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Risk Management: Employees Still Want Privacy & Open Floor Plans

Risk Management: Employees Still Want Privacy & Open Floor Plans

When it comes to maximizing productivity, the research is endless. From open floor plans and coffee breaks to work-life balance and corporate wellness programs; companies all over are searching for the best office management tactics.

Facebook eschewed the traditional coffee break and instead has a sprawling campus abounding with rec centers stocked with Guitar Hero and a basketball court for employee breaks. Google has an 80/20 system where employees are encouraged to work on their own projects for 20% of their workday.

The latest trend? Diner style booths. According to the New York Times, walls have been tumbling down as many companies opt for open floor plans to facilitate communication among employees (Facebook and Apple being two of them). However, many employees are lodging complaints about noise volume disrupting their work. Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, reported that more than half of office workers were dissatisfied with the level of “speech privacy.”

The theory behind open work spaces it to promote communication among workers, and create an air of openness and transparency throughout the company. It is also significantly cheaper and saves space for the company. The downside? Distracted workers and a sense of privacy loss can also inhibit productivity.

Some companies have responded with technology. Autodesk, a software company installed a pink-noise system, where soft air whooshing is emitted over loudspeakers. Then noise sounds like a ventilation system but is actually formulated to match the frequencies of human voices. This pink-noise system was developed by Cambridge Sound Management.

Other companies provide escapes from the open-floor plan. Office designers have begun to use diner-style booths in the office to provide employees with a more private area to chat. Barrie Berg, chief executive of consulting firm What If American operations, discusses the benefits;

“You can see what’s going around you, and people can see you, but you can still have a private conversation without disturbing anyone around you. We’re a culture of people who work better with a buzz around us, but that buzz needs to be manageable.”

What are your thoughts on the latest trend in the workplace? Do open-floor plans work better, or is the loss of privacy too much? We’d love to hear from you!

At Dryfoos we dedicate ourselves to providing the most comprehensive and affordable risk management and insurance solutions to business owners across the state. For more than  110 years, we have specialized in commercial property and casualty insurance solutions for Pennsylvania business. Contact us today for more information.

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