The ongoing battle between determined open office adopters and cubicle dwellers continues. It’s not that workers don’t like the feel of open space, but the noise level is the most commonly cited problem with this kind of layout. To battle the constant din, many turn to panel extenders to protect their work bubble and also depend on the “evolving law of technology etiquette,” using isolating techniques such as headphones to defend against the onslaught of office sound.
Background noise causes most of the dismay for office workers in an open environment. While some companies experiment with redesigning acoustics or piping in white noise to provide “sound masking”, scientists continue to measure productivity and happiness levels of workers in different environments. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, report that over 50% of office workers are unhappy with the level of “speech privacy,” in their workplace!
The answer? For some, “pink noise” a soft whooshing emitted over loudspeakers that has been formulated to match the frequencies of human voices can help – in one study, the system was run for three months before being switched off – and the complaints on the day the system wasn’t operated reached epic proportions.
For other, ditching the open office plan altogether and returning to a cubicle layout was the only ay to bring back a feeling of satisfaction and security for workers. Some companies experiment with larger cubicles that allow several co-workers to share space and collaborate, while others allow individual cubicle parameters, using panel extenders to shape each cubicle for the occupying worker’s comfort and convenience.
Low cubicles can allow for an open feeling that isn’t quite as intrusive – with each worker depending on their configuration to create a space that allows for communication without distraction. While some may get useful ideas from overheard conversations, they also say it’s hard to have to retreat to a separate area for private chats or depend on email or chat messaging for privacy even when the party they want to speak with is right next to them.
The open-plan design remains a big selling point for office designers because it is cheaper than cubicles and has been proven to work in certain verticals (such as newsrooms, trading floors and political campaign offices) but the “bullpen” is still not the top choice for those who need more quiet and privacy to remain productive. The cubicle is here to stay!