When setting up a new office space, deciding whether or not your office should go the cubicle route can be tricky. Cubicles do provide employees with barriers from noise and visual distractions in the office, allowing them to better concentrate on their work. Cubicles also offer a certain degree of privacy, along with the impression that each employee has his or her own dedicated workspace. Cubicles also offer more space for shelves and a convenient canvas for posting schedules and memos, as the partition walls of the standard cubicle are usually thumbtack-friendly.
On the downside, cubicles have been known to drastically decrease person-to-person communication in the office, leading to frequent complaints about isolation, depression, and low employee morale. Cubicles can also be rather ugly and uninspiring due to their generally bland color, and have been the subject of ridicule for quite some time now in comic strips such as Dilbert and movies such as Office Space.
When figuring out the best workspace configuration for your employees, consider these issues:
What Do Your Employees Actually Do?
If your employees spend the majority of their workday on the phone conversing with clients or the general public, going the cubicle route might make sense, as the enclosed space will provide them with the quiet they need to conduct a private conversation. If your employees spend the majority of their days typing away on computers and have little or no need to be on the telephone (or even talk amongst themselves), an open workspace plan might be a better approach. Read Breaking the Model with an Open Floor Plan to see how one company approached this issue.
Think About Aesthetics and Image
The employees of an auto insurance company can most likely sit comfortably in a cubicle environment, as their workspace is one that doesn’t have to be bustling with a creative spirit (this, of course, doesn’t mean the space shouldn’t be visually appealing). But if you’ve got a team of artists or designers who frequently work in collaboration with one another, an airy, open workspace approach may work better. Not only is the aesthetic more inviting to creative types (who don’t enjoy being literally boxed in), but it also gives employees the freedom to collaborate on projects and see quite plainly how the process is coming together.
Be sure to read Ten Tips for Managing Creative Types for insight into how to successfully manage a group of right-brained thinkers such as artists or designers.
A Cubicle World Is Not Totally Soundproof
Many employers (themselves often housed in private offices) think the cubicle setup drowns out all sounds of chatter and noise in the office. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. One important issue that rarely is considered when cubicles go up is the quality of the ceilings and floors in the office. Acoustic floor coverings and ceiling panels should be essential parts of a plan to reduce office noise.
If You Do Go Cubicle
Think color. There are many alternatives today to the standard drab gray cubicle on office furniture showroom floors and in catalogs. Many modern cubicles have multicolored walls, desks, and decorative panels. Including a splash of color in your cubicle setup is bound to brighten not only your office, but the outlook of the employee sitting inside it. To learn more about how the design of your office affects your employees, read Office Decor Affects Attitudes and Productivity.