Why more access to privacy is critical in today’s workplace.

Orangebox Campers and Dens
Orangebox Campers and Dens

Hybrid work is taxing our brains in new ways. We’re having to think ahead and make all sorts of decisions we didn’t have to prior to the proliferation of hybrid work.

Should I book a space for a meeting? Do I have work that requires individual focus time? If I’m in meetings are the participants in-office, remote or both? If I don’t have an assigned space, is it okay to take a video call in the open? If I have a workspace, will I distract others if I do virtual meetings there?

All of these questions connect closely to what people want most in the workplace now, according to new Steelcase research. Employees in 11 countries ranked privacy #1 on their list. Spaces for wellbeing are a close second. No surprise, say researchers. The ability to access privacy and find places in the office that help us think and feel better are woven tightly together.

New motivations

To better understand the new demands and motivations surrounding hybrid work, Steelcase researchers in Europe and Asia conducted interviews, diary studies and surveys with hundreds of employees and what they found is relevant around the world.

“What’s new is just how many meetings are taking place that add to the distractions in the workplace. People tell us they don’t have enough options for privacy, especially as more workplaces shift away from owned workspaces and toward more shared individual spaces,” says Andrada Iosif, Steelcase WorkSpace Futures researcher.

Coalesse Lagunitas Lounge System
Coalesse Lagunitas Lounge System

Three privacy factors

Whether consciously or subconsciously, three factors influence when people seek out more privacy.

What’s around me? People evaluate the types of spaces available. How much privacy their personal work space provides. How many people are nearby and what company culture suggests about taking meetings in an open space.

What am I doing? Employees consider how much they need to focus on any given task. How confidential is the work? Can I be interrupted? How long is the meeting? What technology do I need? Is the conversation personal?

How do I feel? Preferences, self-awareness and mood also influence people. Some days people need a breather or to get “off stage” when situated in a space where others can see and hear. Other people get energized being near colleagues.

Designers say people need a range of privacy solutions everyone can access to give people more control over the stimulation around them based on the cognitive demands of what they’re doing. Options should include spaces with acoustic, visual and territorial privacy.

Privacy is both personal and contributes to productivity. It enables focus, connection with others and rejuvenation. By giving everyone– no matter their role– access to different kinds of private spaces, the workplace can do a better job of supporting how people feel and the work they need to do throughout each day.

“Privacy gives people time to self-reflect and process information and ideas, or thoughts and feelings. Giving people control over their privacy, gives them access to ways to create boundaries and a sense of self-control which can help people manage their mental wellbeing, especially on high-stress days.” — Andrada Iosif, Steelcase WorkSpace Futures Researcher

A Range of Privacy SolutionsInformational slide that shows the Steelcase Answer Panel System is a privacy solution

Informational slide that shows the Orangebox Away from the Desk is a privacy solution

Informational slide that shows the Steelcase Everwall Modular Walls are a privacy solution

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