Is Privacy in the Workplace Important?

Is Privacy in the Workplace Important?

By: Rhonda Wessel Steelcase has a great article in their 360 degree Magazine online on The Privacy Crisis, Issue 68.  Steelcase did research on how working in an open office environment affects employee engagement and surveyed employees from around the world on privacy in the workplace.  It talks about how lack of privacy in an open office or collaborative working environment is taking a toll on employee’s productivity and what employers can do in these types of settings to help boost employee engagement and satisfaction. I am a proponent for the open office environment or integrated workplace.   Having spent most of my career in these types of office environments and collaborating with team members is great for the type of work we do.  However, there are times when you need to put your head down and focus and having a place to work that is private or semi-private is also a great option.  Sometimes you need the privacy to focus on the task at hand or settle your mind.  Being able to offer those private areas in an open office environment is crucial to helping employees be able to focus on their job. It also allows employees to be able to think for themselves and not get caught up in what the article calls “groupthink.”  Going along with others and not taking the risk to contribute a different point of view. “The need for privacy sometimes—at work as well as in public—is as basic to human nature as is the need to be with others.” —Donna Flynn, director of Steelcase’s Workspace Futures research group. “The harder people work collaboratively, the more important it is to also have time alone—to be free from distractions, apply expertise and develop a solid point of view about the challenges at hand. People also need privacy to decompress and recharge.” Has the trend for collaborative work taken away the value of individual time?  The new research from Steelcase shows that “while togetherness at work is vital for value creation, in excess it’s a killer.”  Employers want employees to perform at their greatest potential but that can be diminished if we don’t take into account the diversity of our workforce and the many different ways we have to work today.  Employee satisfaction is important for our health and wellbeing just as much as productivity and job performance. As we continue with the trend to design collaborative spaces we need to keep in mind that everyone is unique and has their own style of how they work.  Steelcase came up with some examples that show “Optimizing your real estate to give employees greater choice and control.”   These are great thought starters to reference if you are having trouble with planning privacy into a collaborative space. I definitely recommend reading the article.  There is so much more information in there than what I could cover in this blog.

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