How the Modern Office Shapes American Life

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How the Modern Office Shapes American Life

Each year, the average American spends nearly 2,000 hours working. For many, that time passes inside the three little walls of a modern cubicle.

Writer Nikil Saval explores these odd spaces—how they came to be, how they make us feel—in his new book Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace. I spoke to Saval about the modern office, and a lightly edited transcript of our conversation follows.

Your book is, as I see it, about twin themes: the spaces we work in, and the quality or character of the work itself. Can you talk, just briefly, about the relationship between those two ideas?

I’ve found that space in an office often reflects the way power operates in a workplace: design expresses (though not in a simple way) relationships of hierarchy, control, and authority.