Privacy in the Open Office | Design Solutions for Improved Productivity and Comfort

On the heels of last week’s blog post discussing the open office and its impact on today’s workforce, we know that strategic workplace design is essential in maintaining individual and organizational productivity in these popular layouts. Collaboration and communication may be more easily attainable, but noise pollution and visual distractions will flood a poorly designed open environment and employees will become uncomfortable. In order to harness the positive attributes of an open concept without disrupting the entire office, a delicate balance of visual and acoustical privacy must be achievable for both individuals and groups. From privacy screens to mobile space dividers, acoustic booths to sound masking systems, here are a few design solutions that can help you build a comfortable and productive open office.

CDI Features Privacy in the Open Office
Shown Above: Kimball Narrate, Atlanta Showroom

Visual Privacy Solutions


Visual privacy at workstations is a critical design component in any open plan office. If employees don’t feel comfortable at their desks, where Gensler’s US Workplace Survey tells us we spend nearly 70% of our week, then productivity and office morale are sure to deteriorate. Incorporating an open plan desking or benching system with the visual privacy of a panel system will ensure there is a balance of focus and collaborative work. Certain organizational departments will need more of one than the other, which will require planning and preparation to understand before designing your space and choosing furniture elements. However, offering workers the freedom and flexibility to manipulate their desk space according to their activities will help them find that balance.

Kimball offers several open plan desking systems, including Narrate™ and Canopy™, both of which move beyond conventional benching systems and offer extreme versatility for the modern office. Narrate’s streamlined framework can be customized to tell a brand’s story with customized graphics, seamed panels and mixed materials, while effortlessly providing a wide range of visual privacy components. Designers are able to specify ‘shelters’ into the system, providing both visual interest and additional seclusion for individuals and groups. Canopy can also be integrated into any open plan environment, bringing with it modifiable privacy and a balance of individual and collective needs. The system allows users to mix workstations, booths and media walls to create a compact destination for solo work, team huddles and active collaboration. What’s more, the Narrate and Canopy systems both offer height adjustable surfaces and cleanly concealed technology, encouraging movement and supporting a dynamic workplace.

CDI Features Privacy in the Open Office
Shown Above: Kimball Canopy

OFS has developed several open plan workstations and benching systems that can be configured to meet the needs of any organization. The Range height-adjustable benching line boasts an array of privacy panels, including tackable felt and frosted glass, and allows users to easily transition between sitting and standing. And for a quick workstation transformation, the BuzziDesk FlipFlop is a movable and foldable desk divider, instantly creating more personal space and conveniently defining multiple workstations.

Collaboration Areas

The rise of the open office has led manufacturer’s to create a number of design tools that improve visual privacy without sacrificing collaboration. Employees don’t want to be closed off from their coworkers, but they don’t want to feel like people are constantly peering over their shoulder. Privacy elements within collaborative spaces can be as simple as a stationary room divider or mobile screen. Loftwall manufactures room dividers and privacy partitions that are highly adaptable and aesthetically driven for a unique visual appearance. The Clarus go! Mobile glassboard, which is available in a rainbow of colors and finishes, quickly transforms open space into a collaborative hot spot. Kimball’s KORE™ collection offers a variety of tools for the open office, including the mobile screen that can be outfitted with storage. The KORE Work Cart, while designed for a single individual, can easily be brought together within a collaborative space, embracing the concept of shared workspaces. Kimball’s Xsede® Media Cart is another fluid tool that easily adapts alongside individuals and groups at a moments notice, making it easy to collaborate and share information in presentations, brainstorming, or classroom settings. And finally, Kimball’s Teem® is a stationary media wall that keeps coworkers connected to technology and to each other, while also creating a natural partition within an open space. Teem can be equipped with monitors or marker boards, and a choice of table base and top to make the space even more functional. 

CDI Features Privacy in the Open Office
Shown Above: Clarus go! Mobile Glassboard

As the open office concept has popularized, manufacturers have released a variety of lounge pieces that boast both privacy and comfort for individuals and groups. Part of Kimball’s popular Pairings® collection, the Pairings Nook integrates seamlessly into the office and creates a supportive location for people to relax and interact. You can see how the Pairings Nook was displayed within the Kimball Chicago showroom during NeoCon here. Allermuir’s Haven and Global’s River™ both offer configurability for the open layout, the latter of which can be specified with power and USB ports to keep employees connected while away from their desks. The OFS Heya was created to form smaller, breakout spaces within the open office, adjusting to employee needs throughout the day. Heya can be specified for both individuals and groups, and boasts a portable solution for workplace privacy on-the-go. Be sure to also check out the newest addition to OFS’ breadth of open office solutions, the LeanTo collection.

