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Open Office Versus Cubicles: Which Is More Disruptive?


Open Office Versus Cubicles: Which Is More Disruptive?

Open Office Versus Cubicles: Which Is More Disruptive?

Open offices have gotten a bad rap over the last few years, especially for lack of privacy. While it is always a great idea to be flexible in your office design and create spaces for concentration and spaces for open collaboration, I have to ask, “Are open offices really that disruptive compared to 64″ high cubicles?”  I remember working in ‘cubicle land’ with 64″ high cubicle walls and about 60 square feet of space. I can definitely attest to the fact that there was minimal sound privacy in that layout as well. I knew when my cubicle neighbor scheduled their dentist appointment and also what she was bringing home for dinner, every, single weeknight. If sound privacy has always been an issue, are open offices to blame?

Let’s Look at the Research.

If you look at the research at left, compiled by Jungsoo Kim and Richard de Dear and presented by, you’ll see that open office sound privacy complaints actually rank below high-partitioned and low-partitioned cubicles. In fact, if you look closely, the high-partitioned cubicles rated highest in sound privacy complaints. It is certain when looking at the table that there is little difference in dissatisfaction between the open office and cubicles.

Companies make many mistakes when it comes to considering office noise during an the office planning and layout phase. Here are some effective solutions to consider below.





Don’t Cut Corners.

When shopping for new, used or remanufactured cubicles in Houston, be sure and ask about sound-absorbing options. Any additional cost for foam or special fabric in your office cubicles will be recovered in the boost in employee productivity and satisfaction.

Consider these solutions for both Cubicles and Open Office Designs.

  1. Acoustical ceiling and wall panels are widely available. They provide sound-absorbing materials  that  should be incorporated in your overall office cubicle layout and design. These panels are an effective solution used in conjunction with the other solutions listed.
  2. Use plants. According to a Huffpost article by Kenneth Freeman, indoor plants will absorb, deflect and defract sound. The type of plant, its size, shape, the container, top dressings and the compost, all have an effect on the sound reduction capabilities of plant displays.
  3. Sound-absorbing office furniture is becoming popular and proving effective in combating the sound privacy issue. A new line was recently designed by a Swedish office furniture maker.
  4. Office layout is also an important factor when planning your space. Be sure to put the ‘phone/skype jockeys’ in a secluded area where sound absorbing techniques have been put in place. If not, you risk disrupting other employees who will listen to sales pitches and schmoozing all day long.
  5. The floor matters. Don’t forget to consider sound-absorbing qualities in your flooring. The Carpet and Rug Institute has a handy guide available here.
  6. Creating white noise or Sound Masking is an effective solution and provides just that. ROSI Office Systems has a sound masking system at their office furniture and cubicle showroom in Houston. It’s volume controlled so you can add as much or little white noise as needed to mask out conversations.

Since any office other than ultra-private has a negative rating on noise and sound privacy is the number one complaint by office workers, it’s important to consider all the options to mask or eliminate office noise and create a productive office environment whether it’s cubicles in Houston or an open office or both. ROSI Office Systems creates highly effective open offices and cubicles in Houston, Austin and San Antonio, by using some of the solutions above. If you want to know more we can help. Contact ROSI today.


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