How to design the office layout : Open office vs Cubicle

There has always been an intense debate in the professional world over what kind of an environment for employees are preferred - open office spaces or old fashioned cubicles. Though both have their own pros and cons, it majorly depends upon the nature of the business as well as individual employee preferences.

As we all know, companies cannot match expectations of their employees individually and hence, decisions like these are mostly pre taken during the initial days of the business/ office setup.

The best way to sort through this debate is to list the advantages and limitations of both.

Open Spaces


  • Open offices are more affordable, mainly due to the maximizing floor space and less furniture overhead. There is a lot more scope of internal socializing amongst employees as compared to offices that have cubicles. Moreover, we can have more employees assigned on each floor compared to a floor where there are bifurcations in terms of work stations. The trend of open spaces is largely seen in business sectors like advertising and media.

  • Communication between employees and colleagues improve when everyone is not confined in their own little cubicle world. Everybody in the same room gets everyone together. Open Space Offices open up professional relationships on an individual level that standard cubicles cannot. Morale improves with tauter working relationships and team working abilities, doing away with seclusion.

  • Organizations with open space office layouts have dissimilar departments collaborating and allocating daily business together all in one general area. Business runs smoother and tasks get done quicker compared to an atmosphere when everyone is separated.

On the other hand, an open space comes with its own limitation

  • Privacy is lost on a table mutually shared by many. People working on sensitive information would seek the privacy of conference rooms or smaller, private work areas (if any) to ensure security of data.

  • The main grievance of some personnel about open office spaces is the noise that positioning everyone in one big open room naturally persuades. This interrupts a worker’s concentration, thus intruding their thought processes.

  • Personal data almost becomes public knowledge with open spaces, due to close proximity of co-workers and also the lack of permanent workspace for others. While friendships amongst employees improve, it is also the biggest distraction. A false sense of productivity is created with open offices and it becomes difficult to concentrate on work when others are talking, discussing, and people drop by anytime.



  • The dividers of cubicles give privacy and lasting space to all employees in addition to accessibility. It also usually levels the playing field, with some team leaders or managers also working from a cubicle.

  • Some workers perform in a better manner when left to work in their own personal space. Some people even believe it is harsh to force employees into open areas that they are not comfortable with. Numerous studies point out the fact that for some productivity and morale, both descend for some employees - who cannot adjust to open space offices.

  • All those bothersome co-workers are barred from disturbing someone in their private cubicle. Noisy workers and those raucous teams are buffered by the sanctuary of the surrounding walls of the somewhat misunderstood cubicle. This promotes better concentration and uninterrupted thought and inspiration, which in turn boosts employee productivity.

Talking about the disadvantages of a Cubicle


  • Some people who work in standard cubicle offices feel suffocated during their eight hours of work every day, starting from the time they walk off the elevator and are confronted with the endless rows of cubicles to navigate around before finding theirs.

  • Many studies also find that workers in overall are less creative and enthused than workers in an open office space environment. This is one of those things that are based solely on human nature and individual character traits.

  • An open office space office is usually overprovided with colour, views to the outside world or even inside foyers, all designed to motivate the employee and kindle their minds. Cubicle office spaces are not even close to any of these inspirational things; they are honestly plain and to some, demotivating.

  • 74% of people surveyed by Harvard Business Review are more
    concerned now of their privacy at work places than a decade ago

After studying all the above factors, we can only say that different things work for different individuals and this debate shall continue till a very long time ahead, as we have a lot of conflicting studies to support this never ending clash!!


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