When it comes to office design, open plan and collaborative spaces are the trend of the moment. Without a doubt, the open office has its benefits, and works well for certain types of organizations. For example, they are thought to help encourage collaboration and teamwork, and can help cut real estate expenses.
However, the one important element the open concept office lacks is workplace privacy. This is a matter of concern, especially when it has an impact on employee productivity.
At the same time, forcing employees to work in isolation defeats the purpose of having a team. So, what is the right office design approach?
Why is Employee Privacy in the Workplace Important?
Studies show that nearly 85 percent of employees complain about a lack of privacy in the workplace, which affects their ability to concentrate. Not surprisingly, this is a global phenomenon not restricted to one country or city.
Ringing phones, conversations, and other typical office noise can lead to overstimulation and act as a distraction. Too much noise can also trigger stress in the human body, which can have an adverse impact on an individual’s overall health.
How Does Lack of Privacy Impact Productivity?
One Harvard study indicates that lack of privacy (that is seen when working in an open office) results in lesser interaction between employees, contrary to popular belief. The study argues that a collaborative workspace actually makes your workplace less collaborative.
Harvard researchers studied the employees of two Fortune 500 companies before and after moving to an open concept office design. After adopting the open concept layout, the researchers found employee face to face interaction dipped from 5.8 hours to 1.7 hours per week.
The co-authors of the study summed up an explanation of their findings in the below statement:
“Rather than prompting increasingly vibrant face-to-face collaboration, open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email and IM.”
Not only did face to face interaction decrease, but more notably, so did employee productivity. According to one company’s internal performance management system, employee productivity actually decreased in the new office layout.
Interested to know more? You can review the Harvard study here.
What Exactly Is Workplace Privacy?
Privacy at the workplace refers to a combination of sensory experiences including:
- Visual privacy – freeing yourself of visual distraction and/or not being visible to others
- Acoustical privacy – not being disturbed by noise or able to make your own noise without disturbing others. Noise here can refer to phone calls, loud conversations, discussions, and the like
- Informational privacy – keeping your content private or conducting confidential conversations
- Territorial privacy – securing a space of your own
One reason for lessoned interaction in an open concept office could be that a lack of privacy makes people vulnerable to prying eyes. For example, imagine if an employee is having a hard time with a task, and wants to ask for the help of a coworker. They may have been more willing to pop into that coworker’s cubicle for help, rather than ask in front of the entire workplace.
An explanation for a drop in productivity in an open environment could be workplace distractions. If an employee needs to make an important phone call, they may put it off because of a loud or distracting office space. Similarly, if they need to work on a project as a group, they may find it hard to concentrate with constant workplace conversation.
Addressing the Privacy Issue
It is the employer’s responsibility to provide an environment conducive to quality work and productivity. Addressing employee privacy requirements is part of this responsibility. By addressing privacy issues, you will not only create happier employees, but will also see a significant boost in productivity and efficiency. A well-designed workplace has an important role to play here. Innovative design elements are helping make the workplace a welcoming space. From casual lounges to quiet rooms to conference rooms to privacy pods such as the Loop Phone Booth, the options are plenty.
While conference or breakout rooms are ideal for rapid fire brainstorming sessions, crucial discussions or a bit of privacy – they’re not available in every workspace. Design solutions, like our Loop Booths, can provide a cost effective remedy.
Loop booths are extremely versatile, and can be introduced into your existing office easily. Customizable and available in various colors and materials to fit in with your functional and aesthetic requirements, they come pre-assembled. They provide a sound softened environment in the midst of an open office, perfect for confidential calls or working on deadlines that are fast approaching. The Loop Booth, Solo or Cube, is an easy, cost effective way to provide privacy in an open office.
In a typical work environment, most employees seek privacy for specified periods of time and for specific purposes – rather than for the whole day. Also, their job description will, to a large extent, play a prominent role in their desire for privacy.
For instance, employees who work in the accounts department or computer programming might benefit from quiet spaces at least on occasion. As for sales and marketing staff, a bustling space might do the trick.
A single formula for privacy may not apply to your organization as a whole. It’s wise to introduce privacy solutions whenever and wherever there is a need. This can help you find the right balance between an open and private space to maximize employee privacy and productivity.