Why offices have eliminated cubicles

Why offices have eliminated cubicles


More and more companies are replacing the box-like cubicle with a more open plan office. At Printerinks all our offices are now open plan too, but why? Here’s our top five reasons.

1. Happier, healthier employees

It sounds kind of barbaric when you think about it: spending eight hours (half of your waking day) in a small grey box, staring at a computer screen, working. Human beings are social animals – the vast majority of us require contact and conversation to feel at our best. Cubicles were brought in to increase productivity and make an office more egalitarian by giving everyone the same kind of desk space. But, in reality, all they did was make us miserable.

By getting rid of cubicles, offices are helping their employees feel more comfortable at work. What’s more, by increasing the opportunity for their employees to interact and build relationships, employers are also helping them work better as a team. And while we’re on the subject of teams…

2. Inspiring better teamwork

Many studies have found that an open office plan leads to greater teamwork at a business. This is kind of an obvious outcome when you think about it. A cubicle isn’t just box to keep you in, it’s a box that keeps others out. How much easier is it to walk up to someone and start a conversation when they can see you coming? It feels less intrusive, and less like you’re ‘getting in their space’.

Without cubicle walls obstructing this kind of natural interaction, employees are much more likely to share their skills and knowledge, ask more questions of each other and solve problems in a collaborative way. For many businesses, this is a more than adequate reason to get rid of walls in offices once and for all.

3. More flexible workspace

The future of office space is changing. With more and more employees given the opportunity to work remotely, or with flexible hours, the need to have a set desk space for every single employee is getting smaller and smaller. Instead, many progressive employees are embracing a more varied and flexible workspace – one with a combination of quiet work zones, more social hubs and open and closed meeting rooms.

This kind of adaptable space can easily stretch to accommodate a surge in employee numbers, and – because it usually requires less square footage per employee – often also represents a cost saving for business.

4. Changing office habits

As we learn more and more about how the human brain works, we’re also learning more about how to make it work at its best. For example, taking regular breaks is good for productivity, and working at a standing desk reportedly increases energy (over time). However, we are also creatures of habit – and getting employees to try out new ways of working while insisting that they stay in the same old work space makes it hard to form new behaviours.

Switching to a more open plan office could make a huge difference. By offering a range of work spaces (for example, like those described above), it’s much more likely that an employee will be willing to try out something new. What’s more, an office without walls means everyone can see and therefore be inspired by everyone else’s approach to working. For example, if you notice that your line manager is not afraid to ask for help from her superiors, then maybe you will adopt the same practice.

5. More accountability in the workplace

There is an argument to be made that removing cubicle walls also removes employee privacy. When you don’t have three walls to protect you from prying eyes, are you less likely to mess around on the internet or play games on your phone? In some ways, this is true – but the more positive version is that fewer walls means greater accountability, and therefore less micro-management.

In an ideal office environment, as long as the work is done, everyone is happy. If the best way for some people to do that is by taking regular breaks or letting off steam with a quick game of something, then so be it. An office without walls is more likely to create a trusting environment than one in which people feel the need to hide their activities.

Of course, the open office isn’t the right answer for everyone. We’re all different, and some people just work better in quiet, solitary places than in a humming social environment. At the end of the day, the best solution for offices is probably to create as flexible and adaptive space as possible – one that allows plenty of opportunity for that all important social interaction, without sacrificing the focus that – for some – can only be found in peace and quiet.

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