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How to create privacy in an open plan office

Open plan offices are great for space-saving and easy communication amongst team members, but they’re not always ideal when you need to knuckle down on an important report or take a private phone call.

If your staff are struggling with a lack of privacy in your open plan office, there are a few things you can do to help the situation. Here are our top five tips:

Maintain individual spaces

Privacy is often considered an issue with acoustics. People don’t want to be hear or be heard in certain situations. However, with the move to ‘Hybrid Working’, many staff members will be losing a space that they have been used to calling their own and personal storage should also be considered.

Where everyone would have once had their own lockable pedestal, staff are now desk sharing and encouraged to work from different settings, according to the task they are carrying out, but we still need a place to store personal belongings or confidential paperwork. A very popular solution is to provide lockers. There are many options in terms of size, style and opening mechanism. You can even book lockers and open them via an app!

Designate quiet work spaces

As part of the hybrid office, activity-based working is actively encouraged. You can utilise office partitioning to create pods or booths that can be used for quiet and focused work. Placed strategically in the office, quiet zones can also be very effective, providing colleagues the option to use them if it’s a little too noisy at their open plan desk.

These spaces are particularly useful when team members need to work on confidential documents, or even if they just need an alternative space to aid their concentration.

Most companies do not provide the option to book these spaces, with the idea being that they are available as and when they are required, including those last minute phone calls!

Provide collaboration spaces

Whether they are enclosed in separate meeting rooms with sound insulated partitions and acoustic wall treatments, in designated zones or breaking up fixed desking areas, collaboration spaces are really useful for ad hoc meetings with team members, informal discussions or just to have a short break away from your screen.

Dedicated collaboration spaces also help to remove some of the distraction, often found with open plan working areas, as they draw the team away from their desks and into dedicated, thought provoking meeting space.

Gone are the days where you would need to huddle around someone’s desk to review a presentation!

Limit distractions

There’s no denying that open plan offices can be noisy. With staff chatting amongst themselves, paper rustling, keyboards clacking and printers beeping – background noise can sometimes become a deterrent to productivity.

By providing a mixture of settings, along with the right technology, you provide staff with a choice to remove themselves from the distraction and work from different area, as/when required.

The key is to provide an environment where staff do not feel they need to ask permission to make use of a particular work setting. Staff should be able to move easily and freely around the office floor.

Flexible rooms

Often rooms are designed for one specific purpose, but with the new and evolving change in work patterns, flexibility can help too, not only to ensure that the office is being utilised to its maximum potential but that it can easily provide the extra privacy, when required.

For example, folding partitions can help to close off areas to create smaller concentration spaces or meeting rooms, but can also open up for large events or ‘Town Hall’ style meetings.

Often, we design informal rooms near reception areas which can be utilised as a client waiting area or an informal meeting room. By including sliding glass doors in the design, the room can quickly be adapted from feeling open to an enclosed and private space.

At IPS Interiors we’ve got lots of ideas on how you can make the most of your open plan office. If you’re looking for more ways to improve your office space, get in touch for a consultation.