Blog - How to Design for Privacy in the Office

How to Design for Privacy in the Office

Office spaces with open floor plans were originally designed to inspire collaboration and drive innovation. However, recent research suggests that this strategy actually creates stress for employees and lack of privacy in the workplace is a serious issue. Too much interaction in the office is draining and employees need time alone to decompress, recharge, and refocus. Another key takeaway from this research is that it’s all about balance. If your organization has an open floor plan, it’s important to take steps now to meet your employees’ need for privacy at work. Learn why office privacy matters and four ways you can address privacy issues in your workspace.

Why office privacy matters

A study by Harvard Business School found that workers were less productive in an open office because the layout triggered a withdrawal response—employees focused on avoiding distractions and as a result, face-to-face interactions actually decreased by 70% while electronic communication increased. Additionally, noise and disruptions coming from open areas can hurt productivity and cause workers to feel overwhelmed. One study found that once interrupted, it takes 23 minutes for a person’s mind to regain focus on work.

How to tackle workspace privacy issues

This lack of privacy at work is taking a toll on productivity and engagement. That’s why many office designers are looking for quick and easy ways to meet various workforce privacy needs including quiet areas where employees can concentrate, focus on individual tasks, and meet with small teams without interruption. There are a number of options businesses can use to create different work environments in existing office space such as office privacy panels and office privacy booths.

Four ways to address privacy at work

The most successful organizations are providing flexible workspaces that balance collaboration and privacy needs. Minimize distractions and provide a flexible work environment for employees with innovative solutions that solve four levels of privacy concerns:
1. Minimize visual distractions with office privacy panels.
When creating a private environment, it’s important to offer space that provides visual protection so workers can concentrate and/or unwind. Employees need a break from open office layouts, sometimes referred to as “the fish bowl,” and often seek visual privacy to limit distractions. Office privacy solutions include demountable walls, screens, high-back seating, or a wraparound office privacy booth.
2. Reduce the impact of office noise pollution.
Audio or acoustic privacy minimizes sound. Demountable wall partitions used to provide visual privacy are also a great way to manage sound. Acoustic privacy can also be achieved through the use of office privacy booths, or “phone booths,” a cozy space where employees can go to focus on projects or meet with a colleague or two for a quick conversation. To reduce noise in an open environment, choose soft furnishings and sound-absorbing panels and be sure to add some distance between open spaces and workstations.
3. Give employees a space they can call their own.
Another way to create privacy in the office is by providing employees with a defined space in which to work. The need for personal space, or territorial privacy, should not be overlooked. Simply providing a personalized space defined by office privacy panels and accessories, give employees a sense of ownership and peace of mind.
4. Promote well-being and opportunity for downtime.
Psychological privacy is the ability to control emotional and mental well-being. It’s important to offer a variety of zones throughout the office, including both open and private environments, to meet the needs of your workforce. Some workers simply need a small, comfortable spot to recharge, while others need a quiet, secluded room to get away from it all.

Balance collaboration with office privacy needs

Modern workers need some privacy in the office to be more creative, productive, and engaged. The most successful organizations are providing a mix of spaces to meet employee needs for both quiet concentration and team project work. There are some simple ways your organization can create privacy in the office using office privacy panels and office privacy booths. Be sure to consider how each office design affects privacy at work including visual, acoustic, territorial and psychological. Asure Software helps businesses increase productivity with solutions that manage office space, track usage and optimize layouts.

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