Dan Diehl, Paul O’Malley & Lou Ronsivalli.
Privacy Solutions For Open Office Environments02 August 2018 / by Lustalux Ltd (author) / Preston
According to a 2016 survey of UK workplaces by American design and architecture firm, Gensler, workers in open plan offices report they are often unable to concentrate because of noise and low levels of privacy (factors that have also been demonstrated to contribute to an increase in sick-leave absences).
As more than 8 million UK employees work in open plan environments, the findings are particularly unsettling.
What’s more, a recent Ipsos study revealed that British offices are in fact the worst in the world, described as colder and uglier than any others.
So what as a workforce can we do to remedy the situation? Yes we can consider different designs at the initial office build process; but what can facility managers do NOW in their current open plan surrounding to improve privacy?
There are many roles within the office such as finance, that need space in which their computer monitor or screen cannot be viewed.
But what about personnel who simply want private space to improve their own productivity and creativity?
As humans, we have a fundamental desire for privacy and any impingement on this can decrease workplace efficiency.
There are, however, many cost-efficient ways of helping to improve privacy within open office environments.
Glass partitions can reduce noise pollution as they are somewhat sound-proof. Clear glass encourages accountability and a frosted treatment provides the same open plan feel with just as much natural light than any other type of glass, without compromising privacy and giving it an aesthetic look and feel. This is otherwise called Glass Manifestation.
Wall panels & office screens
Acoustic wall panels and office screens are great at providing sound absorption as well as providing versatility and flexibility in dividing an office space to create privacy. Most are easily foldable and available in single, double or triple screen sizes.
Angled screens, screensavers and lock-out
Screens should be angled where they are not easily visible, with automatic screen savers and/or logins required after a couple of minutes of inactivity.
Privacy screen filter
Privacy filters can be fitted over the screens of all tablets and laptops which ensures on-screen information is only visible to the user and not to someone taking a sideways glance or looking over a shoulder who may not be authorised to view the information.
Back against the wall
In the words of American rock band “Cage the Elephant”, lay out the desks in a way that your back is against the wall. Sitting in this position also brings out ‘support’ according to Feng Shui as one is less surprised and distracted from what’s going on behind you.
Designated quiet zone (booth or meeting space)
A peaceful go-to area in which staff can go either on their own or in pairs, that is away from the rest of the office. This doesn’t have to be located a million miles away from a physical perspective, but can simply be a cordoned off space whether that’s a booth or area that everyone acknowledges is a quiet zone.
This acknowledgement is to be circulated throughout the office so everyone respects its purpose.
Did you know soft furnishings can reduce noise? Sofas, upholstered chairs and cushions soak up sound very effectively as well as curtains and carpets.
Set times of working
An option to improve privacy in the workplace is set working hours. For example, a finance assistant could start work earlier than their counterparts, in which they could carry out some of the sensitive computer tasks whilst alone.
This option is quite extreme, as it involves a worker possibly working earlier in the morning or later in the evening, but it does eradicate the risk of screen privacy.
Add background noise
In most offices, the background noise is normally low e.g. a radio being played. What this does mean is that one can unintentionally overhear a conversation. Adding background noise- otherwise known as sound masking- can reduce noise distractions, protect speech privacy and increase office comfort.
Does your office allow employees to wear headphones at work? Listening to music whilst working is second nature to many. It can help you to focus, de-stress and be a signal in itself not to be disturbed. Counter arguments claim it alienates the worker from the rest of the room, it can be dangerous and sound leaking can be a source of conflict.
A closed door can mean different things for different people and cultures. A door or office sign however can help maintain privacy and professionalism, ensuring people respect your space.
Tall plants/decorative items
Plants can do much more than improve the look and feel of an office. They can greatly reduce unwanted noise levels inside offices. Foliage is the most effective parts of vegetation as well as plants with large leaves- the wider the lead the more noise it absorbs.
The top 3 indoor plants that can absorb sound waves include Peace Lily, Rubber Plant and Weeping Fig.
There are various ways in which one can soundproof an office as well as encourage sound absorption. Ideas include a soundproof booth, acoustic sealant, acoustic socket box inserts, acoustic isolation strips, acoustic walls, noise blocker panels, absorber ceiling tiles and sound insulating flooring.
One Way Mirrored Window Film
Why not expand the privacy solutions to the exterior of the property with Mirrored & One Way window film like the above picture?
The reflective mirror film is primarily a solar control window film with the added feature of doubling up as a privacy film for external facing windows providing a security benefit too.
Outward vision is unobstructed while inward vision is obscured. Ideal as a visual security safeguard to protect personnel and equipment from prying eyes.
So there you have it, a pick of solutions for improving privacy in your open plan office environment, and helping minimise the risk of sensitive data being visible to prying eyes - whilst also improving office morale and productivity.
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