Cubicles, Workstations, & Benching - Open and Private Offices Part 1

When you break it down to the most basic concepts, there are two approaches to office design: Closed Office Design, and Open Office Design.

Both design strategies have unique pros and cons, but they’re not necessarily mutually exclusive. These concepts can be used together in the same office, each complementing the other’s strengths. In other cases, one strategy can take precedence over the other.

With a basic understanding of these approaches and some insight into your business needs, you can draw from both open and closed office strategies. The result can be an office that optimizes your space into a harmonious environment of collaboration and productivity for you and your employees.

Closed Office Designs

The Private Office

Private offices and cubicles are the two main elements of closed office designs. With four walls extending floor-to-ceiling and a door that can be closed, private offices have historically been seen as status symbols in the traditional workspace. They occupy a lot of space, which many modern businesses might consider wasteful, but to their merit, they provide the most private environment for an individual to minimize noise and distractions, and help to get work done.

Private offices with traditional sheetrock walls will block light and create dark corridors. Using glass walls -- perhaps modular glass walls provided by our Architectural Solutions team -- allows more natural light into the rest of office, and can provide visibility to your team. Glass walls allow customizable privacy with options such as field-applied frost or laminated glass.

Private offices with traditional sheetrock walls will block light and create dark corridors.

The Cubicle

The cubicle is a more efficient example of a closed office design. Cubicles were originally designed to save space and improve employee productivity by replacing noisy and chaotic bullpens with private individual workstations. They helped cut down on distractions and provided employees with privacy so they could focus on their work.

Since then, cubicles have become ubiquitous in the office, and the originally luxurious concept of a private space for every worker isn’t necessarily the reality. Unfortunately, the same tall cubicle walls that provide privacy and cut down on office noise can also block out natural light and window views, which experts have come to recognize are crucial to improving employees’ mental health and productivity.

"the originally luxurious concept of a private space for every worker isn’t necessarily the reality"

Privacy & Talent Wars

These closed-off workspaces also can have the unintended consequence of hindering socialization and collaboration between employees. Stereotypes of office “cubicle farms” have therefore gotten a bad reputation. In the midst of talent wars, the “cube farm” can potentially be detrimental to the recruitment and retention of talented employees who'd rather not work in an office where cubicles are prevalent. This has led many businesses to begin exploring modern open-office solutions to workstations.

However, the open-office layout is not a magic bullet for improving workspace efficiency and productivity. Privacy can be an extremely important factor to consider for many businesses. Privacy allows your employees to accomplish intensive tasks that require focus. It also helps your business protect clients' and your own sensitive information, such as account details or intellectual property.

"In the midst of talent wars, the “cube farm” can potentially be detrimental" 

Closed office features such as cubicles, private offices, or conference rooms can be an important feature to include in your office layout to reduce noise, limit distractions for workers, and minimize exposure of sensitive information.

Now that we’ve had a chance to look at closed office designs, we’ll take some time to look into open office designs in our next article. Like closed office designs, open office layouts have their own unique pros and cons. Just as you can incorporate ideas from traditional office configurations in your office to optimize employee productivity, privacy, and security; you can also incorporate elements of open office design to improve your space efficiency, boost collaboration, and create a healthier environment for your employees.

Continued in Part 2 >

infographic_small.jpgFind the Best Chairs for Your Office Space


Choosing the right chairs for your team is a difficult task. This fun PDF will help you understand the following: 

  • Statistics around the science of comfort & health
  • The anatomy of an ergonomic chair
  • 4 keys to choosing the right chair