The recent German study "Office Acoustics: How to effectively design the room acoustics of offices" found that sound management is becoming the primary concern for many office layout designers. According to study authors Catja Hilge and Christian Nocke founders of an acoustics consulting company, the rising popularity of open, collaborative work spaces can cause intellectual distractions due to surrounding noises, which can lower productivity levels.
However, not all sounds are considered noise, and a collaborative environment can also help avoid some distractions in some instances. Employees working in close proximity to each other with no cubicle walls separating them do not have the need for a loud paging system, for example.
On the other hand, even though cubicles are sometimes portrayed as less trendy or are lampooned by comic strips such as "Dilbert," they can also help buffer noise and offer employees more privacy, which improves some employees' concentration. Whether a worker focuses better in a cubicle or in a more collaborative space often depends on the employee's personality and psychology.
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