Cubicles - The Future of Workspace Design (Again)

Forget about an open plan layout. The Cubicle will keep your employees safe, engaged & productive.


A Quick History of Office Layout Design

Believe it or not, but open office plans were the most popular setup well before the cubicle was invented. Early designers and architects thought partitions in a workplace would lend to increasing division within society. To break down social barriers you need to break down physical barriers.

As time passed, the disadvantages of an open office plan became evident. Noise & distractions made the workforce less productive, a lack of privacy made people uncomfortable, and companies decided to stick employees in every opening they could find creating very close quarters. Workers began to hate the open office plan – it is no way to run a productive and profitable business.

The cubicle rose to prominence in the 1960’s when Herman Miller designed and released their Action Office (AO) line of cubicles. The introduction of these semi-enclosed, flexible stations allowed an employee to have an area of their own, where they could focus in on the task at hand when needed, but still be close enough to a coworker to collaborate or communicate when needed.

Today, the open office plan has again sprung to prominence. In an effort to spark creativity and create open lines of communication for employees, many of the most popular and successful start-up & tech firms turned back to collaboration areas & open benching stations for their workspace. For better or for worse, this has helped pull the workspace design back into the focus of designers and architects all around the world. The result – another drop in productivity! A recent study by William Belk states that 54% of “high-performing employees” say their office environment is too distracting. And it is easy to understand why – conversations, phone calls, and all other noise that fills up work environment can amount to a high level.

Another study from The Royal Society Publishing in 2018 actually shows that open office plans decrease face-to-face interactions, as the rise of digital technology has led to an increase in email and instant messaging activity despite the proximity to a fellow coworker.

Back in the 1960’s, the cubicle overtook the open plan concept in popularity. It is now time to anticipate that this trend will repeat itself in the very near future.

The Next Steps

Future workspaces are going to be reliant on giving employees space, not only to keep them productive but also to keep them safe. The cubicle is the perfect option for the new concept of the “six-foot office.” The idea with this design is to help employees maintain safe social distancing guidelines while still allowing them to come into the office and be engaged and involved with the company. Working from home may continue to increase, but for millions of employees in the world working from home is not a long-term option.

Workspace designs that revolve around cubicles can still be adapted to a modern office setup. The use of glass panels can help light travel through a workspace to give employees some much needed sunlight and help avoid the popular pitfalls of dark, gloomy cubicles of the past. Open breakaway and collaboration areas can be included in small sections of the workspace to continue to encourage creativity and in person communication amongst your workforce. You can utilize clear plastic screens and dividers to encourage safe social distancing practices in these areas. And the biggest advantage will be productivity. Let you employees focus in on the job at hand when they need to and help remove the irritating distractions that have become all too common.

What the Experts are Saying

The Open Office Plan Is A Disaster - Chicago Tribune
Will Open Offices Ever Go Away? - Today
This Is Why So Many Companies Insist on Open Offices Now - themuse.com
C.D.C. Recommends Sweeping Changes to American Offices -New York Times

Office Furniture Center is Here to Help!

With thousands of value priced pre-owned workstations and cubicles in stock, Office Furniture Center is the partner you need to improve or reconfigure your existing office layout. We are experts with Pre-owned, Refreshed and ReNewed Herman Miller Ethospace and AO2 workstations.

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