Cube City

Reader Antonia draws our attention to this news item in the Guardian:

Welcome to cube city. Xu Weiping, a Chinese multimillionaire, has a vision for the future of office work in the post-Covid-19 pandemic world: thousands of office pods where each person works in their own self-contained 3m x 3m cube.

Xu reckons the coronavirus pandemic will have such a fundamental impact on the way people work that he is converting 20 newly constructed office buildings in east London into 2,000 of the individual cube offices.


Still, as I hinted before, three-metre by three-metre is a far bigger cube than I ever had when I worked in an office. I started out with a desk that was perhaps 1.5m wide; I would not have been able to touch the shoulder of a co-worker but we would have been able to touch fingertips with ease. Management then moved us to a tighter working area in which the desktop was a meter wide at most (perhaps 85cm) and we would have been able to touch each other’s shoulders with ease. So in a way, Cube City would have been preferable to Concrete Island (the name I give to my old workplace in The Good Life for Wage Slaves).

For all the ingenuity and spacial generosity of Xu Weiping’s human battery farm, the thought remains: why bother? Why go to the effort to put shoes on and squelch yourself onto a packed Tube carriage to reach a place in the isolated docklands that boasts such fabulous features as “a kettle, fridge, microwave, videoscreen and fold-down bed as well as a chair and desk.” I mean, just stay at home. Got distracting kids or dogs or something? Even some really swanky noise-cancelling headphones won’t set you back as much as cube tenancy and a commuter pass.

I’m writing this from our dining table in case you’re wondering. I’m wearing slippers. Freak Zone plays quietly on the radio while my partner draws in pencils on her £20 LED drawing board. It’s lovely.

The Good Life for Wage Slaves is out now in deluxe paperback format and e-book.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

4 Responses to “Cube City”

  1. Mathieu Sirois says:

    I find Xu’s idea absolutely disgusting. It’s basically jail cells. To actually start working on the project shows he’s neck deep in the cult of work.

  2. Pretty much, yeah. And jail cells he expects people to pay money for and to value in some way.

  3. Peter says:

    A width of 850 cm is pretty good space 🙂

  4. D’oh! 85! Duly corrected.

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