Open Office versus Cubicles in the Workplace

For the past few decades, there has been a trend to create open office settings and to move away from cubicles. It was believed that with less walls employees would interact more, leading to increased collaboration and productivity. Organizations who have embraced the open office workplace are finding that cutting out cubicles may have not solved their problems. We are going do a comparison between open office versus cubicles to help you determine what is right for you and your workplace.

Before we can compare open office versus cubicles, we are going to dive in a little deeper as to what both options are.

What is an open office?

Open offices are intended to remove barriers and walls that separate employees in an office setting. Open offices are defined by their lack of dividers of any kind. There are no walls, cubicles, or other divisions between individuals’ workspaces. An open office layout is typically chosen when companies “want more open, more collaborative, more interactive spaces that are also less expensive”, says Ethan Bernstein, an associate professor at the Harvard Business School.

What is a workplace with cubicles?

You have likely seen a cubicle before, but in case you need a refresher, we have got you covered. A cubicle is a partially enclosed office workspace that is separated from neighboring workspaces by partitions. The purpose of a workplace with cubicles is to separate office workers and managers from the sights and noises of an open workspace. Cubicles create an individual space for employees that serves as their own office, so that they may concentrate with fewer distractions.

Let’s review open office versus cubicles in the workplace. Which one is right for your office?

While every office is different, you likely have a vision of the type of environment you would like to create in your workplace. There are pros and cons to both open offices and offices that use cubicles. We have reviewed a few pros and cons for each type of office space below.

Open Office Pros:

  • Cost Effective: Less money is spent on purchasing cubicles and furniture needed to make them function.
  • Space Saver: They allow for an organization to maximize floor space to create room for more employees.
  • Sense of Community: Open offices help to foster cooperation, collaboration, innovation and creativity.
  • Management More Approachable: Open spaces create a true “open door policy” between employees and leadership.

Open Office Cons:

  • Lack of Privacy: There is basically no privacy in an open office setting. People working on sensitive information need to go to conference rooms or other private work areas to ensure security of data and personal information.
  • No Permanent Space: In an open setting, employees are typically not assigned one space or area, so there is generally less of a feeling of having their own space or a place to leave things behind.
  • Distractions: It is difficult to concentrate on work when others are talking and may drop by at anytime.
  • Individuals Work Differently: Open offices don’t account for the fact that people work differently. While some employees may seek collaboration, others need quiet time to concentrate.
  • Interrupted Customer Interactions: If customer calls are common in a job, in an open setting, it may be distracting to the person hosting, the customer, and others around, when employees are on the phone.

Cubicle Pros:

  • Sense of Own Office: Cubicles create the feel of employees having their own office space to call home.
  • Teamwork: With assigned cubicles, teams that work together can be placed next to each other to promote teamwork and interaction.
  • Privacy: Cubicles give employees privacy to work on secure things, focus, take customer calls, etc.
  • Little to no Distractions: People are less likely to interrupt someone if they must navigate around walls and other enclosures or stand up to have a conversation.
  • Create Sense of Hierarchy: With cubicles in an office space, organizations reinforce an office hierarchy and incentivize workers. As employees are promoted they can get an office or a workspace in a more desired location.

Cubicle Cons:

  • Small Space: One of the biggest cons about cubicles is the small space that employees usually have within the cubicle.
  • Create Isolation: More privacy can lead to less interaction. If teams aren’t grouped together strategically it can create a siloed work environment.
  • Less Management Abilities: If employees are behind walls, managers are less able to see them and ensure they are being productive.
  • Cost and Space: Cubicles can we pricey and do take up more space than an open office setting. They are also more permanent.

What do studies say about open office versus cubicles in the workplace?

A 2018 study from the Royal Society of Publishing took a detailed look at the productivity and collaboration of employees in an open environment. They found that open offices led to 72% less time of face-to-face interactions than more private office spaces. They also observed that in an open setting 56% more emails were sent and there was 67% more instant messaging activities.

Harvard Business Review found that open offices are one of the reasons why office privacy is at an all-time low, with 74% of people surveyed being more concerned now of their privacy than a decade ago.

In conclusion

Every office space is different, and whether an open or more closed setting (with cubicles) is right for you and your organization, can only be determined by you.

At Office Furniture Warehouse we have options for both open office settings and those with cubicles. Our goal is to help you find office furniture that will allow you to maximize your workspace and workflow.

Visit one of our showrooms in Cleveland or Akron, today!