Open Office vs Cubicle: Which One Is Better?

Cubicles used to be an office staple, separating employees and dividing up workspaces for more solitary and private work zones. With long assembly lines and rows of divided desks, cubicles have long been the go-to imagery when we think about office spaces. That is until open offices took off.

In many respects, the open-office model has replaced the cubicle system and, in doing so, has drastically altered the energy and way in which we work. From changes in collaboration to workplace synergy, the debate of open office vs cubicle brings many of our office priorities under consideration. But which is actually better?

To help you explore coworking spaces, we are breaking down the differences between your old cubicles vs open office space to assist in your decision. Keep reading to come to your conclusion!

Where Did Cubicles Come From?

open offices vs cubicles

Before we dive into the open office concept, let’s first discuss - where did the idea of cubicles come from in the first place?

Cubicles first became popular in offices back in the 1960s as a means of creating a more productive work environment. With this design, the creators of the cubicle, Robert Propst and Herman Miller, believed they could boost workers’ productivity by providing increased privacy and flexibility.

The duo called this the “action office”, instilling that this cubicle design could be adjusted and customized to stimulate a more productive work environment for each employee. With moveable dividers and adjustable designs, the idea was that workers could make their space their own, going from standing to sitting or blocking off their section for private, focused work time.

As the cubicle continued to evolve, it morphed into something less focused on flexibility, and more focused on endless hours of tiresome work. And for many, this signaled a need for change.

The Open Office Concept

After years of sectioned-off, solitary work environments, the open office concept was born.

This idea was created by business leaders that wanted to boost employee morale. By removing cubicles from the workspace and designing spaces that are more open and conducive to collaboration, business leaders have not only increased employee satisfaction but saved money in the process.

In the past, cubicles required not only the cubicle structure, but individual desks, and other furniture to keep employees comfortable. Now, with open-office concepts, business owners can invest in filling one large room with the essentials, which comes down to just long tables and chairs, as well as additional seating throughout for employees to move around.

With this open concept design, businesses can promote a more open and welcoming environment - one where employees are free to move around and collaborate as they see fit for a more creative workspace. As a result, employees feel more free and open to talk, creating a comfortable, yet productive, environment. Good employees are a hot commodity, and keeping them happy and comfortable is a top priority, and bright, open space offices are one way to do this.

Open Plan Office vs Cubicle

Now that we know the background of the different office concepts, which one is better? In the open-plan office vs cubicle debate, there are some factors to consider. No one office format is right for everyone, but with this comprehensive list of pros and cons, you can better decide for your company between the two - open office space vs cubicles.

Let’s dive right in!

Open Office Pros & Cons

Open office floor plans have quickly become one of the most popular office designs in the 21st century. But what makes them so great, and are there any downsides to this layout? To help you decide if open-plan offices are right for you, here are both the pros and cons.

The Pros:

open plan office vs cubicle

1. Creates an open space

One of the first benefits of open-plan offices is that they create an open, airy environment, even in the single offices. Instead of cubicles lining up to fill an entire space and block your view, open floor plans create a more open environment, instilling freedom in the space as well as more collaboration. Plus, this floor design is significantly less claustrophobic than that of cubicle-based offices.

2. Everyone can have a nice view

Instead of good views being reserved for the leadership in their private offices, open floor plans allow all employees to get a view of the city from one common room. This way, they can always get a view out of the window, and no longer be restricted to the gray-toned cubicles many workers were subjected to in the past. And with big perks coming from sunlight, including boosting mood and motivation, this is an important improvement.

3. Better coworker visibility

open office space vs cubicles

At this point, going into the office daily isn’t a requirement for many workers, so why do we still show up each and every day? For the collaboration. In these open-designed office spaces, you can quickly smile and discuss with your work bestie, while also creating a more collaborative and productive space with coworkers you share projects with. In this more open environment, real-time, genuine conversations can happen, stimulating better work.

4. Creates a more approachable environment

As mentioned before, forgoing cubicles does a great deal to boost collaboration. In an open-style office, employees can easily greet each other, creating a more positive and welcoming cadence, effectively removing the boundaries that separated us to alleviate a sometimes intimidating work environment. With this, 620 N LaSalle can have more casual interactions with coworkers, making for a more comfortable workplace.

5. Access to higher-ups

Sometimes, in cubicle-style offices where executives are blocked off in their own space, the regular workers were left very separate from execs, creating very strict boundaries. However, with this newer open office concept, CEOs can better interact with employees, creating a better cadence and more familiarity with staff.

