Finding the Balance Between Privacy and Community in the Workplace

As more workers have moved back to the office many of them are wondering how to access the privacy they felt in their home offices inside their corporate offices. It seems that hot-desking is out, and personal space is in. This doesn’t mean collaborative spaces or touchdown spaces have been shunned; quite the opposite is true. People want duality in their office layouts: collaborative spaces for meetings or those employees that thrive in a more populated environment, and quiet, personal spaces for those who prefer otherwise.

Privacy and Collaboration: Can You Have Both?

Two people working in modern cubical office setting.

Open concept workplaces were designed with the best of intentions: to break down both the physical and social barriers among employees. This might have allowed for a senior level manager to be working at a desk next to a junior sales associate. And while this did not always make the most logistical sense, it meant that collaboration was always possible. Quick meetings could happen right across the table, without needing to book time in a conference room.

One of the key elements of office workplaces is the ability to create a sense of community among your co-workers in order to increase and encourage collaboration. However, it’s important to find balance between co-worker collaboration and personal privacy in order to keep morale high, bodies healthy, and productivity optimal in your workplace.

Workplaces for All

Many offices are shifting back from remote to in-office work, with the assumption that this will lead to increased productivity, better communication, higher quality of work, and more collaboration. However, there are also several risks involved with this change. With the increasing popularity of open office spaces over the past two decades, employees who need privacy to focus may be at a disadvantage or not get enough work done because their environment isn’t conducive to their way of working.

Additionally, research has shown that staying healthy in the office can help you stay healthy outside of the office, and tightly packed open spaces can potentially incubate and transfer sickness. The lack of private spaces in the workplace can make it difficult for people to take care of themselves, even by getting things like proper meal breaks, which can drastically improve both physical and mental health in the long run.

Balancing Privacy and Collaboration

Collaboration can be more effective when there are spaces dedicated to it and separate spaces dedicated to privacy. Touchdown spaces, namely larger conference rooms, lounges, small meeting spaces, etc., can be used for easy and accessible collaboration. However, creating dynamic workspaces with cubicles can offer a level privacy to them by having dividers that are tall enough so you can’t see over them. Open space should also be an option to promote creativity for those who wish to work in a more collective environment, which can create a collaborative vibe while still maintaining a sense of personal space. In this way, the three types of workplaces have been accounted for: personal workspace (i.e., cubicles), team workspace (i.e., touchdown spaces), and communal workspace (i.e., open spaces).

You Can Still Have Your Own Space

Privacy is a necessary aspect of a healthy, happy office environment. Many people have become accustomed to a home office, with privacy and personal space being paramount. Not having personal space can result in increased stress levels due to a lack of privacy and increased stress can lead to lower sales, decreased morale, and a plummet in productivity. Having a dedicated personal space prevents hot-desking, when several people share one workspace while the others are away. It keeps your desk as your own all day, every day, which makes coming to work more peaceful because you have a space that’s yours, as opposed to a desk in the open area where anyone can take it over. With personal spaces, employees can store personal items at their desks like snacks, family photos, goal charts, and more to improve their daily efficiency.

Tips for Creating an Office Environment That Supports Both Privacy and Collaboration

As businesses continue to grow, office space can become a commodity. When that happens, it’s important to find a way to balance privacy with collaboration. Having spaces designated for both makes it easier for employees to work together while still having their own space, which improves not only productivity, but also morale. When you give your employees what they need, they feel appreciated. Offering cubicles, having separate spaces, offering quiet rooms, touchdown spaces, and small meeting rooms, are all ways you can create an environment that supports both privacy and collaboration in the modern workplace.

Health in the Workplace Through Biophilic Design

All healthy offices should be designed in such a way as to promote the health and well-being of their employees, but what exactly does that entail? Biophilic design aims to create spaces, whether in the corporate, education, or hospitality markets, which mirror the principles found in nature—from lighting and temperature control to the positioning of furniture and elements like windows, plants, and water features. Here are some examples of biophilic design in the workplace, as well as information about how it promotes work-life balance, productivity, employee satisfaction, and more. 

What is Biophilic Design? 

Biophilia is the innate tendency to seek out natural environments. The term was coined by Erich Fromm in 1964. Today, biophilic design is a growing design trend being used to create buildings and workplaces that mimic nature and provide opportunities for people to connect with the natural world. Biophilic design can involve anything from green roofs, plant walls, plants on desks, etc. With more and more research showing the benefits of an indoor environment that incorporates nature, it seems there’s never been a better time for designing buildings with our natural surroundings in mind. 

What Does It Have To Do With The Workplace? 

Nature has many benefits including reduced stress levels and increased productivity and creativity. A workplace that incorporates plants, green spaces or natural elements can help create a healthier and more productive work environment. Biophilic design has been shown to reduce the amount of stress in the workspace and promote creative thinking and collaboration among co-workers. They also improve employee mental health by providing access to nature through walking paths and window views in office buildings. Employees have reported an increase in focus, better moods, and enhanced creativity due to exposure to nature and natural elements. Employees have noted that this kind of exposure at work resulted in improved sleep quality and reduced fatigue.

Direct and Indirect Exposure

Exposure to elements has been shown to improve mood and productivity. Studies have found that workers exposed to indirect natural light slept better and reported less stress than those exposed to artificial light. Indirect natural light can be created by adding windows or skylights to your workplace. Plants, a more direct exposure, have also been shown to make people happier, healthier, and more productive. Adding plants not only gives you an opportunity for direct exposure but also improves air quality and reduces airborne dust particles. 

Natural Light Sources

Biophilic design encourages the use of natural light sources like skylights or floor to ceiling windows. Natural daylight exposure has been shown to increase productivity by up to 37% with sunlight exposure playing a significant role in regulating an individual’s circadian rhythm. The blue wavelength of the light is also important for mood regulation, and it helps suppress melatonin release, which helps people stay alert. Studies have shown that when employees are exposed to natural light during daytime hours they are more productive than those who work in artificial lighting. 

Portrait of nice attractive stylish entrepreneur with folded arms on roof outside outdoor sunny day.

Outdoor Spaces

Natural materials work well for both indoor and outdoor environments, and outdoor spaces are valuable in the modern workplace. Not only can employees, clients, and customers use these outdoor areas as break spaces, but they can also be used as workspaces. Regular exposure to Vitamin D can help stay healthy and focused. Remember to work with a representative to find the best furniture for the outdoors, as having rugged, strong outdoor furniture is imperative. It must be able to stand up to rain, wind, sun, and snow.  

Water Features and Plants

Plants create an environment that inspires creativity and supports better health because they provide fresh air and reduce stress levels by stimulating the senses of smell and sight. The benefits don’t stop there – plants also improve productivity as they can improve concentration and offer alternative resting areas to keep people from sitting for prolonged periods of time. Studies show that more plants in the workplace could be worth over $400 million dollars in productivity gains each year! To help make your office greener, water features like fountains or waterfalls are great for adding natural sounds and cool air during warm months to lower overall indoor temperatures. By choosing plants that are native to your region, you can also save money on HVAC costs by decreasing energy use. For example, ferns do well in cooler climates while cacti do well in warmer climates! 

Gateway works with you to find commercial furniture and fixtures to complement your Biophilic Office Design!