Cubicle versus Open Plan Offices

When designing an office space, it is very important to take into account the setting. The office decor, structure and furniture placement can affect your employee’s productivity and therefore potentially your business success.

It can also influence your clientele. It is the first thing that an individual sees when walking into the office and first impressions matter. The space should look professional but be comfortable for your workforce; and it is essentially a statement of the brand’s identity so it should reflect the core values of the company.

So what is a more productive office design, cubicle or open plan? Both designs have their own advantages but the key is to create an ergonomic environment.

A study published back in 2009 revealed that “open plan offices and cubicles were invented by architects and designers who were trying to make the world a better place-who thought that to break down the social walls that divide people, you had to break down the real walls, too.”

Here is a detailed breakdown to each option; choose which one is right for you and have a happy, healthy workforce.

What is a cubicle?

In layman’s terms, it is a small partitioned-off area of a room.

It was invented to give workers a certain amount of privacy and to act as sound-proof barrier to unwelcomed distractions. It was much more cost-efficient to build than giving each individual their own office room. Its sole purpose is to isolate the workers from the sights and noises of an open-plan space, therefore boosting their concentration levels.

Benefits include:

By working in a cubicle with a few colleagues, it is reported to improve relations and the potential for opportunities. When one is working side by side with others, they can get to know them better and therefore the work relationship will get better. What is more, they can learn from each other and expand their skills.

If a number of colleagues are working alongside one another, they can check how much work they are actually getting up to. The pressure of being caught slacking in fact motivates the workers and results in greater productivity. But one of the main advantages is that there is room for personal expression. The space feels like their own so they can showcase their creativity more.

Further advantages are that it can be viewed as a safe zone to talk about private topics. Conversing in an open plan office can often or not be overheard.

However, a small cramped area can cause discontent and less productivity so make sure that you measure the partitions properly to create enough working space.

What is an open-plan office?

The opposite of a cubicle, an open plan office design is a large open space that minimises the use of small enclosed rooms. It wasn’t until the late 20th Century that led to an evolution in the space.

There are various types of open plan space and these include:

Team-oriented ‘bullpen’ – employees can see and hear each other freely, but desks are grouped into teams

High-panelled cubicles – employees can’t see other employees when seated

Low-panelled cubicles – employees can see over the panels when seated

Clusters or ‘pods’ – a group of low-panelled work stations, separated by high panels from other pods.

Executive suite – subleased office space in a large professional environment or office building.

Benefits include:

A small cramped area can cause discontent and less productivity in contrast to an open plan space. What is more, a study by the Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management found that cubicles cause conflict, high blood pressure and increased staff turnover.

An open-environment is much more relaxing to be in and it improves team building. It encourages interaction between teams, and colleagues can collaborate across the desk and share ideas easily.

Moreover, businesses can fit more employees into the office so it makes better use of the space.


There are benefits to both designs, so how do you choose which one is right for your business? Is the company growing/ changing? You need flexible seating arrangements so perhaps open plan is best for you.

Are the majority of your workers senior? According to reports, older employees prefer privacy so maybe cubicles are ideal.

Whatever design you opt for, make sure that the decor and setting is considered thoroughly as it will affect the way your business is run.

This article was provided by Official Space, the UK’s specialist website for office space.

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