Let’s go over some history of how cube land started. The cubicle, which first appeared in 1964, was created to combat a hectic workplace resounding with clattering typewriters and ringing phones. Designed by Robert Propst, a designer for Herman Miller, the cubicle featured a large desk, an area to make phone calls, and vertical filing with partitions to enhance privacy. The first cubicles were also equipped to allow the worker to either stand or sit.
However, the original design was too expensive and large to gain popularity. As a result, Herman Miller designed a cheaper cubicle that was easier to install and allowed only for seated work. It was this box-like design that became very popular in the 80s and 90s (sort of like your local greatest hits radio station).
Fast forward to today—70% of United States offices have traded in their cubicles for an open-concept office design. One such example is The Richards Group, an advertising agency in Dallas. When the company moved into its new office, they traded cubicles for bench-style workstations that are separated only by 18-inch high partitions. It’s the same setup on each floor, and an open staircase connects floors. While conference rooms are available, the only employee with an enclosed office is the CFO.
But is an open-concept office right for your business? Here are some benefits and drawbacks to consider if you’re thinking about making the switch:
With drawbacks linked to reduced productivity, concentration, and health, why has the open-concept office become so popular? A 2015 Oxford Economics survey sheds some light on the subject.
This study, which surveyed over 600 non-executives and over 600 executives, found noticeable differences between the viewpoints of executives and employees. While only 35% of executives believed that ambient noise reduced their employees’ satisfaction and productivity, 53% of employees said that it did. A whopping 63% of executives said their employees had the tools needed to filter out distractions at work, while only 41% of employees agreed. Furthermore, only 18% of employees believed their senior management took successful steps to reduce noise issues.
What is the reason for these differences? One contributing factor could be that executives live in a different world— 62% of executives have their own private office, in comparison to only 14% of employees. Another reason is that executives said minimizing distractions was low on the list of priorities when designing their office spaces.
How would an open concept impact your office? If you have an open concept, do the benefits outweigh the drawbacks?