How Much Privacy Is Too Much Privacy?

by Knotel: Jul 13, 2018

Open office layouts have become increasingly popular these days and for good reason: Studies suggest they increase collaboration, encourage the exchange of ideas, and contribute to a strong culture.

But just as more and more companies have embraced open offices, employees have begun demanding more privacy at work—both to tackle tasks in quiet and to cope with the intensity of the demands of the modern organization.

While we all need privacy to work, too much privacy can prevent companies from enjoying the benefits open office layouts provide. So what’s the best way forward?

According to a recent Harvard Business Review article, the answer isn’t remote working, which comes with its own slate of problems: a lack of collaboration, decreased employee engagement, more distractions, less exchange of ideas, and a weaker culture.

It turns out that the best offices to work in today take more of a hybrid approach, including the best of both worlds.

These offices have lots of wide open, informal spaces that are conducive to collaboration and creativity, and they also have a good deal of quiet spaces where employees can hunker down and do deep work.

Getting the most out of open offices

Open spaces don’t succeed just because they are open.

Research suggests that how people feel about the space—a concept known as place identity—plays a significant role in how open offices are perceived by employees. Workers who have a higher sense of place identity tend to view open offices as collaborative, flexible, and energetic. On the flipside, employees who lack place identity see the same spaces as cluttered and noisy.

Making an open office work, then, starts with imparting a high sense of place identity onto your employees. Here are three ways to do that:

  • Share the vision early. Don’t wait until you’ve moved into a new office to talk to your employees about it. Tell your employees what you hope that new office will mean for your company and its mission as soon as you know you’re moving.
  • Have the right attitude. Leaders who express enthusiasm and positive thoughts about a new space increase place identity amongst their staff. Those who are negative about a new space have a harder time getting their team to embrace it.
  • Embrace individuality. Increase place identity by encouraging your employees to personalize your open office as they see fit. In some instances, that might mean hanging artwork on the walls or putting up pictures of their loved ones. In other cases, it might mean encouraging your team to rearrange furniture on a regular basis to switch things up.

Maximizing the value of quiet spaces

There are two kinds of private spaces in offices: enclosed spaces and semi-enclosed spaces.

Enclosed spaces—like conference rooms and corner offices—can be owned by an individual or shared by the entire team. If your CEO is constantly traveling and is never in the office, does that person really need their own dedicated office? Probably not.

Enclosed spaces are great for private conversations and tackling work on your own. For the best results, avoid using glass walls to seal these rooms off; people may feel like they are “working in a fishbowl,” which can be a bit uncomfortable.

Semi-enclosed spaces—like informal workstations that aren’t completely sealed off—are great for tackling private tasks or working on small team projects. These spaces are typically marked off by things like portable screens or plants serving as walls of sorts.

You can’t stick a semi-enclosed space inside a large, open, loud room and expect to maximize the value of the space. Put a semi-enclosed space inside an area of your office that’s quiet to begin with and it’ll serve its purpose just fine.

Is your company in the market for a personalized office that combines collaborative and quiet spaces in a way that maximizes productivity for your whole team? Knotel can help.

Drop us a line today to learn how.