Privacy crisis: the future office is not all about collaboration

Hybrid office planners and business leaders must recognise the desire for privacy and individual spaces when designing the post-pandemic workplace, according to new research from Steelcase.

Workplace designers have speculated on what a post-pandemic office would look like after hybrid working became the norm during the pandemic. The office would no longer be a place for isolated, independent work. Instead, it would be transformed into a collaborative environment.

In this concept of the post-pandemic hybrid workspace, offices are created to foster chance encounters and collaborative working through shared, open-plan spaces. But recent research from Steelcase, an architecture, furniture, and technology company, has revealed "what employees truly desire," and the results are surprising.

According to their survey of almost 5,000 global office workers across 11 countries, when asked what’s become more important in the office now (compared to pre-pandemic), four of the top five answers were related to privacy and places to do individual work:

  • 64% wanted spaces for hybrid collaboration
  • 62% wanted single-person enclaves for hybrid meetings
  • 61% wanted spaces in the office that allowed for privacy
  • 58% wanted workstations with full or partial enclosure
  • 57% wanted reservable workspaces

Even though over two-thirds of respondents expressed a desire for hybrid collaboration spaces, it was also made clear that they still preferred a workplace that allowed for both collaborative and independent work, as well as a sense of belonging and individual control over their work experience.


Demand for privacy

When asked if they would prefer hybrid working or being in the office, 55% of survey respondents said they would reduce the amount of time they worked from home if it meant they had an assigned desk in the office. From this, it is clear that the demand is high for a dedicated space where employees are afforded privacy and quiet.

While the desire for hybrid collaboration spaces in the office is still high, it is crucial for space planners and business leaders to acknowledge that the need for privacy and individual spaces make up the majority of the modern workforce's concerns about returning to the workplace. Without these areas, there is a danger of fostering a feeling of "homelessness" in the workplace, which can tempt employees to avoid coming in at all.


This article is based on a research piece ‘Privacy crisis: the future office is not all about collaboration’ authored Gabriel Leggo, for WORKTECH Academy.

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