READ TIME: 3-5 Mins
Forbes is over it. The NY Times is over it. Even NPR is over it (and has been since 2016 – don’t believe us? Check it out here.) So, I know that saying “I still love office cubicles” isn’t exactly ground-breaking anymore. There are loads of studies on why open-plan offices reduce productivity and increase workplace stress. You can read some of them here and here. Here’s a quick overview of the highlights:
Each year the furniture and space design industry has a conference called NeoCon in Chicago. I run marketing and merchandising at Guernsey, so I don’t go every year, but I do swing by from time to time to take the pulse of the design industry and make sure our team is on track with the work we do for Interiors by Guernsey. The last time I was there I was struck by the number of brands popping up with noise-reduction solutions. Think felt art and felt lampshades and random felt panels in different colors. The reason? Open plan spaces get noisy.
To (briefly) refer back to the pile of science-y stuff I dropped at the beginning of this post, increased and constant noise has been shown to increase stress hormones like cortisol in people. Point being, those fabric cubicle panels are good for something other than pinning up TPS reports.
Let’s be real – cubicles are a little better than open plan offices, but not that much when it comes to sound. Privacy, on the other hand, is a horse of another color. The most stressful thing, in my mind, about open offices is the complete lack of privacy. Forget the impossibility of implementing a George Costanza-style nap desk; my introverted little heart shudders at the thought of taking a phone call in public. With cubicles, you can at least take that call while looking at your (decorated, I hope) cubicle walls rather than Susie Q who sits across from you and has the creepiest, glassy-eyed stare when she’s trying to figure out why her pivot tables aren’t working.
This is my biggest issue with open plan spaces. A company’s space is an extension of their brand, and the open space office plan is the ultimate in that. By stripping down all walls, a company is making a bold statement about their culture, but they’re also taking away employees’ opportunity to make statements about themselves. When you walk into a cubicle, you see photos, quotes and trinkets pinned to the walls, things that are about the employee, and not the company. This is a matter of balance, where individual and corporate space interact. People are still people first at work. As managers and employers, we know that intimately. No one is motivated by being treated like an input, and by taking away the opportunity for people to express themselves, we lose something.
So that’s why I still love the cubicle. Want to talk to us about cubicles, or non-cubicle options? We won’t judge you for going open-plan – after all, there are benefits to that look. What we will do, no matter what, is work with you in our design process to realize your vision and help you pair it with the best possible work plan. Just reach out to us for help!