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All about Privacy in Office Spaces

This article talks about current trends in Office Spaces worldwide. We see senior level executives with over 3 decades of experience sitting at a desk right opposite that of an intern who is still in his final year of college! This is more prevalent than one might like to believe. If you ask people who work in offices whether they need privacy to do their jobs, most of them will say yes. Ask them whether they currently have enough privacy, and many of them will say no. Here’s a case for privacy and the need for walls.

Breaking down the Walls! – Open Plan Office Spaces

A study of people working in both fixed-wall offices and open plan environments revealed that 50 percent were satisfied with the privacy they need to get work done. When people feel they must have privacy to do their work and don’t get it, the result is lower productivity and job satisfaction than those who get their privacy. But to resolve that, you can’t just give everybody a cabin or an enclosed office. Real estate holdings in the city are shrinking and spaces in CBDs or Central Business Districts worldwide are becoming almost extinct following growth of IT Parks and SEZs. In fact over the next five years many employees will not even have a dedicated workstation. Designers and planners are looking to recover spaces, eliminate costs and change to collaborative areas. This is proven by the fact that the percentage of space dedicated to group or community areas has been steadily growing since 1999. Employers are increasing collaborative working environments to accommodate teams, sometimes including in-house teams and outside consultants. Companies are decreasing floor space for individual offices. They are straying away from fixed-wall private offices, but this radical change brings up the question: must privacy be sacrificed for everybody?

Understanding Privacy

What is privacy and why is it important? Privacy is measurable and also an abstract concept. Good designers can even offer a certain degree of privacy in open plan environments, but we need to first understand what creates privacy? Let’s split it into visual and acoustical privacy. Every being feels observed and under surveillance in the presence of others, even if they are trusted companions. Today in many ways privacy is an illusion because employers can monitor everything from e-mail to office conversations. Acoustical privacy offers employees the ability to speak privately and not be overheard. When they can easily overhear others near them, they begin to wonder if their own privacy is at risk. Research shows that employers monitor physical work environments more than digital spaces. Hence if you want your priced human resource to feel secure and comfortable in their work environment, you’d consider investing in well designed and adequately private office spaces.

Why Do We Need Privacy?

Privacy is necessary in some degree for most and there are a number of foundational reasons, both business and psychologically related. Practically speaking, confidentiality in discussions and concentration during certain types of tasks are obvious business needs. The ability to have private conversations is important for nearly all knowledge workers. As for those involved in human resources and finance, it is critical. The ability to focus on certain types of concentrative work with minimum visual and auditory distractions is improbable in open plan office designs. Research and writing tasks are another case for necessity of privacy. Identify these factors on an employee-by-employee basis.

How to Provide for Privacy

Panel enclosures are often welcomed by workers who are used to sitting in open areas. These dividers offer a marked improvement in privacy. For people whose work demands more privacy, traditional floor-to-ceiling walls or panels offer more privacy. Panel heights and the area of enclosed space in open plan workstations helps us relate to the idea of perceived visual privacy of any employee. Studies prove that panel heights of four to five feet were optimum any higher did not make any difference. This is because the seated position is where we perceive our space from. Ideal workstations are anywhere between 42 and 209 square feet of space. Larger spaces have a contradictory effect of being “too out in the open” and unnerve an employee. Use direct means, such as providing doors, or indirect means, like moving to a more appropriate space, where there are well established control mechanisms. The more privacy workers have at their disposal, the more satisfied they are. Offer layers of choice to your employees and allow them to feel less tied to one kind of space or one levelof privacy. In the changing office landscape, choice reduces frustration over privacy concerns. Provide different venues for different tasks, and address individual needs of each person in your organization.

All these factors require great thought, understanding and skillful design to implement. While you may choose to hire a designer to help you redesign your office spaces, often the easier and faster solution is to relocate to a ideally constructed office space that is ready to occupy and offers more incentives to your employees like parking spaces and an easily accessible location to Central parts of the city. Such spaces are not only hard to find, but also one may not find all the matching requirements in one location, especially one that is centrally located. Have you found your ideal Office Space? Tell us what you would like in your ideal Office and we will tell you how we can help.


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