The noises in an office environment can be distracting. You might hear clicking keys, ringing phones, and random conversations—all of which can make a private office with a closing door sound appealing. A private office is often seen as a career milestone and status symbol. But nowadays, with the rise of open concept workplaces, the private office is becoming less common.
With high demand and short supply, deciding who gets a private office can be difficult and may even cause tension among employees.
Here are a few considerations to help you determine your company’s private office configuration:
Interaction with confidential or private information. Departments or individuals who regularly handle confidential information often require locations for private conversations and secure document storage. Granting these individuals private offices with a lockable door enhances your organization’s security. Departments that may need this privacy include human resources, house counsel, and accounts payable. Employees who may need this privacy include anyone storing or conversing about sensitive matters, such as managers, supervisors, and executives.
Amount of time in conversation. Placing an employee whose job involves frequent conversation next to others that do not can lead to an unproductive work environment. If several positions require frequent phone calls, consider the confidentiality of conversations. In general, phone calls made by human resources require a higher level of confidentiality than those made by a sales representative. In addition, employees who have clients coming into the office may need their own offices to converse with clients in private.
Mobility. Can employees easily access equipment and files they need from other work areas? If so, you may need fewer private offices and more break-out or meeting rooms that employees can use when they need to have a private conversation or work in a distraction-free environment.
Time spent in the office. Consider the amount of time an employee will be in the office. Providing a private office to someone who is generally in the field or often works from home may not be the best use of space.
Position level or tenure. Having a private office is a status symbol that is often gained through career success and years of service. You may want to reward employees in your office who have achieved these goals with their own space. Upper management and many tenured employees will likely benefit from a private office for the other reasons listed above as well.
By default, some businesses need more private offices than others. Law firms, accounting companies, and consulting agencies, for example, may have a greater need because of their handling of confidential information or their need for clients to visit them on site. For other companies, the distinction of when a person needs a private office may not be as obvious. The factors listed above can aid in making these difficult decisions.