Over the last decade, we have seen cubicle walls slowly start to disappear and open office spaces begin to flourish in their place. In the 80s we saw offices that consisted of tall, bunker-like cubicles with drab colors, separating employees from one another, which is a huge contrast between the open floor plans that swept through when big tech companies began featuring collaborative environments and snack bars. Going into 2022 and seeing new trends as they continue to evolve in the post-WFH era, there are plenty of new ways to upgrade or utilize your business office and its layout.
While open office design might be beneficial to certain types of businesses, that might not be the case for others. Rather than looking at the dichotomy between the two in terms of one being better than the other, we can recognize that different workplaces need to be attuned to the size of their employees and the needs of their employees, while also maintaining the company’s culture. One size does not fit all, and looking at the benefits and disadvantages of each style of design can help you determine which setup can work best for your business.
Open Office Design
Open offices promote features that are light, expansive, and natural. They usually consist of larger open spaces with little to no separation. Workplaces trying to be on trend usually opt for more sprawling layouts and embrace these more contemporary styles. These open spaces work best for companies that require high amounts of collaboration or brainstorming, as they blur traditional boundaries and employees are able to engage more naturally.
- Cost efficient by reducing furniture overhead: Square footage can be expensive when running a business, and things can add up depending upon the amount of employees you have. Not only do you have to consider filing cabinets, electrical sockets, block units, and other upgrades for the materials used, but also installation. With an open floor plan, you’re more able to simplify this and drop a considerable amount in overall costs.
- Conveys casual and dynamic work environment: With everyone out in the open, you’re able to cultivate a more transparent workplace. Without walls between one another, you’re able to see how everyone interacts with each other.
- Encourages collaboration and conversation: Ensures that there is as little physical obstruction between employees and spaces as possible, making collaboration a a more natural and expected.
- Makes management feel accessible: Usually with an open office floor plan, managers and executives sit side by side with their employees and other colleagues, which makes them appear more approachable, and can also contribute to feeling a sense of equality.
- Maximizes floor space: Opening up the area and removing physical barriers between workstations and employees.
- Builds a sense of community: Allowing employees to engage with each other more readily.
- Little to no privacy: Without partitions, there’s a lack of privacy that can be detrimental to more sensitive conversations or for compliance teams in certain industries. Also poses a risk when handling confidential patient or customer information.
- Distractions may be more prominent: Open concept offices can sometimes sound much louder in comparison to having cubicle walls to absorb sound. There are a few ways to quiet an open office, but this can still be a detriment to some employees’ productivity.
- Not conducive to different workstyles: While some employees may thrive in an open work environment, some who need more time concentrating alone may need a cubicle setting for focus.
- Spread of germs: Of course since the introduction of COVID-19, health and safety has been a primary concern in the workplace as many return to a hybrid or full time schedule. Open plans mean teams sit closer together due to design and collaborative effort, which can be risky for your business and the health of your employees especially during cold and flu seasons.
Cubicles exist of moveable walls that separate employees in a larger work area. This type of office design is best for employees who do a larger amount of independent, focused work that requires more concentration. Cubicles in offices are more straightforward and offer a range of benefits.
- Provides safety from spreading of germs and illnesses: By creating physical barriers between workspaces, employees are less likely to spread germs to other areas and other people.
- Designated personal space: Having a dedicated place within an office to do as you please can add a sense of personal space within the workday.
- Sound control: Aside from less visual distractions, cubicles often offer the added benefit of natural noise reduction.
- Spatial intent: Cubicles offer ways to organize different departments, and set up areas for specific departments. Different work needs different environments, as well as unique equipment or furniture that might be necessary in each.
- Storage options: Overhead shelving units, filing cabinets, and additional desk space are all added benefits for extra storage of personal belongings, and important documents. Open floor plans leave less space for storage, which can be difficult for paperwork-heavy related jobs.
- Less space for each employee: Cubicles can sometimes feel cramped or congested, depending on the square footage allotted for each cubicle workspace.
- More expensive, requires installations as your business expands: Cubicles need to grow and change as your business does, which can be a costly investment to have researched, ordered, and installed.
- Takes up more square footage in the office: Cubicles, by their very nature, cordon off and take up spaces, locking work areas into a set grid.
- Fewer organic interactions: Cubicle design is intended to separate workers, meaning workers will need to put extra effort into initiating interactions with each other.
With new office lifestyle changes thanks to COVID, cubicle-based office design is seeing a resurgence due to the need to keep people more protected in the workplace. The typical cubicle layout has been given a bad reputation in the past, but now with new trends in modern office aesthetics giving rise to contemporary cubicle design, stuffy gray boxes are no longer.
Determining Which Office Layout Suits You
While both cubicles and open office floor plans have their benefits and disadvantages, there can be some balance between the two. Depending on your business, your needs may lean more towards one or the other, but in order to give options that can work for each individual employee’s work needs, you can even create a hybrid of the two.
At T2B Commercial Interiors, our designers listen carefully to your design needs, desires, and workplace objectives which helps us get to know your brand’s personality as we learn about the unique work culture you have cultivated.
Our designers work with state-of-the-art software and will provide you with CET design and renderings to help you understand the design vision and provide valuable input early in the process. Budgets big or small; new space or renovated space; office, healthcare or educational, our designers have the experience to meet all of your design needs.
Whether you are in need of adding new workspaces, modern flooring, or ergonomic furniture for your hard-working employees and guests, contact us today to learn how our designers can help upgrade your office to match your brand’s style and culture.