CDI Features Privacy in the Open Office
Shown Above: OFS Heya

Acoustic Privacy Solutions

Workplace acoustics is an aspect of the open office that is often overlooked and regularly cited as a reason for disappointment. Conversations between coworkers, phones ringing and keyboard clicks are constantly polluting the office and playing a detrimental role in productivity. Combating noise pollution with acoustic privacy solutions will ensure employees are able to work comfortably and efficiently throughout their day. Let’s highlight a few design elements that boost privacy and maximize productivity in an open layout.

Sound Masking

Investing in sound masking for your facility is a simple, yet effective way to improve acoustic comfort for your employees and keep them working efficiently. Sound masking is an ambient sound, similar to the sound of airflow, that is specifically engineered to match the frequency of human speech to reduce noise distractions, protect speech privacy and improve workplace acoustics. Modern systems evenly distribute electronically produced sound through speakers placed above the ceiling. Effects of these systems are largely unconscious, but in offices where masking is in use, it feels easier to speak at normal volume and work without disruption. You can read more on sound masking and its positive effects on the blog.

Architectural Products

Modern architectural products can be customized to build acoustically private conference rooms, collaborative spaces and phone rooms without creating visual barriers. Unlike drywall, architectural products allow for users to easily incorporate partial or entire glass walls, providing acoustic privacy and segregation for individuals and groups while simultaneously enabling natural light to flow through a space. Movable walls, like those manufactured by Trendway, also boast indispensable flexibility for organizations, allowing for reconfiguration and relocation at a cost competitive price. Visit our blog post to browse through each of Trendway’s three movable wall systems and learn more about their incredible design versatility.

CDI Features Privacy in the Open Office
Shown Above: Trendway Clear Wall

Other Acoustical Elements

A wide variety of other acoustical design elements are available for the modern office, including digital prints, ceiling clouds and baffles, which you can learn about on the blog. Visually private booths and hubs, like those we touched on above, also boast acoustic privacy for solo and collaborative work, making them a wise investment and cost-effective solution when designing an open office.

In addition to previously discussed elements, BuzziSpace offers an acoustical biophilic solution, BuzziMood, which won an Interior Design HiP Awards at 2018’s NeoCon shows. Other acoustical solutions that harness the powerful benefits of biophilia include Magnuson Group’s KasKad Planters and OFS’ Intermix Planter Boxes. Also worth noting is Carnegie’s Xorel Artform®, a versatile acoustical tiling system that combines the premier high performance interior textile Xorel with proven acoustical functionality. This creative design solution is available in 16 shapes, a variety of sizes, 3 dimensional options and over 350 Xorel colors, patterns, and textures. Xorel Artform panels can be easily installed in a multitude of wall designs, bringing a unique aesthetic to your space.

CDI Features Privacy in the Open Office
Shown Above: Carnegie Xorel Artform in Viacom Offices

Maximizing Comfort and Efficiency in the Open Office

A great deal of planning and preparation goes into building an efficient open office. Proper use of visual and acoustical privacy solutions, like those we have outlined here, will ensure employees have the tools needed for comfortable individual and collaborative work. For more information on open office privacy solutions and guidance in creating a productive open office that is unique to your organization, contact the CDI team via the link below.

CDI Features Privacy in the Open Office

Featured Image Source: Office Snapshots, AirBnB HQ in San Francisco

About CDI

Corporate Design Interiors (CDI) is an industry-leading commercial furniture dealership whose award-winning product knowledge, thoughtful design coupled with strategic planning deliver functional and inspiring interiors designed to foster employee well-being, productivity and engagement. CDI’s relentless focus on delivering positive workplaces mirroring the culture and vision of companies while delivering a high value investment has earned CDI diverse clients including;  established Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits/public sector and energetic startups.

As a “Select” Kimball dealer, CDI’s excellence in sales, partnership, quality improvement, community involvement and overall business best practices earned it the 2017 Kimball Premier Partner Award.  CDI was selected among 52 other Kimball Select dealerships throughout the country for this industry-leading honor, earning additional praise for its company culture and enterprise practices.

CDI Awarded 2017 Kimball-PremierPartnerView the video below to take a further look into Corporate Design Interior’s award-winning partnership with Kimball.

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1711 Paramount Ct., Waukesha, WI  53186
P  262.521.1010