Are Cubicles on the Way Out?

Somewhere, some place, someone had the brilliant idea that you could cram a bunch of employees into a large room without the cost of putting in office walls and doors and save a small fortune. You needed less space and your construction costs were minimized. Sounds great in theory, but what many are now realizing is that productivity can suffer and the long term costs can therefore far outweigh the initial build-out savings. But, just how does productivity suffer? There are a number of ways.

Lower Overall Morale

In order to get the most productivity out of your employees, they need to feel appreciated. They don’t feel that you value them when you provide them with barely more than elbow room to conduct their work. If they feel hemmed in, both physically and mentally, their overall morale will begin to sink and productivity suffers.

Lack of Team Spirit

Cubicle walls keep your employees from interacting with others and they won’t feel much like part of a team. They are less likely to share ideas when it entails getting up and walking around numerous cubicle walls to do so. The result is a sense of individualism rather than team effort which can be a real problem in many industries where collective ideas breed more imaginative results.

Stifled Energy

It is difficult to feel the excitement emanating from a room full of activity when you are safely ensconced behind cubicle walls. Energy begets energy, and cubicles are the anti-energy workplace. When your employees are sheltered in their own little world, it is easy to lose focus and fall victim to mundane distractions.

Ways to Improve a Cubicle Work Space Environment

It may initially seem counterproductive, but many companies are simply getting rid of the cubicle walls and creating an open space environment instead. They are finding that the ability for their staff to share ideas instantly is resulting in higher production overall, and stronger ideas as well. Everyone is now feeling like part of a team and morale is higher as a result.

Additionally, some are offering additional workspaces where employees can avail themselves when they feel the need to. For example, you should provide private conference rooms so that when some of your employees need to collaborate on a project, they can meet without distractions or having to shout over others.

Setting up a lounge area that someone could go to when they need a change of scenery is another option. Make it comfortable and casual with couches and other seating that those needing this kind of environment for creative energy tasks can go.

There are also things that you can do within the confines of a cubicle that can help boost production. Provide them with the type of desk or chair that they desire, ones they have chosen themselves. Some are finding that standing desks work well for them, so if they ask for that, get it for them, as well as a quality standing desk mat so they do not experience foot, leg and lower back fatigue. Just the process of showing them that you value them enough to help them have a space that fits their needs can do wonders for morale and thus productivity.

So, Are Cubicles on the Way Out?

As long as real estate prices are continually on the increase, along with other overhead expenses, the business world will continue to embrace cubicles as an economical way to house a staff. In some industries it may always be preferable even if cost was not a factor.

However, many companies are making the shift away from cubicles in the hopes that the benefits will outweigh the costs. Some companies are replacing them with individual offices while others are getting rid of the cubicle walls and creating a completely open space environment. For businesses where sharing and collaboration are vital, an open space environment makes a lot of sense.

Another interesting trend is non-dedicated work spaces. Some believe that a person’s productivity can be increased by letting them choose the best environment for a specific task at hand throughout the day. So, they provide a variety of work areas including lounges, offices, libraries, conference rooms and open areas. This allows people to judge for themselves whether they need hustle and bustle for energy, or solitude for concentration. It won’t work for every type of industry, but it is a viable option for many.

There may never be an exact answer as to which is better – cubicles, offices, open work areas or varied work areas – when it comes to productivity. The reason for that is because people are as varied as the companies that they work for. You could even have different departments that have different needs. The savvy business owner is the one that listens to their staff so that they have their finger on the pulse of their company. Eventually it may well come down to having various types all represented, including giving some staff the option of working remotely. Once you find the right environment, they’ll be able to provide you with their best and you will have accomplished a win-win situation.


Many decisions go into business operations and setting up the workspace configuration may be one of the most critical. Taking the time to research how each style would work for your particular industry is an important step. Many things can detract from productivity including employee turnover, inability to keep quality personnel and people working below their abilities due to being dissatisfied. If you have a place where people love to work, they will work to the best of their abilities and will want to stay in your employ.