Open plan offices might be the wave of the future, but they’re famously tough on folks who need a little privacy in order to get their jobs done. … or just want to maintain their sanity. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to carve out a little private space in a more public office environment. Here are some of the ways employers are creating an oasis of quiet in an open office.
1. Invest in Sound Masking
Workers have been doing this on their own for years by wearing headphones, either to listen to music or to block out sound with white noise. Lately, companies have gotten in on the act, dropping cash on sound-masking equipment that provides a layer of neutral noise for the whole office. The idea is that the sound masking drowns out all the little noises that distract workers from their day-to-day tasks. While this doesn’t solve the problem of not having an office door, it’s a solid option for people who are mostly concerned about minor distractions.
2. Build Fun Private Spaces
A bunch of different companies have dealt with the privacy issue by building cool private areas that can be used on an ad hoc basis by workers who need a few minutes or hours of peace. Probably our favorite version of this is Facebook’s phone booths. We have to imagine that it’s pretty soothing to be able to pretend you’re Superman while you’re making a private phone call. We’re dying to know who will be the first person to jump out of one of these booths dressed up like a superhero. (Just kidding. It’ll be Mark Zuckerberg, obviously.)
3. Create In-Between Space
Sometimes, you need to talk to your coworkers, but don’t want to do it right in the middle of the open work area. That’s when in-between spaces come in handy. Consulting firm What If solved the problem of creating a collaborative space by building diner-style booths right at the edge of the common work area. This allows people to work together, without disrupting colleagues who need to be heads down on a project.
Also, diner booths are just cool.
“There’s something very satisfying about a booth,” said Barrie Berg, chief executive of What If’s American operations.