Skip to content Skip to footer

Cubed by Nikil Saval: Review, Summary, and Guide for Optimized Workspaces

Diving into “Cubed” by Nikil Saval was like peeling back the layers of my everyday workspace and discovering a world I thought I knew. It’s not just about the history of the office; it’s about how it shapes us, molds our interactions, and, frankly, sometimes drives us a bit nuts. Saval’s deep dive into the evolution of office life is both eye-opening and, dare I say, a bit alarming.

You might be wondering why I’m the guy to walk you through this. Well, after spending years navigating the highs and lows of office culture myself, and writing extensively about workplace dynamics, I’ve developed a keen eye for what makes or breaks the spaces we spend our days in. My journey’s taken me from cubicles to open-plan disasters and everything in between, giving me a unique perspective on Saval’s insights.

So, what’s in it for you? Three key takeaways: First, you’ll never look at your office space the same way again. Second, understanding the ‘why’ behind office design can make you more adaptable. And third, there’s power in knowing how your workspace influences your productivity and mood. Let’s dive in and unravel the mystery of the modern office together.

Background of “Cubed” by Nikil Saval

Diving into the mystique of office spaces guided by Nikil Saval’s “Cubed,” I found myself on a journey through time. “Cubed” isn’t just a book; it’s a time capsule that opens up history, revealing how our work environments shaped us, as much as we’ve shaped them. The first thing that struck me was how deeply ingrained office culture is in our society, yet we rarely stop to question its evolution.

As a self-help enthusiast, I’ve always been fascinated by how our surroundings impact our productivity and mood. Saval’s deep dive into the cubicle-filled landscapes resonated with me, reminding me of my first job out of college, in a sea of gray partitions. Even then, I felt there had to be more to this design than just efficiency. Saval confirms this suspicion by detailing the historical shifts from open offices to cubicles, and now, to the more modern, open-plan designs and remote work arrangements.

A Critical Look at The Past to Design Our Future Workspaces. It’s astounding to learn that the modern office has roots going all the way back to the early 20th century, with the advent of scientific management. This approach to work, which focused on optimizing human productivity, might sound beneficial, but Saval highlights its dehumanizing aspects. He doesn’t just stop at the critique, though; through compelling narratives and anecdotes, Saval invites readers to envision more human-centric workspaces.

Drawing from the book, I remember the tale of the Action Office—an innovative, flexible workspace design from the 1960s, intended to boost creativity and productivity. Yet, despite its potential, it morphed into the rigid, soul-sucking cubicle. This story serves as a powerful reminder that without constant scrutiny and adaptability, even the most well-intentioned designs can lead us astray.

Summary of the Book

“Diving Deeper Into Cubed’s Echoing Halls”

When I first cracked open Cubed by Nikil Saval, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But man, did it exceed every expectation I had. The book takes a deep dive into the office’s transformation over centuries, really putting into perspective how workspace evolution is more than just a change in furniture—it’s a reflection of societal shifts. It got me thinking about my own office space and how it’s designed not just for function but to foster innovation and camaraderie.

“In the Beginning, There Were Cubicles”

Saval starts with the birth of the modern office in the early 20th century, emphasizing how the design of workspaces has always been an attempt to balance productivity with employee well-being. But as we all know, that balance wasn’t always achieved. In the 1920s, Taylorism introduced the concept of optimizing human labor by breaking tasks into simple, repetitive units, leading to the dehumanizing workspace layouts we’ve seen in films. I remember setting up my home office and thinking, “This needs to be a place where I want to spend time, not just a productivity mill.” It’s something Saval really hammers home—environment matters.

“The Action Office and Beyond: A Tale of Constant Revolution”

Here’s a story I found fascinating: the rise and fall of the Action Office. Invented by Robert Propst in the 1960s, it was meant to be this revolutionary design that would maximize space and encourage movement. It was essentially the antithesis of the cubicle, yet due to cost-cutting adaptations by companies, it evolved into the very thing it sought to destroy. This tale serves as a stark reminder that good intentions in office design often get lost in translation due to budget constraints and misinterpretations. Listening to Propst’s story, I couldn’t help but draw parallels to modern-day startups, where the intention to create a dynamic, inclusive environment is there, but the execution sometimes falls flat.

“Bringing Humanity Back to the Office Space”

Key Themes Explored

As a self-help enthusiast, I’ve always been fascinated by how our environments shape our behaviors, successes, and overall well-being. Nikil Saval’s Cubed dives deep into this, particularly focusing on the office space. Let’s peel back the layers on some of the key themes explored in this insightful book.

The Influence of Physical Space on Productivity

It’s no secret that the spaces we occupy can either boost our productivity or hinder it. Saval emphasizes that a well-designed office goes beyond aesthetics; it’s about fostering an environment conducive to creativity and efficiency. I once read a study stating that natural light in the workplace can increase productivity by up to 20%. In my own experience, moving my desk closer to the window did wonders for my focus and energy levels. It’s not just about where you work but how that space makes you feel.

The Evolution of Office Culture

Offices aren’t just physical spaces; they’re cultural hubs. Saval outlines how the evolution of office culture reflects broader societal shifts. Remember the Action Office concept I mentioned earlier? It was initially designed to liberate workers but ended up doing the opposite. This mirrors much of the corporate world’s attempts at innovation—well-intentioned but often missing the mark. Engaging with colleagues in a space that encourages collaboration has always yielded the most memorable projects for me. There’s something about a shared mission and space that ignites creativity.

