A new theory has entered the workplace. Furniture manufacturers have long loved to promote open floor plans, and the concept of keeping everyone exposed to one another to encourage collaboration and communication. Now, having seen the stress put on employees unable to find a quiet place to work, manufacturers are talking about private oases. Not large, luxurious, executive offices with couches and a mini bar, but places where the introverted, every-day worker can escape to get focused and find some “me” time.
We’ve all had that moment at work where we just want to escape. You feel like you’re in a giant fishbowl, and not even going to the bathroom feels private. Where do you go when you have important but personal phone calls to make? If you’re lucky, your work will provide a call booth. However, often times these rooms are anything but sound proof and have glass walls or doors that expose you to the world walking by.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a 2012 survey of employed Americans ages 25-54 with children spend 8.8 hours of their day working. In a 24 hour day, we are at work or doing work-related activities more than any other function. That is a tremendous chunk of time to spend without getting a private moment.
Now, if office furniture manufacturers are catching on to our cry for privacy, the question remains, what do these spaces look like?
Steelcase, a trailblazer in the privacy movement, has recently developed various applications that can be utilized throughout the workspace. These zones range from enclaves, project spaces, personal retreats, and conversation lounges intermingled between open, collaborative settings. Their designs feature frosted glass walls for space division, boundary panels that wrap around lounge furniture and muffle sound, cozy spaces with comfy chairs and ottomans to prop your feet up, and reservation technology that alerts users that rooms are occupied. Now, employees can find places to take calls, have one-on-one meetings, change their working posture, or just take a moment.
Next time you’re making changes to your company’s workplace interior, consider the need for privacy. Remember that while open communication and collaboration are important to a company’s success, employees also need quiet and private places to focus or take a minute. The balance is out there – let’s find the happy median together.