Now That You Have An Open Office Plan, Is Privacy An Issue?

The modern workplace—an open area with few barriers separating employees and managers that encourages collaboration—leaves little room for office privacy.

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The modern office is an open, inviting and collaborative space. What it lacks in walls it makes up for in teamwork, inclusiveness and creativity.

Like in the new Commercial Integrator offices, I can see everyone’s heads, as the cubicle walls are only up to my chest (I’m a painfully average 5 feet 9 inches).

Many offices are adopting this open-floor plan model, but AV integrators should also consider that some people value their privacy and aren’t as social as others when planning their own offices and their customers’ offices.

Are there rooms for your employees to sit down and catch their breath or work on a big project without being distracted on the floor? Are they forced to leave the office to take a personal phone call?

At CI’s headquarters, we have a wellness room equipped with a few comfortable seats and a mini fridge. It’s set up for employees who need some alone time, for whatever reason.

According to Tracy Brower of office furniture company Steelcase, employees need privacy for four main reasons:

  • Before new ideas are discussed in a large group, they’re usually vetted between trusted colleagues. That requires privacy, especially if the idea pushes the boundaries.
  • While group brainstorming sessions can help get the ball rolling, creativity also requires quiet time for reflection and focus.
  • Have you ever been distracted by the conversations of your coworkers? I’m personally more productive when I’m left alone to focus on my work and not pulled in different directions. Also, don’t ever read what I’m writing over my shoulder.
  • According to Brower, people are more engaged when they have greater amounts of choice in their workplace. That choice implies various levels of privacy.

One of the most prevalent AV technology found in corporate offices is a sound masking system, which can help keep conversations quiet, increase productivity and reduce stress in office environments where communication apps are constantly chirping and conference rooms are always in use.

According to Steelcase’s research, that excessive collaboration can be a productivity killer.

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“Without question, successful collaboration requires giving coworkers easy access to each other,” the firm said in a research article on its website.  “But it also requires giving each individual the time and places to focus and recharge, and too many workplaces today aren’t delivering on privacy as a necessity.”

AV integrators should not only continue to market and sell sound masking systems, but should come up with other ways to help offices improve privacy — both in their own office and in the field.