Cubicles are the anatomy of the traditional office. They’ve served as shells where office workers kept focus and held a sense of privacy.

But, that way of thinking is changing. The way people work is transforming. Well, sort of…

In the traditional office setting, people interacted mainly within the dimensions of their own cubicles. People only left that space for breaks, meetings, or to leave and go home.

But now, many managers are choosing to switch things up and adopt a system called the open-concept workplace- where the less spatial boundaries there are, the more people will be encouraged to discuss, collaborate and gain a deeper collective intelligence. It’s a workplace with no dividers– where there is no sense of “us and them.”

However, social and environmental psychologists are arguing that boundaries serve more of a purpose than we think:

“Spatial boundaries have long served a functional role at multiple levels of analysis, helping people make sense of their environment by modularizing it, clarifying who is watching and who is not, who has information and who does not, who belongs and who does not, who controls what and who does not, to whom one answers and to whom one does not.”

So, we ask: when do you most feel productive at the office? Are you alone? Are you with others? Are you doing something you enjoy? Has something inspired you?

Whenever you feel your strokes of genius, what space are you in?

The results? It’s up for debate.

In a recent Harvard study, the results were surprising. Harvard researchers Ethan Bernstein and Stephen Turban’s study consisted of  150 participating employees wearing something called a sociometric badge. Movement, location, posture and even the number of text messages and emails were tracked for three weeks.  The amount of face-to-face interaction decreased by 70%when an open space concept was applied. Email increased from 20% and 50%.

The open concept showed that more people were socially disengaging and opting for email and other indirect communication platforms like texting, instant messaging, etc.

On the other hand, the University of Arizona studied four different government buildings. A total of 231 office workers were given heart monitors and had their movement tracked for three days. The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship between health and wellness and workplace design. Another purpose was to test the behaviors and responses in real time to measure the levels of perceived stress.

The results showed that office workers who were in open offices were 32% more active than those in private offices and 20% more active than those who kept to their cubicle. What they found was that the more physical activity going on, less perceived stress was recorded.


The mixed results leave us to decide for ourselves what office plans are best for efficiency, productivity, and overall health.

So what side are you on?

In with the new and out with the old? Or don’t fix what isn’t broken?

At Century Building Maintenance, we are excited to share our blog posts with you in all things facilities management!! Find us on Instagram!


Bernstein ES, Turban S. 2018 The impact of the ‘open’ workspace on human collaboration.Phil. Trans. R. Soc. B 373: 20170239. <>

Lindberg CMSrinivasan KGilligan B, et al Effects of office workstation type on physical activity and stress. 

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