Pros & Cons of Private Offices vs. Open Workspaces

Over the past few decades, companies have shifted from private offices to open workspaces. The International Facilities Management Association estimates 70 percent of businesses in the United States use open workspaces, but each option has its pros and cons.

Private Offices

You go to work and head to your own office or a walled-off cubicle to begin your day. The walls and doors afford you privacy for working with sensitive information, taking phone calls and handling confidential matters. The isolated area allows you to minimize interruptions throughout the day, as your coworkers tend to stay out of your private space unless they need to ask or request something. You can keep your productivity high, especially when you work on projects requiring focused attention.

The separate areas also lower noise levels throughout the building. Conversations, phone calls, music and other sounds don’t carry across the entire space. Sound-proofing equipment helps to reduce this further.

This isolation has a downside by cutting down on communication with your coworkers. You have to leave your office, go into theirs and spend time away from your workstation to collaborate. You also have fewer chances to meet other employees. When you interact with the same limited group every day, you miss opportunities to discover cross-department ideas.

Open Workspaces

The barriers of cubicle walls and secluded offices are removed in this configuration, with an arrangement that typically offers a large common area. It’s easy to re-position chairs and workstations to form collaborative groups and encourage impromptu meetings between employees. You face little to no barrier to communication, so insights and feedback flow naturally throughout the day.

Open work environments also fit more employees in the same space, so it’s more cost-effective than outfitting the building with private offices or cubicles. Your overhead costs also decrease due to natural lighting throughout the space. By eliminating dividing walls, you also keep your furniture costs low.

Employee productivity may be at risk due to distractions. People may talk too loudly and disrupt concentration, you don’t have a place for private phone calls and sound travels far. The average person loses 86 minutes daily due to this problem. While networking and collaboration occur naturally in this space, off-topic discussions cut into the work day. Introverted workers may feel drained and stressed by being surrounded by people for the entire day.

Which Office Setup Is Right for Your Company?

Both options offer advantages and disadvantages, and what works for another company may not suit yours. You also don’t have to stick solely to one or the other in office space design. The commercial real estate arrangement can adapt based on the current needs of the company, with the flexibility to change in the future. Some businesses use a hybrid setup designed to leverage the advantages of private and open, such as using a large common area lined with private meeting rooms and phone booths.

You have compelling arguments for choosing either office environment. The makeup of your workforce, the nature of your business and your budget all factor into your final decision. Reach out to your employees and discover their thoughts on the matter as well. Their preferences may end up being quite different from your original office vision.