How to Create Privacy in an Open Plan Office

open plan office

The open-plan office design, with its emphasis on collaboration and accessibility, has become an ingrained part of the UK corporate landscape. While it is celebrated for its ability to encourage teamwork and cultivate an inclusive atmosphere, it’s also subject to frequent criticism for its inherent lack of privacy. These open layouts can be a breeding ground for constant interruptions, which can make focusing on tasks feel like an uphill battle. In this detailed guide, we delve into practical and effective methods to regain your sense of privacy and create a conducive work environment within the complex setting of an open-plan office.

Navigate the challenges of privacy in open plan offices with the expertise of SJP Interiors, serving Bedford, Buckinghamshire, Cambridge, Luton, Northampton, and Oxford. Our team is adept at striking the perfect balance between the collaborative energy of open spaces and the need for individual privacy. We specialise in innovative solutions like acoustic panels, strategic partitioning, and thoughtful layout planning to create private nooks and quiet areas without sacrificing the openness your team loves.


The Importance of Privacy in an Open Plan Office

The concept of privacy at work is often dismissed as a luxury, but numerous studies indicate that it is a critical element for well-being and productivity. Psychological research has consistently highlighted that having a private space or a sense of control over one’s environment reduces stress and elevates focus. For example, a study by the University of Sydney found that lack of sound privacy is the most significant cause of dissatisfaction among employees in open-plan offices. Furthermore, compromised privacy can lead not only to reduced productivity but also to diminished job satisfaction, thereby affecting the overall output and morale of a team.


The Challenges of Open Plan Offices

When it comes to open-plan layouts, the challenges are multiple and diverse. The issue of noise pollution often tops the list. The constant chatter, phone conversations, and even the sound of typing can make concentration an arduous task. Overhearing conversations, whether they are work-related or personal, can be equally bothersome and can even put confidentiality at risk in some instances. Additionally, the lack of physical boundaries means that there’s a continuous flow of people passing by your workspace, creating both visual and psychological distractions. This sensation of being watched, or at least the potential to be watched, can induce a kind of performance anxiety that’s counterproductive.


Hardware Solutions

  1. Desk Dividers – Desk dividers are more than just physical barriers; they serve as your own personal fortress within a sea of activity. They offer an immediate and effective solution for eliminating both visual and auditory distractions. Some desk dividers are even equipped with built-in storage options and come with acoustic-dampening features.
  2. Noise-Cancelling Headphones – Noise-cancelling headphones are a vital asset in combating auditory distractions. These headphones use sophisticated technology to block out external noise, allowing you to concentrate in even the busiest of environments.
  3. Privacy Filters for Computer Screens – Privacy filters for computer screens are essentially the digital equivalent of desk dividers. They attach to your monitor and obscure the view for anyone not sitting directly in front of the screen. This is particularly beneficial when working on confidential projects where data security is paramount. They’re straightforward to install and are an economical solution for those looking to protect sensitive information.


Soft Solutions

  1. Setting Boundaries – Navigating the social intricacies of an open-plan office often requires a nuanced approach. Open and candid communication is key. Discuss your need for periods of uninterrupted work with your co-workers and suggest that everyone could benefit from designated quiet hours or a group agreement on when it’s okay to socialise and when it’s time to focus.
  2. Schedule-Based Solutions – Opting to use communal spaces during off-peak hours or planning your workday around quieter periods can also be a surprisingly effective strategy for avoiding distractions. You may find that coming in an hour earlier or staying an hour later provides the quietude necessary for high-concentration tasks.
  3. Implementing a “Do Not Disturb” Signal – In many office cultures, a simple, informal “Do Not Disturb” signal can be extraordinarily effective. This can be something as straightforward as a sign, a small flag, or even a particular placement of your headphones on your desk. This visual cue serves as a non-intrusive way to let colleagues know that you are in deep work mode and would prefer not to be disturbed.


Company Policies that Can Help

Organisational policies can make a significant difference in the effectiveness of an open-plan office. Offering employees the flexibility to choose their working hours can enable them to find times when the office is less populated. The trend of remote working, which gained traction during the COVID-19 pandemic, has also proven to be an excellent solution for those seeking respite from the constant buzz of office activity. The establishment of ‘quiet zones’ within the office space can provide employees with sanctuaries where focused, individual work is the norm rather than the exception.



Creating a sanctuary of privacy within an open-plan office may seem challenging, but as we’ve explored, there are numerous strategies you can employ to carve out your personal haven. From tangible hardware solutions like desk dividers and noise-cancelling headphones to soft skills like setting boundaries and scheduling, there are myriad ways to improve your workspace. While individual efforts are valuable, systemic change through company policies can amplify these benefits, creating an office environment that marries the best of open collaboration with the necessity for individual privacy.

If you find that your office space requires more than just a few tweaks and adjustments, and you’re considering a complete overhaul to implement privacy-friendly designs, don’t hesitate to contact SJP Interiors. Specialising in office design and refurbishment, SJP Interiors can help transform your workspace into an environment that effectively balances collaboration and privacy.

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