Improving Visual Privacy in an Open Office (Without Sacrificing Collaboration)


How to Improve Visual Privacy in an Open Office

Many of the top businesses in the world have adopted open office concepts. Companies like Google are embracing the collaborative approach of an open office layout. Judging by the success of some of these companies, the idea seems to work.

However, as many companies try to escape the boring layout of ceiling-high cubicle walls, there is a risk of moving too far to the opposite extreme. It’s clear people want to work more collaboratively, but they don’t want to be crammed together, shoulder to shoulder, with no privacy.

When creating or updating an open office layout, it’s essential to maintain or improve visual privacy for employees. No one wants to be closed away from their co-workers, but no one wants to feel like people are peering over their shoulder, either.

It’s a delicate balance of improving visual privacy, reducing visual distractions, and fostering a collaborative workplace. Here are a few ideas to accomplish all of the above.

Shorter Modular Walls for Workspaces

The traditional cubicle setup with high walls may feel like sitting in a box. However, eliminating those walls may feel too open or crowded for some. Using modular walls with a shorter height allow for privacy while still proving an open office feeling.

Systems furniture allow you to create the space you feel will work best for your team. Best of all, as your business grows or moves, modular systems furniture can be shifted or added on to accommodate new employees or new spaces. These shorter walls strike the right balance between closed off cubicles and open office environments.

Create Semi-Private Workspaces

Having an open office helps foster collaboration. However, there is also a time when people may want to hunker down and focus on the task at hand. In these situations, it’s nice to have a semi-private workspace that employees can move to if they feel the need.

These workspaces could be a desk set away from the action or a lounge area where employees can improve visual privacy by merely moving to their own space. The semi-private spaces should be set up to reduce visual distractions. Face the work area away from areas where people tend to gather and collaborate.

These areas are also an excellent cue for other employees. If they see a co-worker sitting in one of these areas, then they know that the person is seeking some privacy.

Allow for Space Between Work Areas

Even though your workplace may be collaborative, there is a good chance that not everyone is working on the same project at the same time. Keeping this in mind when planning your open office space is vital to improve visual privacy and reduce visual distractions from groups working on different projects.

It can be challenging for some employees to stay focused on the task at hand if there is another group right next to them working on something else. You need to create separation between collaborative spaces so that people can truly immerse themselves in the discussion.

If you find that your space is too small to create space between collaborative workstations, then you may wish to utilize modular walls to create some separation and reduce visual distractions from other workspaces. Soft walls can also help absorb sound, and you may even want to use actual soundproofing tiles if you feel that step is necessary.

Use Window Coverings and Screen Coverings

Sometimes, the privacy concern does not come from within the office. In an open office floorplan, you need your team to feel comfortable working together. Peering eyes from outside the office could compromise that.

Using window coverings that offer privacy while still allowing in natural light can be essential to creating a positive open office workspace. Find window coverings that give you the most control over the light source in your office.

Privacy screens that mount to a desk or computer monitor may also be helpful in providing privacy in an open concept office. This may be especially important if you have employees dealing with sensitive information while customer or clients may be walking throughout the space as well.

With Open Spaces, The Options Are Endless

When creating an open office space, you have endless opportunities to be creative with your floorplan design. What kind of space do you imagine for your team? How do you bring that idea to life?

Interested in learning more about privacy in open office settings?  We wrote a sister article that touches on auditory privacy!

Cory Porteous
Marketing Manager
Office Interiors

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