I recall the days back in school when I’d spend hours in the library in this small reading cubicle doing my homework, studying new topics, doing research. In fact, after the age of 16, I never really did school work at home anymore. I did almost all of my work in school, at benches or in the library cubicle. I found the same kind of cubicle in the library of Hwa Chong, and then LSE, and then NYU.
Then I graduated and started working. It’s funny how since I started working, I spent hardly any time in the cubicle. Granted, I never really had one because my first workplace embrace the open concept. It was a bit messy, disruptive and can be stressful when I need to do focused work. But I got used to it. I’m not sure if I could have produced better quality work if I had a cubicle but most of my work requires lots of collaboration so it was just as well.
And now, I’ve been working from home a lot and for more than a year. I begin to rediscover the importance of the cubicle. Which essentially is the boundaries we want to set around our work. If we allow interruption, if we do work outside the cubicle, we need to know how far we want to let it go. As the society marches towards a mental health crisis, I wonder if it is important that we revisit the older model of salarymen (and women) who recognises that work is there to support us to live the life we aspire – instead of work being the life we aspire.