These days it’s all about togetherness in the workplace. Companies around the country encourage teamwork and collaboration, believing these traits to be the solution to any corporate problem. Cubicle walls have lowered if not disappeared entirely, and departments spend their days with their heads together brainstorming solutions and building on ideas. Plus, the drastic increase in work-connected mobile devices has only increased the time workers spend communicating with their coworkers and bosses, even outside of the office. But is this really the most efficient way to get work done?
Corporate America has yo-yoed for the past few decades about whether or not collaboration or isolation is more important in the workplace. In the ‘80s, one poll found that more than 85 percent of employees wanted more private areas for work, and thus the era of high-walled cubicles began. Later, in the ‘90s, employees were tired of their exile; more than 50 percent clamored for better access to their coworkers. New research suggests that the pendulum is swinging once again toward the excess of open spaces and the need for solitude. However, companies’ historical method of creating privacy won’t necessarily cut it in the modern workplace.
In the past, companies created physical spaces for workers to seek privacy. If employees could not hear each other, see each other, or feel each other’s presence, they were in individual spaces meant for solitary work. While this may have worked in the past, when communication required face-to-face interaction, today’s office could be anywhere — from the office to a coffee shop to the beach — but that doesn’t make collaboration any less possible.
The use of mobile devices for work means employees are always accessible by their peers and superiors, which makes it incredibly difficult to find alone time to be creative and get work done. When mounting research suggests we come up with our best ideas when we’re by ourselves, employers need to start seriously considering how to allow their employees privacy at work.
Instead of relying simply on higher walls and closed doors to give employees the solitude they need to increase productivity and creativity, companies need to consider all avenues of communication when they begin drafting offices prime for both collaboration and isolation. Two different factors are at play whenever you discuss solitude in the modern workplace:
Both employers and employees have found different methods of controlling these two aspects of workplace privacy. Given the flexibility to create the workplaces ideal for their own productivity, employees employ one or more of the following strategies of finding solitude:
Companies should keep employee preferences in mind if they hope to retain the best and brightest workforce. Strategically designing the office, drafting protocol that allows for this flexibility, and encouraging signaling during times of solitude will allow employees to get the privacy they need to be the most creative and productive they can be.Back to blog list