Cubicle or Open Office: What Employees Really Want


Office employees usually have differing opinions on what kind of office they would prefer. Cubicles offer privacy and quiet, so a determined worker can get more done. This style of office has recently fallen out of fashion because it seems cold and uninviting, a throwback to an earlier time. When they emerged in 1967 as an option for workplaces, they were extremely popular. Today, they have gone by the wayside in favor of open office plans, with the concept that an open office is more in tune with modern ways of thinking and more collaboration.


Open Benefits


The open office plan is touted as good for fostering relationships between employees. If there are no singular offices, then there is not such a hard line between employees and employers. Everyone feels like they are on equal footing. It’s also much more cost-effective because more employees can be placed at desks in an open office plan versus cubicles.


Open Cons


Unfortunately, the open office style does have its downsides. Workplace nastiness and gossip can happen very easily in an open plan setting because everyone is able to see each other at all times. Cliques often form this way and people have a tendency to gang up on each other in this type of environment. It’s also nearly impossible to have any sense of privacy, either for personal information or sensitive data for work. The communal space also encourages talking and noise, which brings down productivity.


What is Your Culture?


People have different ways of working, much like they have different styles of learning. Some people work best in an environment with plenty of activity because they find it inspiring. Others work best in total silence because they find outside noise irritating or distracting. This makes working in an open office extremely difficult, if not impossible. Open offices also have a very high level of sick leave because illnesses travel much faster when everyone is seated around a table. You’ll have to talk with employees, managers, and bosses to see what everyone prefers and if a compromise is possible in your company.


Comes Down to Comfort


Some people are hoping for a return to office cubicles. They lament the loss of their privacy and a permanent space to call their own. There is not enough of a sense of permanency in the open office plan, which makes employees feel undervalued and easily replaceable. It’s down to personal taste with every office, but it seems that employees prefer the small private space of a cubicle instead of the environment an open office plan creates. You’ll also want to take into account how some people work vs. others. Perhaps you’ll need to include standing desks, more ergonomic chairs or tables that offer your workers support in their back and wrists. Make sure things are adjustable and make sense with the working environment you produce. 


Today, companies don't want to return to the cubicles of the past, but offering a private space for employees is still in the cards. Maybe it’s in a table section of an office, an open setting with smaller cubicle options set up, or other types of working desks that bring your employee comfort. Talk to your employees and decide what works best in your situation.


By: Eileen O'Shanassy

Eileen O'Shanassy is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Flagstaff, AZ. She writes on a variety of topics and loves to research and write. She enjoys baking, biking, and kayaking. Check out her Twitter @eileenoshanassy.