How to Add Privacy Back Into the Open Office
Open offices are as beautiful as they are trendy. In the last decade, offices have been switching their designs from private cubicles to open-concept layouts. For many companies, open offices seemed like a simple solution to the isolated work environment of years past.
Unfortunately, many open office plans may be backfiring. Recent studies have shown that coworkers collaborate and communicate face-to-face up to 70% less in open-concept layouts compared to private offices. Instead, open-office inhabitants rely on messaging and emails rather than connecting with coworkers in person.
And the COVID-19 pandemic has added a new dimension to concerns about open office plans. Many companies, when they resume office work, will migrate back toward more privacy-oriented designs to keep their employees safe. Most experts agree that the novel coronavirus will remain an ongoing public health issue for years, so privacy-preserving office designs and layouts may be the best way to keep workers healthy and reduce infection rates.
The History of the Open Office Plan
In the early 20th century, open-layout offices were considered an egalitarian approach to work. The lack of sound absorption and privacy, however, made it difficult to be productive. Drop ceilings and cubicles provided a solution but soon became synonymous with boring office culture and dull work — an image companies were eager to shake.
As tech and internet startups blossomed, companies came to believe that collaborative work was the key to thinking outside the box, both literally and figuratively. These companies traded musty cubicles and drop ceilings for wall-free layouts and modern furniture. While this renaissance of the open layout suited the boundary-pushing nature of tech startups, it was less effective for offices that relied on independent, task-based work rather than creative teamwork. The result? Millions of unnecessarily distracted workers, unable to get the privacy they need at work.
The lack of employee separation and privacy in open office plans also means that when employees carry an infectious illness into work, it spreads much faster. One Danish study of 2,400 employees found that workers in fully open offices took 62 percent more sick days than people in single-person offices.
How to Create Privacy in an Open Office
New research shows that one of the keys to making open office environments work is customization and flexibility. Personal workspaces, collaborative areas, and private offices all offer employees a different environment where they can meet their needs depending on the task at hand. The ability to choose a workspace based on their project and mood not only promotes focus and productivity but fosters better communication.
Does your open-layout office need more privacy options? There are simple ways to create flexible workspaces within your office.
Create Common Workspaces
When workers have individual workstations, common work areas designed to support collaboration are essential. Tall tables for quick meetings and shared work areas helps group work stay focused and efficient, and these structures can flex to meet your team’s various needs.
Have a Designated “Water Cooler” Area
Having a specific space for chatting, lunch, and breaks helps preserve the focused nature of other work-oriented areas in the office.
Choose Desks With Dividers
Even small privacy measures make a big difference. Choosing desks with dividing screens help reduce distractions and create a sense of privacy, even in an open space.
The Smart Screen from ZGO Solutions is a privacy-preserving divider that doesn’t require screws or any other mechanical attachment into the desk frame. The Smart Screen simply drops into the frame and creates a secure attachment. This innovative design both speeds up installation and prevents you from having to drill and potentially damage the screen or frame. (If you prefer a traditional attachment that involves drilling and screws, our Smart Screen comes with that option as well.)
Invest in Office Tech
Technology should empower work, not distract from it. Features like height adjustable desks are critical for both health and productivity. And workspaces that integrate Bluetooth and an array of proper plugs (and ways to organize cables and cords) make moving between areas and tasks seamless and effective.
Anticipate Your Team’s Privacy Needs and Explore Solutions That Meet Them
Your office space should reflect your team’s diverse needs. Understanding the nature of your work, your employees’ working styles, and your available options will empower you to identify issues and implement solutions.
At ZGO Solutions, we design our office solutions with teams like yours in mind. Choose from freestanding or back-to-back desk options with dividers, then select from intuitive customizable features, including Bluetooth enabled desks, height-adjustable workstations, and power consoles — all designed to think past the frame and move you forward.
RELATED: Use Ergonomics to Get More Comfortable at Work
Need Workspaces That Foster Both Privacy and Collaboration? ZGO Solutions Can Help
Office design is not a one-size-fits-all affair. Your team is unique, so your office solutions need to be unique too. At ZGO Solutions, our Smart Screens and single- and multi-desk options let your team enjoy privacy without compromising the quality of their independent work. And with customizable ergonomic solutions to choose from, desking solutions like those in our Harbor collection can help you add the privacy, team-centered, and ergonomic solutions your office needs.
To learn more about how ZGO Solutions can help transform your office space, contact us today.
Kalish, A. (n.d.). This is why so many companies insist on open offices now. TheMuse. Retrieved from https://www.themuse.com/advice/history-of-the-open-offices-exist-cubicles
Open plan design: What have we learned? (2019, April 3). The Executive Center. Retrieved from https://www.executivecentre.com/blog-article/open-plan-design-what-have-we-learned/
Recinos, A. (2017, February 28). The rise, fall, and triumphant return of the open plan office. Good & Co. Retrieved from https://good.co/blog/rise-fall-triumphant-return-open-plan-office/