheap wood) eased into a small crease of office real estate surrounded by the meager cubicle partition walls.

It doesn’t matter that I get to sit among the cluster of business managers. In the real world, only big bosses or big corporations get to sit behind oak. Start-up companies usually just have wood from the deep jungles of Office Depot.

Dilbert has been a companion for some of my idle time back in high school and college. I laughed at the comics wondering what it really felt like to be a cubicle monkey. Curiosity kills the cat indeed, as after I got my college diploma, I entered the realm of corporate hives. It was a huge change from the university’s wide open spaces where your mind is free to wander.

Such is the sad case of the corporate world and most workplaces in general. Philippine labor laws (When do we get another Ople?), which provide for humane workspaces, seem to serve as rolls of toilet paper nowadays. They are only taken into consideration for the sake of avoiding lawsuits and preventing poop from hitting the proverbial fan. Corporations hate to be sued out of technicality. These laws are limited to basic safety principles.

It is remarkable how certain things such as occupational and workplace psychology has taken much of a backseat. Most office spaces I have seen usually sport cubicle types. This is very true in the case of call centers where a large hall filled with terminals and agents is the epitome of human droning. Employees want to feel valued. Making them feel like drones is not one of the ways to make them.

Rarely have I seen less rigid workplaces, most of which are found in start-up companies and businesses where creativity is demanded. Some advertising agencies that I know sport Playstations and bean bags to stimulate the flow of creative juices for . Cubicles, in my view are the restricting of workspaces. In my experience and interactions, I believe that these are the most “toxic” of spaces since people’s creativity tends to be stymied by nylon-coated partitions.

Working space and areas are just one of the many things that affect productivity. The environment greatly plays a factor.

Google’s Googleplex in California could be the most engaging workplace today (four words – candy bars and spas), providing so much flexibility and ammenities to its employees. Though I doubt if it is THE perfect workplace, it is a dream workplace for many people to date.

Companies should really look into and pay particular attention to the workspaces that they offer. If the retention of creative and talented people despite ample financial compensation, maybe it is the environment that affects their company loyalty. Jumping beans only work when the ball fits the shell and rolls with ease.

Now as I settle myself in my new cell, I wonder what mental hospital wards feel like with the padded walls and all.

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