The open office concept has become quite popular and its popularity only seems to be increasing every day. It is unique and provides much-needed breathing room for employees. There are some major downsides of open offices, but lack of privacy takes the cake among all problems.
For employees to fully focus on their work in an office, the environment must be appropriate. Although an open office has several drawbacks, a lack of privacy is the one that totally disrupts the working environment. It is distracting, which ultimately affects office work.
The open office creates a lot of other problems as well. However, you can work around all the problems if you know what is creating them. Open offices have a lot of potential, and more and more businesses are opting for them. You just need to know a few hacks to sort out problems regarding open offices and you are good to go.
What Are Some Problems In Open Design Offices?
Open office is great, but it's not without its flaws. As you can imagine, noise and privacy are the main problems in such designs. These two are the root of a lot of other issues, which finally result in some unfavorable conditions. Here are some major drawbacks of open office designs.
One of the most common and addressed problems of open-design offices is noise. Open offices do not have any enclosures for individual workers. An office is full of all sorts of noises. Photocopiers, coffee machines, binders, printers, the sources of sound can be limitless. Sounds of different frequencies make the office a really chaotic place.
Open office designs have little to no arrangements to protect your ears from these types of noises. Constant exposure to high sounds can lead to various problems like hypertension, loss of hearing, and bad temper, all of which can lead to much worse consequences.
- Difficult To Concentrate
You will need full concentration to achieve success in the workplace. Any type of distraction, especially sounds, can heavily impact productivity. Open design offices are terrible for blocking noise, so workers have no way to protect themselves from ambient noise. The result is a lack of concentration on work, bad performance, and an ultimately negative impact on productivity.
- Vulnerable Private Information
People talk and interact with coworkers a lot, and words need privacy. Not everything you say is meant to be shared with everyone. Of course, that doesn’t mean you are speaking ill of others. Still, the leak of information is very dreadful when two people are sharing thoughts with each other.
Open office design is extremely notorious for that matter. It cannot block noise, which also means that noise from your desk is going to other people's ears. When you talk to your coworker next to you, it can leak your private information to others, and an open design office is solely responsible for that.
- Can Affect Interaction
A few studies have shown that face-to-face interaction has been reduced by 70% in open spaces and that the increase in electronic interaction has been around 50%. So, it is clear that people prefer to talk over the phone rather than face-to-face in places that are open and places that offer zero privacy.
There are numerous reasons for this. One reason could be that people don’t want to distract the people around them. Another reason could be that people fear leaking personal information. Whatever the reason is, the concerning thing is that open offices are affecting human interaction, which can ultimately impact one-to-one relations.
How To Solve The Privacy Problem In Open Design Offices?
Among many problems, lack of privacy is the main concern in open offices. However, solving the privacy problem in an open office isn't much of an issue. There are many state-of-the-art inventions that are easily available and easier to implement. Here are some ways to solve the lack of privacy in open office designs:
- Desk Dividers
In an open office, desk dividers can be a useful tool for establishing a private work space. When they are used in this manner, they create a physical barrier between two or more workstations. Offices can use desk dividers to keep workers from sharing a single large desk.
These dividers can separate workers by mounting them vertically in the middle of the desk. They can shield workers from the spread of infectious diseases as well as provide a private work space. There is a risk of the spread of respiratory illnesses like the flu and colds in open workplaces.
A sneeze from an infected worker can spread the virus to other employees. Desk dividers help keep germs from spreading between coworkers by putting up a physical barrier. Having the desk divider in place will keep germs from spreading to nearby employees, resulting in a healthier work environment.
- Display Privacy Filters
In an open office, employees can benefit from privacy filters on their computer monitors. A privacy filter, also known as a privacy screen, is a flat, thin piece of light-filtering material that limits the viewing angles of a monitor. Polycarbonate or acrylic is the most common material for making privacy filters.
With a privacy filter in place, only the front of a monitor can be seen clearly. Anyone at the front of a display can see it, but those who are standing or sitting nearby can't. Privacy monitors can increase the level of privacy in open offices by a huge margin.
In addition to creating privacy, many privacy filters also remove static electricity. Static electricity can cause damage to computer monitors. As a result of an electrostatic discharge (ESD), a monitor may randomly shut down, or it may completely fail and need replacement. This depends on the voltage. Privacy filters diminish static electricity and also provide workers with privacy.
- Use Partitions
The use of partitioning walls is one of the most common ways to create privacy in an open office. Partitioning walls are tall structures that divide large open spaces into different areas. They can be attached to the ground or stand free.
The partitioning walls will divide the spaces around them once they are put in place. They are not permanent or load-bearing, unlike most walls. Partition walls are temporary structures that create temporary partitions in an open space.
They're easy to install between workstations and give employees more privacy. Consider the size of your open office when deciding on the partitioning walls.
- Manage A Separate Quiet Space
When it comes to open office spaces, there's no denying that they're noisy. The lack of physical separation between workstations in open offices makes them noisier than traditional offices with enclosed spaces. The solution is to designate one or more quiet areas.
It's possible to have a quiet area in open offices by enclosing any area with soundproof materials. You can distinguish a break room as a quiet area in an open office. You can also use any unused large room, maybe a conference room, as a quiet space.
Because of the constant background noise, employees in open offices are prone to becoming disengaged. Much research has shown that noise is the most significant factor contributing to the low morale of employees in open offices.
A lack of morale in the workplace is more damaging than a lack of space, lighting or air quality. If there is a separate quiet space, employees won't have to deal with a noisy environment anymore. Thus, they can focus on work more, which will result in increased productivity.
- Use Privacy glass
It is a good idea to put privacy film on your open office's windows and walls. Privacy films are often confused with the privacy filters that I just discussed above. They are not the same thing. Privacy films are self-adhesive materials that you can put on transparent glasses to reduce visibility.
Glass windows and walls are transparent. Anyone can see through them. Thus, they do not provide privacy. Glass is now used in the construction of many commercial office buildings. All of their rooms have glass walls.
Because of the glass walls, workers in these rooms will easily be seen by colleagues from other parts of the office. Although the glasses are meant for at least some form of privacy, they are clearly not enough. Using privacy films reduces the visibility and increases privacy without affecting the interior aesthetics of the office.
Open offices are reshaping the very concept of the office. Offices should not seem like a grim and dreadful place only meant for work. Open office designs have a huge impact on the mindset of employees. People are preferring working in offices rather than remote work thanks to open offices.
However, just like anything else in life, an open office isn't without its flaws. The flaws are simple, and the remedies are even simpler. With proper planning, an open office can be just the thing you need for your workforce.