There’s a tug of war going on in the business management arena right now. There are those that believe that every employee should have their own office space. And there are those who think that working areas should be open and collaborative.

The battle is being fought in the interest of employees. Those who want individual offices believe that physical separation helps employees work best. They need to be on their own and away from the constant distractions of the office to do great work. But the opposite team argues the reverse.

They think that being cut off actually makes workers less productive. Workers are far more likely to get bogged down using communication tools when on their own, rather than just standing up and going for a quick chat.

There’s a tug of war going on in the business management arena right now. There are those that believe that every employee should have their own office space. And there are those who think that working areas should be open and collaborative.

The battle is being fought in the interest of employees. Those who want individual offices believe that physical separation helps employees work best. They need to be on their own and away from the constant distractions of the office to do great work. But the opposite team argues the reverse.

They think that being cut off actually makes workers less productive. Workers are far more likely to get bogged down using communication tools when on their own, rather than just standing up and going for a quick chat.

This whole issue raises some important questions for office design. Should offices be open and collaborative spaces? Or should they limit distractions and give every worker their own private space? Let’s take a look at what the experts say.

Avoid cube-farms of the 1980s and 1990s

In the late 1980’s and 1990’s, it would be fair to say that office design was in the throes of crisis. Practically every office-based business used cubicles to separate workers from one another cheaply. Since then, office design has become far more open.

But one of the chief criticisms is that it is still blandly functional. Offices in general, tend to lack any character or personality whatsoever. And this then leads to a lack of diversity in the use of the space.

Innovative companies want to change all this. One Workplace’s John Ferrigan says that it’s best to create a bunch of different office “zones” that meet the needs of employees. Sometimes employees will want to come together and chat about an idea.

Other times, they’ll just have their earphones in and want to be left alone. Thus, companies need to focus on setting the scene and getting the atmosphere right.

Ferrigan recommends companies create lots of different spaces, depending on use cases. For instance, some companies have sofa areas where employees can work quietly away from the main hustle and bustle of the office.

Others have secluded meeting rooms, or “nooks” equipped with white boards, desks and banker’s lamps to set the mood. Commercial painters are then hired to further enhance the appeal of these spaces.

Create adjacent spaces

It’s great to have booths and nooks where people can meet and talk about projects. But it’s important that these spaces don’t disturb workers in nearby areas. Ferrigan says that sometimes it’s hard to get the balance right. You want to have spaces that are far away from other workers so as to not disturb them.

But you also don’t want employees walking for miles just to find a space away from their desk to work. He suggests that booths and nooks should be about ten feet from where workers are usually situated. And he recommends that businesses soundproof their walls to prevent disrupting other employees.

Thus the choice doesn’t seem to be between having an open or a closed office. It’s more about creating a hybrid office that meets the needs of everybody.