Three ways to preserve workplace silence without ever having to say “shh.”

Privacy and quiet space are crucial for workplace wellbeing yet surprisingly hard to find in many offices. While your office soundscape may usually be tame, the day you desperately need just one square foot of silence is when it sounds most like a crowded street corner.

It’s not that you don’t care about your colleague’s weekend plans, the fifth office party this week or that phone ringing off the hook. But at the wrong time—worse, at the same time—it can be too much to ignore.

So you escape from the chatter and seek refuge, but where? Conference rooms are free, but you’re one and they seat eight. The stairwell, bathroom or parking lot welcomes you as a last resort.

This hunt for privacy is unproductive. It exacerbates stress and wastes time. Every employee needs privacy. If not in their immediate space, then at least easy access to find it.

A well-designed office lets you easily segue from collaboration to solitude without being forced down a deserted hallway to find it. Here’s how:

Desk side

Give employees control of their own privacy with modular workstations. Movable panels provide visual privacy, and made of wool felt or fabric, they also help buffer noise.

Likewise, padded booths or even entire fabric panels will drown out noise pollution and keep conversations to those involved.

In a room

Ample options: One of the biggest privacy pains is having nowhere to go. An activity-based workplace makes it simple and fast to find space based on need—be it collaborative or individual work. From a one- or two-person phone room, a reservable four-person huddle room to a large conference room, employees can spontaneously meet in seclusion. And if they need a break from the crowd, they can slip into a room solo.

Simple access: Perhaps the only thing less productive than not having a room, is not knowing where to find it. On top of variety, employees need quick accessibility to breakaway space. They’re unlikely to travel floors to find it or even more than 40 feet, according to an M.I.T. study. Offer a variety of room sizes near each neighborhood (or group of workstations) so people can pop in and out as needed.

On a break

A huddle room provides momentary solace, but you’re unlikely—and probably unwelcome—to spend your entire eight hours in there. That’s why more workplaces are adding a “third space” to the mix. These are cafés, lounges and otherwise non-traditional office space where employees can work and hang out away from a desk. They’re for days when you really need to get away from it all, yet stay close enough to meet when you need to.

Easy access to quiet spaces is a vital part of any office—particularly as we see fewer cubes and more floorplans open up. As you reconfigure your workplace, make room for space that’s free of loud sounds and prying eyes and ears.

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About the author

JLL Staff Reporter, Behind-the-scenes
A team passionate about delivering valuable content and tools about workplace to help you deliver the best experience to your employees.

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