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Concentration, Distraction & Focus

Intro: Study Spaces / Office Settings

Office Floorplan and Room Types

Cell / Cubical / Partition / Assigned Shared Partitioned Partially Enclosed Space. (photo) The cell office organization is for individual concentrated work with little interaction. Autonomous individuals occupy the office, and may also need to use meeting or huddle rooms. It is a cheaper and more flexible set up than built-in offices. Individual spaces are set up with temporary walls to form a 3-sided box with one side open. Cubicles are sometimes set up in two-person or four-person arrangements to facilitate teamwork.

Club. The club office organization is often used for work that requires employees to be both autonomous and interactive. Employee use of the club space varies over the working day. A variety of shared task-based settings serve both concentrated individual and group interactive work. Furniture is often movable to meet the current task needs and may have special equipment to support the work.  

Den. The den office organization is associated with interactive group process work. The space is designed for group working with a range of several simple settings, including low partition cells, team members close to each other, with shared open tables and work spaces.

Half-Partition Layout. (photo) Half-partitions are cubicles with walls low enough for employees to interact. This option is more cost-effective than full cubicles. Employees usually have individualized assigned cubes. Reception desks often have partial partition designs.  

Hive. The hive office is characterized by individual routine process work with low levels of interaction and individual autonomy where workers sit at basic, individually-assigned workstations with minimal partitions for continuous periods of time on a regular schedule.

Huddle Space / Small Meeting Room.  (photo) Huddle rooms are small meeting areas equipped with tables and chairs, white boards, audio, video, and display software. Meant for a small group, huddle rooms allow employees to collaborate in impromptu meetings without needing to reserve or book a meeting space.

Library.  (photo) Libraries are symbols of quiet time and focus work. Libraries in office design serve the role of providing dedicated, shared quiet space to escape the noise of an office while being surrounded by like-minded individuals, inspiring people to be productive, contemplative, or reflective.

Lounge Area.  (photo) Like a great coffee shop or home living space people crave to spend time in, lounge areas are about crafted ambiance zones that the rest of the office space lacks. Couches and coffee tables in a humanistic atmosphere can support for informal collaboration, connection with colleagues, and individual focus time.

Office Break Rooms / Kitchenette. (photo) Often a small kitchen or part of a room equipped as a kitchen that includes tables, trash receptacles, small kitchen appliances and a sink usually designed as a simple, utilitarian space. The best break rooms are designed so employees can recharge or connect with colleagues in an attractive, functional space.  

Open Plan Office / Unassigned Work Space. (photoAs an entirely open space with hot-desking, open plan layouts do away with cubicles and personal offices. This layout encourages communication and movement across the office and is promoted as an affordable option for smaller businesses. They can be lighter and brighter because of the lack of dividing walls. They are highly flexible spaces and can encourage flat hierarchy business models. There is less privacy and control of noise and distractions in an Open Plan Office.  

Private Office. (photo) The traditional private office layout provides employees with their own individual room with a door to close.

Team-Based Layout. (photo) A team-based office design is a combination of large open spaces with some closed layouts, with larger cubicles or rooms designated for teams to gather (e.g. IT, sales, finance). This layout fosters collaboration between those that need to work closely together, while reducing the unstructured nature of a fully open plan office.

See also:

Unassigned Work Spaces by Herman-Miller

Behaviors to Encourage with an Unassigned Workplace Strategy Herman-Miller


Laing, A., Duffy, F., Jaunzens, D., and Willis, S. (1998) New Environments for Working: The redesign of offices and the environmental systems for new ways of working, E and FN Spon, London.

WHY WE’RE SO DISTRACTED? Think Better Neuroscience: The Next Competitive Advantage (From Steelcase)

Designing for Distraction: Solutions to help people manage attention (from Steelcase)

Some of the distractions we face are innate. Just as we crave flow, we’re also hardwired to seek out what is novel and new. We are drawn to voices in a crowd and motion in our peripheral vision. It’s almost irresistible. 

Learn More: Study Spaces / Office Settings

There’s nothing dystopian at all about these high-tech blinkers for humans


They block out your peripheral vision to help you concentrate in the office

Employees need an escape from working in the same place during their day (What Workers Want from Steelcase)

8 Of Google’s Craziest Offices  

Office Snapshot's ( searchable and sortable photo catalog of modern offices. 

Inside Amazon's New Rainforest Office Space

Herman Miller's Living Office

Steelcase's New Work. New Rules. How hyper-collaboration is redefining teamwork and me work.

Office Remix: Why the hottest trend in office design delivers lukewarm performance and what to do about it

Here’s the final nail in the coffin of open plan offices: Harvard Business School finds open plan offices don’t live up to the hype

Does Your Work Matter? Q+A with Adam Grant    "When I walk into companies where there’s a separate floor for executives and they all have their own offices, it’s like you’re in a labyrinth . . . That doesn’t mean I’m a big fan of open plan offices which often wreak havoc for introverts . . . .  leaders should sit in the same general territory as the people who work with them, but we should also give everybody a chance to close the door when they need to focus."

Steelcase Education

Higher Ed Harnesses the Power of Physical Space (Steelcase)

The Innovation Campus: Building Better Ideas (New York Times Article)

Search Results

Web Result with Site Links

IlliniSpaces™ Find the Perfect Place to Study a web app that helps students at the University of Illinois to find campus study spaces and computer labs that meet specific criteria.

Planning and Designing Academic Library Learning Spaces: Expert Perspectives of Architects, Librarians, and Library Consultants

What do students want in a library? Findings from MIT

College Students Just Want Normal Libraries: Schools have been on a mission to reinvent campus libraries—even though students just want the basics.

 National Institute of Building Sciences Academic Libraries

Distractions in the workplace revisited [KVCC Link] (a holistic and systematic understanding of open plan office designs: the sustainability of two extremely contrasting requirements, concentration and collaboration, in the same workspace and work environment.)