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Which is better: Cubicles and Offices or Open Workspaces?

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“With technology and email, employees in offices tend to become office ‘hermits,’ and don’t come out to socialize or collaborate as often. Our marketing manager has a candy bowl in her office that brings employees into her office to ‘talk story’ and at the same time grab a snack (to get people to interact more).”

— Eric Tessem, Senior VP and GM, DCK Pacific Construction



Cubicles at Blue Planet Software create a more traditional

Offices with doors prevent information leaks.

Photo: David Croxford



“It really depends on what you’re doing. There are things I thought were very beneficial with open cubicles. But with some of the work I do now, it would be hard. I’m on the phone a lot with business partners and being able to shut the door is probably better for those outside my office so they don’t have to listen to me.”

— Danny Han, marketing and PR manager, Blue Planet Software Inc.





Blue Startups’ multifunction areas allow for meetings and play

Photo: David Croxford


“In public accounting, every engagement involves a team. We try to provide an environment in the office that supports that effort and allows them to discuss ideas, ask questions and solve problems together.”

— Trisha Nomura, Partner, PKF Pacific Hawaii LLP






Photo: David Croxford

On Distractions:

“One of the disadvantages (of an open office) is that it’s more difficult to shut out what’s happening at other people’s desks – a phone call, a Skype chat, drive-by conversations, aggressive drumming on an electric drum set. For people like me who have a tendency toward procrastination, the temptation to participate in what someone else is doing is more powerful than the blinking cursor on my screen.”

— Catharine Lo, communications director, Blue Planet Foundation




“We see what each other does so we appreciate each other more. People who may have been hidden before, due to where they sat or because of their personality, now feel much more appreciated and valued for their work. That’s priceless.”

— Sara Belczak, Senior Interior Designer, Architects Hawaii Ltd.




“Unions have been notoriously picked on as being … filled with corruption. Our intent was to show openness and transparency to both our members and the public. That’s why we decided to incorporate sliding glass doors for our offices and low partitions which also allow us to collaborate more easily.”

— Damien T.K. Kim, Business Manager/Financial Secretary, IBEW Local 1186

Open concept at Architects Hawaii promotes communication and transparency

Photo: Courtesy of Architects Hawaii




“I’ve worked in an office and in a cubicle space. I am personally an extrovert and enjoy working right next to my colleagues and sharing information, ideas and an occasional laugh. As long as I’m near a window, I’m happy!”

— Katie Vanes, Assistant Account Executive, Becker Communications Inc.






“Sixty-five percent of the cost of standard cubicles is due to the panels. If you eliminate the panels, the cost decreases significantly for a workstation. Open spaces also give the office access to natural light which not only improves morale, but saves money on energy bills.”

— Lester Ng, Senior Associate, Architects Hawaii Ltd.



On Collaboration:

“We have found that by giving each employee their own workspace, allowing for an area to collaborate in the middle, and providing the best views in the office, offers a set up where they can be efficient and productive. When employees are happy with their physical space, it impacts the way that they work.”

—Trisha Nomura, Partner, PKF Pacific Hawaii LLP




“As a firm, I think our hybrid solution works best because, depending on the duties of the individual, a collaborative or private environment makes the most sense. I personally prefer an office because much of the work I do is private in nature, including confidential discussions with both team members and clients.”

— Brian Bowers, president, Bowers + Kubota Consulting



Thoughtful Design

“Space shapes our behaviors, so if organizations want to foster the types of behaviors that encourage growth, innovation and creativity, you have to invest in the spaces that do that. And that means creating a variety of places for people to work, some open plan and some private, quiet spaces for groups and individuals to focus.”

—Linda Kano, president, Interior Showplace Ltd.

Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

Old to new | New to old
Oct 24, 2013 03:46 pm
 Posted by  captj

We currently recommend providing both as an optimum, if space and budget allows. A private office or semi private cubicle space, and a designated space in an open forum concept.
Very few people do not need both, and productivity numbers support the concept. These are both permanent installations, where a person can move from space to space with their devices in hand.
We find it fascinating to hear of reluctant ones that open up and join in after years of hiding in an office.

Mar 19, 2014 04:27 am
 Posted by  bridgetteJ

Sometimes cubicles are necessary, though most times they are not. A cubicle like this; might be a little too much, but imagine it without the walls? Or maybe only one side? I'm game.

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