Striking the balance between collaborative working and privacy

Bruce Hydes, founding director of specialist recruitment consultancy Edgar Stewart, explores why it pays for employers and HR professionals to get their office space just right. After investing in relocating to open a new business incubator and start-up hub in Stockbridge, he knows first-hand the importance of striking the right balance between collaborative working and privacy. Here, he suggests why doors and walls could be making a come-back…
Remember the days of workplace cubicles which separated you and your colleagues by just a few centimetres? There wasn’t room to swing a cat, let alone brainstorm, challenge your boss to a quick Xbox battle or indulge in a game of table football.
Those days have gone and have given rise to a new workplace standard – one that’s open plan and with room to get creative.
Bruce Hydes, Edgar Stewart
The emphasis these days is on collaborative working and free thinking. Pigeon holes have been banished to the dark ages and we all have communal workspaces kitted out in Ikea with white boards instead.
It’s all good, right? Wrong. According to an article in Fast Company magazine, walls and doors could be making a comeback. The reason? Lack of privacy.
Not everyone is happy to take their ‘private’ meetings in Costa or Starbucks. And I know first-hand that, even behind a glass-walled meeting room door, the eyes and ears of the office are likely to be upon you.
As an employer or HR professional, do you really want a fly on the wall when you give a disciplinary or discuss private medical matters with a member of your team?
As a recruiter, I know the importance of privacy when it comes to discussing salaries and benefits. I can also imagine how unnerving it must be for candidates to have an audience while they’re interviewed for their next big break.
Some things are definitely best dealt with behind closed doors.
That’s why it pays to get your office space just right – particularly if you’re an HR professional or employer.
You need to get the balance right between a collaborative workspace that’s conducive to sharing ideas and a space where people can discuss things in private.
By failing to provide somewhere that’s discreet, you could run the risk of driving any workplace issues ‘underground’.
In short, while transparency in the workplace is great, it’s not so productive to be open plan, with all your cards on the table, all the time.
While we wouldn’t want to return to the oppressive days of mind-numbing, sectioned-off work pods, let’s not run the risk of alienating our workforce in a bid to be the next Google or Skyscanner.

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