Judging by the image most people have of the typical modern IT company, from Facebook and Google to countless startups, it seems like cubicles are a thing of the past in today's offices. Open layouts have gradually taken over, with about 70 percent of all American offices now using them, according to a study from the International Facility Management Association (IFMA).
Open offices promote collaboration and reduce the barriers, both literal and figurative, between employees and upper management. However, there is mounting evidence that suggests businesses have been too hasty to jump on the open office bandwagon. The Journal of Environmental Psychology published a study on workplace satisfaction that shows the noise and loss of privacy can negatively affect productivity.
Those factors are especially an issue for employees who are used to working in a closed office and are now being forced to adapt to a completely new way of doing things. On the other hand, a growing number of younger people who are just now entering the workforce may never know any other layout than an open one, and won't have the same problems.
"Let us all admit two things," writes author Susan Cain in The New York Times. "One, at their best, open office plans can be sunny, companionable and cost-effective. Two, human beings need focus to get their work done, and privacy to stay sane. The best offices of the future will stop debating these truths, and find a way to balance them."
A combination of closed and open spaces may be the trend of the near future. Companies should always strive to ensure that their employees are comfortable through the use of quality office furniture and a layout that encourages teamwork while respecting people's privacy.