SURVEY SAYS: Work Spaces for Optimal Productivity

PLANSPONSOR NewsDash readers weigh in on which type of work space offers them optimal productivity.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, “Which type of work space do you prefer for optimal productivity?

Nearly two-thirds (65.5%) of responding readers said they prefer a private office with the door closed, while one-quarter prefer an open work space in which employees have their own desks but may be in cubicles or in rooms together. The rest prefer to work from home for optimal productivity.

Having worked in all three types of work spaces, I feel cubicles and a room full of desks are both definitely “open” work spaces. However, many responding readers who chose to leave a comment didn’t agree. In addition, many noted that my qualifier “with the door closed” was limiting. I agree I should have said “with a door that can close.” Of course noise was the most commonly cited problem with open work spaces, and I agree with all the respondents that said these types of work spaces are not conducive to work calls; one reader had a funny story about that. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “It is very distracting hearing ‘neighbors’ discussing personal things when I am trying to work. Kind of like bathrooms, prefer one with a closed door and not stalls to get the job done!!”

Thank you to all who participated in the survey!


Open work spaces tend to get too noisy.

Home is the only true uninterrupted work space. When at the office, with a door or not; or in an open space, the distraction from co-workers who need “just a minute” of my time is relentless.

I chose private office but your qualifier “with the door closed” was an unfortunate addition that confuses the issue. I love my own office but I never close the door unless I am discussing confidential matters. You can have an open environment with separate offices!

I like to do my own thing without being watched by whomever.

Depends on the nature of specific tasks. When quiet concentration is needed, certainly a private office or home setting are preferred. When engaged in a variety of daily collaborative tasks, open work areas are more productive

Coworkers with loud ringtones and/or loud indoor voices always seem to ruin “open” work spaces for me.

Definitely some walls around me – cubicle or otherwise. The totally open office space sounds terrible.

I don’t have an office but it would be my preferred work space for productivity. Next best is my current situation the cube. Kiddos would never let me get anything done at home and I’m useless without my double screens so working offsite would be less productive.

Like a private office, but the door need not be closed.

Just moved from a job with an office to a new job with a completely open office environment. I don’t need an office (small conference rooms are usually available), but I’d love some short walls to provide physical personal space.

I like a small private office, but with the door OPEN!

For my team, I like an open workspace. For me, as an old guy, I like having my own office. Nothing like a little consistency, right?

The first choice above doesn’t differentiate between individual, permanently assigned cubicles that offer some degree of privacy and one’s own permanent, personal “space” and the true open work space that requires employees to sit close together, in a different location daily, and carry all belongings away nightly. We used to mock assigned cubicles, long the norm. In hindsight they were so much better than the subsequent open workspaces that are like a high school lunch room in every way. Noise, smell, proximity to co-workers. So demoralizing and distracting.

An office door can remain open for anyone to walk in as they need to and remain closed as needed. Open space is always open irrespective of the need for privacy.

Our company is slowly moving to open, unassigned space and I’m dreading the day it comes to me. I need a desk that’s mine alone!

Years before ‘cubicles’ the open floor was just a huge room with desks-virtually no privacy, but also lots of noise – for some they might consider it white noise after a while, but mentally and physically exhausting at the end of the day. The cubicle brainchild came along (really a marketing scam) that gave the appearance of privacy, but only visually and then only if the partitions used where ‘tall’. Unfortunately, what people need/desire is quiet, not a cave. Glass partitions to the ceiling, maybe with doors, is a better solution, but office pecking orders, i.e., size of office, solid walls, desk size, and other accoutrements, are difficult traditions to break.

Actually, I don’t mind a private cube. When I did have an office with a door, it was always open unless I was speaking with employees. Needed more options on your survey. 🙂

As the Director of my department, I deal with sensitive and confidential information all day long. I can’t imagine doing this without being able to close my door from time to time. The door is open 95% of the time however!

Open space is too noisy – too many people playing with their phones. I have a private office, but rarely close the door unless I’m discussing confidential information. Working from home is fine, but I feel disconnected from the rest of the team. All things in moderation. I’m 68 yrs old.

I find an open workspace to be distracting. And I spend a lot of time on the phone with clients and would prefer privacy and not to overhear other conversations.

We recently retooled our office to the open floor plan and I hate it. As an “older” employee who had an office, I feel there is less office working space and forget privacy. My subordinates also think I am now breathing down their necks as well. I’m sure some people like it.

