Here at Carson Design Associates, we’ve worked with several clients who have transitioned their workspaces into an “open office environment.” (See Rolls-Royce and Officeworks as just a couple examples.)
Many organizations do this to strategically enhance the flexibility of their workspace, support collaboration, or reduce hierarchy. And while there are definite benefits to this move, it also begs the question, “How do you maintain confidentiality and privacy in an open office environment?”
For a successful transition, we believe businesses must first establish specific parameters for office behavior before the move occurs. These basic guidelines can help minimize stress and downtime, while making employees feel secure in their ability to work effectively within the new space.
Below is a sampling of strategies we’ve implemented for our clients that have guided this process:
Follow Me Printing
This multi-functional device only prints when you walk up and input your code or swipe your badge. Follow me printing reduces the likelihood of printed materials being viewed by others while sitting on the copier or printer.
High Acoustic Rooms
Dedicate a few rooms to meet specific high acoustic ratings (soundproof rooms), providing privacy for phone calls and 1:1 meetings.
Incorporate specific private spaces that can remain free from interruption for employees who are working on confidential projects or simply prefer to work alone from time to time. These spaces can also be an important design strategy for the introverts in your office. Giving your employees the permission to be alone supports the needs of some team members who may work differently. Steelcase dives deeper into this idea of creating quiet work spaces for introverts.
Look for opportunities to place groups dealing with sensitive information in secluded areas, far away from the common paths of office travel.
Communication and Education
Establish and communicate protocols so that employees feel comfortable in the daily decisions they make regarding secure company or client information.
Taking the communication point a step further, consider involving your employees in the process of creating these guidelines for the new environment. Pull together a focus group of employees who represent various areas of the company and invite them to share feedback on your open office environment plans at least 90 days before making the change. This Inc.com article on work-space design your employees will love stresses the importance of company leaders listening to staff when designing spaces that work for all types of employees.
With careful planning, honest communication and employee engagement, it is possible to create an open office environment that fits your business needs and supports the confidentiality and privacy needs of individual employees.
What strategies have you used to maintain confidentiality in an open office environment? Tell us in the comments section below.