The Return of Office Cubicles

Author: Tyler Cox


Not long ago, the dominant trend in office design was the open layout— one large workplace filled with dozens of desks. Communication with coworkers involved little more than calling across the room. The term “cubicle farm” was one of disdain, used to mock companies deemed stuffy, unimaginative, and behind the times. A 2017 Forbes article estimated that 70% of U.S. offices were of the open layout variety.


As companies seek to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic and maintain social distancing, however, that open floor plan has fallen out of favor, and offices are seeing a cubicle comeback as an easy and effective solution. Heighten the cubicle dividers with a bit of plexiglass, and employees can’t help but maintain social distancing.


And protection against the possible spread of COVID isn’t the only benefit companies are seeing from a return to cubicles. Although open-layout offices were purported to foster creativity and communication, many companies found out they had the opposite effect. A 2019 report spotlighted in the Harvard Business Review pointed out that workplaces adopting an open layout saw face-to-face interactions fall dramatically.


On the other hand, Cubicles can help improve employee morale by providing workers with their own private space. A variety of studies have shown that providing workers with cubicles they can personalize helps decrease emotional exhaustion, increase productivity, and foster socialization and networking.


A Cubicle Comeback

Preparing for the transformation back to the cubicle, though, will involve more than just setting up rows of dividers and adding that plexiglass. Consider, for example, the unintended consequences of those high walls. They’re likely to create an echo that may be an issue for those workers who spend much of their day on the phone.


And while you’re addressing that issue, it might be a good time to rethink the technology workers will need in those cubicles.


Consider the office technology developed by Yamaha Unified Communication. For the echo issue, there’s the YVC-200 personal or work-from-home speakerphone. The YVC-200 incorporates an adaptive echo canceller, along with noise reduction, automatic gain control, and Human Voice Activity Detection (HVAD).


And even though the popularity of the cubicle farm is rising, workers will still need those huddle rooms or meeting spaces to brainstorm important projects or communicate with other teams around the country or around the world.


For starters, there’s the YVC-330 portable USB & Bluetooth conference phone. With new SoundCap technology, the YVC-330 eliminates background noise to allow participants on the other end of the call to focus on the conversation.


When it comes to including video in the communication, consider one of Yamaha UC’s video sound bars. With the addition of a video sound bar, users can transform any screen or projector into a full-fledged video conferencing system. Easily mounted on a wall, these all-in-one systems combine speakers, microphones, and a camera into a sleek unit. 


And for larger spaces, Yamaha offers a line of microphone systems that can help ensure every participant in a meeting can be heard clearly.


To learn more about keeping the office safe, check out these articles on cleaning and sanitizing the office.