Cubicles need high walls–the noise can be too much!

There are at least two other options, one office shared by two, a private office with glass wall and open door, both of which I have had that are in between the full open office concept.

I have an office but the door is frequently open. If closed, I miss out on the discussions and updates in our office.

I find it less distracting to be in a private office. If I want to collaborate with colleagues, all I need to do is leave my office.

Open workspaces don’t really work for engaging clients where background noise and confidentiality are important considerations.

As I try to respond to this survey, there are 4 different loud conversations occurring around me, making any concentration impossible. With proper consideration for coworkers, open space works; unfortunately, that’s the exception rather than the rule.

I don’t generally need the door closed, but being in HR, I do feel I need a door TO close when necessary rather than the open plan. Some jobs would work well with that, however, especially when it’s a team environment and collaboration throughout the day is necessary.

Don’t need to close the office door, would just like to have real walls. I work with a bunch of people who apparently never developed “indoor voices” – they yell over walls instead of getting up and going to someone’s desk to ask questions. And the use of telephone headsets has them “projecting” into mid-air for all to hear. I can’t stand wearing anything on my head, so wearing headphones is out of the question (it’s also been banned). Very difficult to concentrate on reading Treasury regs with all of the not-so-background noise.

I have confidential conversations and cannot speak freely in an open area. They are also noisy and distracting, and there is absolutely no privacy. To be productive I need to feel comfortable in my space, which to me means that I can close the door if need be.

Prefer office with OPEN door with ability to close

I work with numbers, so I prefer quiet. Plus I work with a group of people who talk politics all day, so let me shut my door!!

A private office with an open door is best. I only close it when dealing with a confidential issue or when I am having trouble focusing with it open.

It boils down to the type of work that determines which workspace that is most productive.

Open spaces are a joke. Everyone thinks Millennials want open collaborative spaces…but, when you look around the office, these same Millennials all have their headphones in their ears. Maybe I am just getting old…

As long as the space is relatively quiet, I don’t think it matters what the format is too much.

Funny story about an open office setup where a number of people were on the same conference call. One individual muted their phone and asked a question of a colleague one table down….whose phone wasn’t muted. Other side heard more than what was intended.

I’ve worked in both, and open work spaces create a lot of challenges. Searching for an open conference room to take a phone call with a client is difficult because people camp in them to do their regular work.

As long as I have my own cubicle I’m fine. I have no desire to sit in a mosh pit right next to my co-workers and smell them all day. That is reserved for immediate family only!

It is very distracting hearing “neighbors” discussing personal things when I am trying to work. Kind of like bathrooms, prefer one with a closed door and not stalls to get the job done!!

I prefer an office but with some glass in the walls to bring in light, and so that visually I can see activity within the office. I also like the option of keeping the office door open or closed.

I just want a place to put family pictures down, without having to put everything away in a middle school locker. These ‘hoteling’ environments are the result of decisions made by people who will never work in that environment.

The “open work space” that our company is adopting are long banquet tables where everyone sits right next to everyone else. A cafeteria type setting. How is that productive when everyone has to make phone calls to clients?

Having a door allows you to signal when you are open for drop in conversation. If the door is closed, you are busy. If the door is open, you are available.

Noise is very distracting to me. Even someone who is a loud typer.

I work in Human Resources, and need an area with privacy to work with sensitive information as well as when dealing directly with employees or on telephone calls regarding employee items such as compensation, benefits, performance, etc.

Open work spaces are filled with distractions that impede concentration. My idea of hell!

I like the higher cube walls, the low ones (waist high) are just not conducive to a good working environment.

Quieter … allows focus … you can have a call with clients w/o the entire floor being privy … offices are a simply superior form of employee space for productivity, and therefore net return

Prefer cubicles. Work in open work space now and there is too much of everyone in each other’s business with too much arguing and not enough productivity

The only people who like open spaces are the as*holes who get to keep their offices. The only thing worse than the ubiquitous cube “farms” are these frigging “plug and play” “open” work spaces. And by “open,” I assume they mean abandon all hope of getting any actual work done…ever.

I don’t need the door closed, but I need a door that can close. I can certainly see the benefit with communications and collaboration in our office areas. Besides the confidential information HR deals with, I am too easily distracted by every other conversation to work in an open environment.


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) or its affiliates.