Corporate Wellbeing Asia 2023
human resources online

Cubicles vs open floor: What employees like and dislike about their offices

In most parts of the corporate world, gone are the days of stuffy, formal clothing and fluorescent lighting. Here to stay are casual dress codes and cozy furniture (did someone mention bean bags?). Even cubicles are disappearing, often replaced with much-debated open floor plans.

[Check out our special column dedicated to featuring the coolest office spaces, Spacial Awareness]

In a new study by Olivet Nazarene University, 2,009 US-based office workers were asked how satisfied they are with their office environment, and in what ways it contributes to their happiness and productivity. Some of the most interesting findings are summarised below.

What type of office do people work in?

The majority of respondents (34%) work in an office space that is a mix of open floor and private offices (34%). This type of layout has overtaken the popular cubicle-led workspace (28%).

Just over a fifth (21%) work in private offices, while a fewer 13% work in an open floor with assigned space/seats, and just 4% work in an open floor with no assigned space/seats.


What makes employees the happiest (and unhappiest) about their offices?

Natural light is the one factor that majority of respondents said makes them love their workspace, while a noisy office was the most disliked factor making employees unproductive.

Things that make for a happy office:

  • Natural light
  • Free drinks (coffee, tea, etc.)
  • Comfortable meeting spaces
  • Free snacks
  • Pet-friendly policy
  • Onsite amenities
  • Walkable areas
  • Cool decor
  • Outdoor space
  • Standing desks
  • Games
Things that employees dislike most about their offices:
  • It's too noisy
  • There's no privacy
  • Too many visual distractions
  • There's too little energy
  • I feel like I'm on display
  • I'm too isolated
  • It's too quiet


Headphones: The answer to office distractions

A majority (53%) of employees regularly wear headphones in the office. Most of the headphone-wearers listen to music (59%), but a significant 21% also plug in to podcasts.

Audiobooks are popular with 8% of respondents, while a fewer 7% listen to nothing despite wearing their headphones, and another 7% listen to white noise.

Working from home: Fully clothed or going bare?

If you've got colleagues working remotely or working from home, you probably need to give them adequate heads up before scheduling that video call - a quarter (25%) admit that on days they work from home, they dress in "a way that I wouldn't want anyone to see", while one in three said they have worked naked or in their underwear.

Thankfully, the majority (59%) said they dress more casually than they would for work, while a more disciplined 18% said remote working implies they dress the same as they would for office.

Dressing is, however, the least of employees' worries while working from home. The hardest thing about working remotely, they say, are the distractions (46%). Signing off at the end of a work day (18%) and collaborating/communicating with co-workers (18%) also features in the list of concerns.

Lower down the order are worries such as being accountable (9%), miscommunication (5%), and finding reliable WiFi (4%).

In-line graphics / Olivet Nazarene UniversityLead image / 123RF

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