The Quest for Work-Life Balance

Work-life balance has become somewhat of a buzzword, but its importance can’t be overstated. Saval points out that our office environments play a huge role in achieving this balance. Encouragingly, more companies are recognizing the value of flexibility. A survey by FlexJobs found that 80% of workers would be more loyal to their employers if they had flexible work options. I’ve personally found that having the autonomy to choose when and where I work not only increases my productivity but also my satisfaction with my job.

Analysis and Key Insights

Diving into Cubed by Nikil Saval, it’s mind-blowing how much our workspaces shape us. Saval cleverly points out, and I’ve seen this in my own life, that office design isn’t just about aesthetics; it’s a reflection of corporate hierarchy and employee wellbeing. Remember how we talked about the Action Office concept? It’s a perfect example of good intentions gone awry, morphing into the dreaded cubicle.

The Power of Light and Space

One fact that hit me hard was the significant impact of natural light on productivity. It’s astounding, yet firms still skimp on this basic need. Data from a study showed workers in offices with windows slept an average of 46 minutes more a night compared to those without. Here’s a quick breakdown:

Benefit With Windows Without Windows
Average Sleep Per Night 7 hours 6 hours 14 minutes

The Evolution Through Time

Saval’s journey through the evolution of the office space feels like a mirror to societal changes. The move from the rigid cubicles to open-plan spaces echoes the shift towards valuing collaboration over isolation. As someone who’s worked in both, I can vouch for the energy that comes from a more collaborative environment.

Work-Life Balance Isn’t Just a Buzzword

I’ve always championed the cause of work-life balance, and Cubed reinforces its importance. Saval notes, and I couldn’t agree more, that flexible work options significantly contribute to employee satisfaction. It’s not about working less; it’s about working smarter. Throwback to when we discussed the impact of remote work: It’s a testament to how adaptive and resilient we can be.

Practical Guide for Applying Concepts

Embrace Your Space

After diving into Nikil Saval’s “Cubed,” I couldn’t help but rethink my own workspace. It’s not just about having a desk and a chair; it’s about creating an environment that speaks to productivity and well-being. I once read that natural light can boost productivity by up to 40%. So, I moved my desk right next to the window, and the difference was like night and day – literally and figuratively.

Foster Collaboration without Sacrificing Privacy

Remember the evolution from the Action Office to cubicles? That lesson hit home for me. I’ve learned that while open spaces encourage collaboration, people still need their own zone. So, I introduced movable dividers in my team’s office. This way, we can have an open-plan vibe when brainstorming is on the agenda and privacy when we’re deep into individual tasks. It’s a balance that has “flexibility” as its middle name.

Prioritize Well-Being

I can’t overstate the importance of work-life balance. I’ve been that guy, working 60-hour weeks, thinking it’s the badge of honor. But it’s not. As mentioned earlier, promoting flexible work options not only boosts employees’ satisfaction but also their output. I’ve made it a point to encourage my team to work smarter, not longer. And guess what? Our productivity hasn’t suffered; it’s soared.

Implement and Iterate

Applying these concepts from “Cubed” wasn’t a one-and-done deal for me. It’s been a process of implementation, feedback, and iteration. Every couple of months, I check in with my team to see what’s working and what’s not. Last month, a team survey revealed a desire for quieter, more focused work areas. So, we’re currently experimenting with noise-canceling headphones during deep work sessions. The key is to always be open to tweaking your approach based on real, tangible feedback.


So there you have it. Diving into “Cubed” has been quite the journey, shedding light on how we can rethink our workspaces to boost productivity and happiness. It’s clear that the little changes, from letting in more sunlight to finding the perfect balance between chatting with coworkers and having your own quiet space, can make a big difference. And let’s not forget the importance of listening to what everyone needs because, at the end of the day, it’s all about making our work environment as great as it can be. I’m definitely inspired to tweak my own space, and I hope you are too. Here’s to creating workspaces that not only look good but feel good too!

Frequently Asked Questions

How does maximizing natural light improve productivity in the workplace?

Maximizing natural light in the workplace can enhance productivity by boosting mood and energy levels, reducing eyestrain, and improving sleep patterns, which collectively contribute to better work performance.

What is the significance of balancing collaboration and privacy in office design?

Balancing collaboration and privacy is essential to accommodate different work styles and tasks. It fosters a versatile environment where employees can engage in team projects without sacrificing the ability to focus on individual tasks in a private setting when needed.

How do movable dividers contribute to a flexible workspace?

Movable dividers allow for easy reconfiguration of workspace layouts, supporting both collaborative and private working environments. This adaptability caters to varying tasks and employee preferences, enhancing overall productivity and satisfaction.

Why is promoting work-life balance crucial for businesses?

Promoting work-life balance is crucial for businesses because it leads to higher employee satisfaction and retention, reduced stress, and improved mental health. These factors significantly contribute to a more engaged and efficient workforce.

How does implementing feedback-driven changes impact the workspace?

Implementing feedback-driven changes ensures that the workspace evolves to meet the current needs and preferences of its users. This ongoing process of improvement fosters a culture of innovation and satisfaction, enhancing productivity and wellbeing in the workplace.

Leave a comment