Privacy in the office is a major topic at the moment. We’ve already explored it in relation to a few different aspects of office design, looking at the broader open office debate, how office design can help those staff who are desperately seeking solitude and the options available for music lovers in the workplace.
As part of our partnership with Steelcase, we like to keep up to date on their latest research and development into modern office furniture. Solutions that provide more privacy have been an important part of their recent projects.
The Privacy Crisis
Businesses are using office design to maximise collaboration, creating spaces which encourage chance encounters between staff, allowing them to share new and innovative ideas. While this clearly has its benefits, in excess it can kill the very creativity that it’s trying to inspire.
In their research piece, The Privacy Crisis, Steelcase recognised that the harder people work collaboratively, the more important it was for them to also have time alone, free from distractions. They conducted a workplace study with IPSOS of more than 10,500 workers in Europe, North America and Asia. It showed that insufficient privacy in the workplace was a global issue.
This lack of areas for concentration and contemplation was having a knock-on effect when it came to productivity and staff wellbeing.
Steelcase published a companion piece, Reinventing What Privacy Means, which sought to define the distractions that were effecting employees. They found four mechanisms to determine the privacy of a space:
- Acoustical Privacy: Undisturbed by noise.
- Visual privacy: Not being seen by others.
- Territorial privacy: Claiming a space as your own.
- Informational privacy: Keeping content and conversations confidential.
They recognised that workers will shift between wanting to reveal and conceal themselves in the office, depending on the work they are undertaking. As a result, they identified five privacy experiences:
- Strategic anonymity: being unknown / “invisible”
Working in a café or other place where you’re unknown. Engaging in online discussions using an avatar or handle.
- Selective exposure: choosing what others see
Opting for a telephone call instead of a video conference. Choosing which personal items to display in a workstation.
- Entrusted confidence: confidential sharing
Discussing a personal situation with a colleague. Being in a performance review with your manager.
- Intentional shielding: self-protection
Wearing headphones to block out audio distractions. Hiding your computer screen.
- Purposeful solitude: separating yourself
Going outside. Sitting in the farthest corner of a large room.
It became clear that supporting people’s privacy needs in the workplace was going to require a diversity of environments.
The Quiet Ones
Steelcase collaborated with Susan Cain, bestselling author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, to create a range of 5 quiet spaces based on how introverts work best.
Brody – For Brain & Body
Based on their research into Flow, Steelcase created the Brody WorkLounge. Initially designed as an education solution, its intention was to provide students with somewhere to stretch out and concentrate in a school library, it’s now also available for the office.
Eliminating as much external stimulus as possible, Brody has been designed to be good for both your brain and body. Hence the name being a ‘mash-up’ of both words.
The adjustable work surface has integrated lighting, its own power socket, personal storage, and a footrest. All technology is at eye level to reduce neck and shoulder strain, with lumbar technology to support the back.
A privacy screen wraps around three sides of the Brody, protecting workers from any distractions and giving them a shared space where they can focus on a specific task, free from any diversions.
As we write this, Brody is currently only available in the US, but we’re hoping to see it heading ‘over the pond’ very soon. When it does, we’ll be the ones in a quiet corner testing it out!
Written by Helen Bartlett, Design Manager.
All images from Steelcase.com