What’s one of the top complaints in the workplace these days? A lack of privacy. In other words, every conversation in the office - whether it’s in person, or on the phone – can be heard by everybody else.
Why? Because in recent years, companies have been knocking down interior walls, and eliminating doors and private offices in order to save space and money. They hoped to improve communication and collaboration, and give employees of all levels instant access to each other.
But what did they get instead? A rise in workplace stress, as well as complaints about a lack of privacy, and annoyance over chatty coworkers.
And instead of increased communication and impromptu brainstorming sessions, workers began to have shorter and more superficial conversations – because they were self-conscious about being overheard. And when workers need to have a private conversation, they often sneak into a stairwell, bathroom or broom closet. they use online chats to talk to the person sitting next to them.
The lack of privacy also impacts job performance.
A study of 65,000 workers found that those forced to listen to random conversations are 10% less effective, especially in tasks requiring reading and writing.
What’s the fix? A lot of workers use headphones and music to block out nearby conversations. And companies are adding soundproofing to cubes, and setting aside small rooms for conversations and phone calls. They’re also bringing in acoustical engineers, and installing noise-canceling systems – like “pink noise," which uses soft whooshing sounds that are specially formulated to match the frequency of human voices – which makes voices 20 feet away unintelligible.