Finding the Balance between Collaboration and Privacy

Workplace Oct 04 2019

Open office plans have been receiving a lot of flak in the last few years. Critics argue that despite the intention of fostering communication and teamwork, people find the lack of privacy distracting. It has been the go-to office design for a few decades now and has numerous proven benefits for the teams. It's the right setup; unfortunately, it's often poorly executed—even as a way to support collaboration.


What Critics say about open offices?

With the rise in costs in real estate and the increase in workforce, the area allotted per employee has been constantly decreasing. This means, there are more people in a tight space than ever before. With more people, comes more noise and distractions, which hamper your focus at work. Another issue is visual privacy. Those who are in open spaces are less likely to try new processes or test ideas for creative solutions. Studies show that Creative people prefer private spaces for concentration and innovative ideas.


Collaboration vs Privacy

The nature of work will typically require workspaces that have areas for both privacy and collaboration. For instance, certain tasks or assignments may require team members to do focussed work or involve highly confidential documents, and therefore create a need for privacy. Sometimes, the work will require multiple employees from a range of departments to come together in one space to contribute to a project's success.

Finding the perfect balance takes a lot of effort and planning so that everybody can use the space to its full potential.


What is Privacy at work?

Researchers have considered various factors while defining privacy at work, which mostly talks about physical aspects.

  • Acoustical – This refers to whom you can hear and who can hear you.

  • Visual – This refers to 'can be seen or not' and screens/partitions for control of vision

  • Territorial – This refers to a designated place and having control over it.

Interestingly, the concept of privacy differs drastically among different cultures. In western developed countries, people are more concerned about individual spaces and privacy, whereas in eastern countries like India and China, less physical space is not a big issue.


Upgrading an Open Office

The challenge many facility managers and architects/designers face is to design and organize an office that allows for both privacy and collaboration. Space which will work for all employees and help them to work efficiently. 

There are few aspects to consider which will create a balance between collaboration and privacy:

  • Private rooms

Private rooms provide the ideal escape for employees who need comfortable solo spaces to gather their thoughts, make a phone call, have small meetings or complete quiet, focused work.

  • Collaborative spaces

It is critical to designate areas where noise is acceptable. Some projects require employees to come together to voice their opinions and suggestions and to audibly brainstorm a problem or project.

  • Quite spaces

To provide employees solitude, a quiet corner should be designated as a “quiet area”. These areas can hold multiple employees at one time, but they should be used with the understanding that this is a place to focus without interruptions.

  • Meeting pods

Not every office has the luxury of multiple meeting rooms and private spaces. In such cases, meeting pods provide the necessary visual and acoustical privacy for private discussions.

  •  Acoustics panels

Open offices have a lot of white noise and distracting sounds. Acoustics panels are an ideal solution for absorbing the excess noise and create a more productive workspace.

  • Versatile partitions

Partitions that give the illusion of visual privacy but don't lose everything in. Many of them are mobile and can be configured in a variety of shapes and sizes. They ensure access to natural light and are flexible if you need to move them.


Understanding the trends and studies, we can believe that a semi-open office may be the key to keeping employees from feeling frustrated and distracted, where they have the facilities of choosing a space based on the requirement of collaboration or privacy.

To know more about our range of solutions for collaboration and private spaces, please contact us.