The Cons:

1. Can be noisy

As one would expect, creating a more open, collaborative environment will result in more chatter. With open space offices, there is less material dividing employees up, which can be challenging when workers are making frequent sales calls or having off-task conversations. Ultimately, this certainly isn’t the quietest office choice and is one that may be distracting to those that need to concentrate.

2. Lack of privacy

One of the biggest downsides of open concept offices is that privacy pretty much flies out the door. Without partitions, you not only don’t get your privacy but don’t have privacy from others as well. With this design, everyone knows when you’re making a doctor's appointment, and can likely visibly see your screen, creating significantly less privacy in the workplace.

3. No slacking

Okay, we can’t always be on task, right? Well, in an open office design, you better try. Without privacy and divide space, everyone in the large office can see when you’re off task. While this is great for holding people accountable, it can interrupt your daily Instagram scrolling.

4. Everyone knows your hours

With an open-concept office, everyone can see when you come and go. This means both bosses and coworkers can visibly see when you’re at your desk. Whether you’re late or leave early, everyone will see, and if it becomes a habit, certain employees may begin garnering a more negative reputation.

5. Limited space

Since open-concept offices are inherently more free-flowing, each employee is allotted less space. Oftentimes, this can be limited to as little space as their desk, chair, and maybe a small filing cabinet for storage, but the more personal decor and additional spaces are limited.

Cubicle Office Pros & Cons

While many look at cubicles as an outdated office space design, there are reasons these structures were once so popular. To understand the perks of cubicles, as well as the cons, we are breaking down each to help you better decide between cubicles vs open office spaces.

The Pros:

cubicles vs open office space

1. Creates a semi-private space

When looking at open offices vs cubicles, one of the biggest downsides of open spaces is a lack of privacy, but this is something cubicles can solve. With three walls surrounding your desk, fewer people can see what you’re working on (or what you’re distracted by) unless they are standing directly behind you. Sure, this can be isolating, but it can alleviate the feeling that you’re always being watched when at work.

2. Leaves room for slacking

Okay, employers won’t be happy about this one, but many workers will be. Many of us want to check our social media and check our various personal tasks off our daily lists, and with a cubicle, you can take these short breaks to focus on non-work essentials. Due to the semi-private design, workers can better multitask work life with personal life, without heavy monitoring by those around them.

3. Creates clear boundaries

With cubicles, employees will have clear boundaries of what working space is theirs versus someone else's. This way, there’s less overlap so workers don’t feel like they are on top of one another and their space can remain their own.

4. Leaves room for personalization

cubicles vs open office

Since a cubicle is usually reserved for just one employee, they can personalize it to their unique taste. From family pictures to decorative designs and little accent pieces, a worker’s cubicle can be made entirely their own, without messing up the feng shui of the office.

5. More space and more storage

Due to the divisions and space allotments needed to create cubicles, workers inherently have more space for themselves. This way, they can have more than a desk and chair, incorporating the necessary filing cabinets and other essentials to create an organized workspace.

The Cons:

1. Can feel claustrophobic

One big reason the open office vs cubicle debate started in the first place is due to the trapped feeling cubicles can create. With these borders, employees can feel boxed in and blocked off, creating a super isolating feeling with less human interaction.

2. No good view

Since cubicles block a worker into their area, they do not get any visibility of their surroundings, or windows. This majorly limits natural light and has a worker staring at the same neutral surface for hours on end. Sound disheartening? That’s because it is.

3. Sneaky Pop-Ups

With cubicles creating a very “heads down” workplace, coworkers and execs can easily sneak up on workers without them noticing. This may not be a big deal to some but can leave other workers on edge.

4. Noise

One would think that the dividers would help absorb the sometimes chaotic office sounds, but this isn’t always the case. Normal office sounds, like work conversations, phone calls, coughing, and other daily noises can carry across the aisles, disrupting workers in their cubicles.

5. Dull environment

At the end of the day, cubicles create a very uniform space that lacks all sense of character. With this standardized format, workers can feel as though the office is lifeless and dull, lowering moods and creating an environment with much less energy, and optimism, for that matter.


So, where do you stand on the open office vs cubicle debate now? While open offices are all the rage right now, they do come with considerations. But does that mean you resort to the old design of a cubicle? Ultimately, the choice is yours and entirely depends on the office environment you want to cultivate. Whether it's open and collaborative or private and diligent, there’s an office design for you.

For more help exploring coworking spaces, and to find a new office to facilitate your business, our team at 620 N LaSalle is here to help. For more information, contact us today.

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