Open Office or Broken Office?

By Matt Nees 2.09.2015


In case you missed it, The New York Times recently asked a panel of experts to debate the relative merits of cubicles vs. open office layouts as part of their bi-weekly “Room for Debate” feature.


Here’s how the NYT framed the debate:

Though about 70 percent of U.S. workplaces have open office floor plans, numerous studies have shown that employees who work in offices with no or low partitions suffer increased stress from lack of privacy and disrupted concentration — which ultimately decreases worker productivity overall. Should the open office layout be reconsidered? Is it time to bring back the cubicles and the corner offices?


Each panelist had their own unique take on the subject, but as you might expect CSM was most interested in the response that focused on acoustical comfort. Here’s an excerpt of architectural consultant Adam Stoltz’s point of view:


An acoustically comfortable workplace provides appropriate support for interaction, confidentiality and heads-down work through a combination of behavioral protocols, effective zoning and smart material solutions. Designing an effective workplace environment requires a commitment to customization based on each organization; the use of urban planning principles to achieve effective zoning, awareness and accessibility; and solutions that offer employees flexibility, choice and control over where to do their best work.


You can read all of Mr. Stoltz’s response here.

We agree with this sentiment. In our view, the question isn’t necessarily “open office or cube farm” — it’s what office set up works best for you and how can you make that layout acoustically comfortable? All employees would like either workplace if they had the increased speech privacy that sound masking and other acoustical materials provide.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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