Privacy at Work

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Privacy at Work
Anneke Zwart, Student (University), Netherlands

When it comes to office spaces, organizations are always trying to find a balance between on the one hand public and on the other hand private workspace in order to encourage collaboration. However, public spaces are often criticized as it assaults our privacy. Besides, public spaces are nowadays often not efficiently executed and as a result raise feelings of dissatisfaction and the need for privacy. Congdon, Flynn and Redman (2014) researched the issue of privacy so as to come up with strategies to efficiently find a balance between public and private workspaces.
First of all, a reconsideration of the concept of privacy was done.

  1. INFORMATION CONTROL: this refers to the desire of employees to control and protect personal information, which implies a constant question of revealing or hide the information obtained. For example, social media has forged a large factor that forces people to conceal personal information.
  2. STIMULATION CONTROL: this refers to the distractions that hampers our ability to concentrate. The need for control stimulation requires a range of different workspace types that are different in their degree of privacy so as to balance the social and the private.
Furthermore, it is important to mention that even if privacy is universally desired, the degree of privacy and the way that privacy is experienced differs across culture. Not only does the way that privacy is perceived differs among local cultures, within local cultures there are differences in the ways that privacy is experienced across organizational cultures for example.

The research revealed that there are five ways that employees use to achieve the two points (information control/stimulation control):
  1. STRATEGIC ANONYMITY: this refers to searching for privacy in the middle of a crowd. Those people like the hum of activities in cafes or other busy public spaces. The 'strategic’ part lies in the fact that employees choose the time to make themselves anonymous.
  2. SELECTIVE EXPOSURE: this refers to consciously deciding what personal information to reveal to which people; as a result that the boundaries between private and public information are constantly changing.
  3. ENTRUSTED CONFIDENCE: this refers to the privacy in which people are not alone, but rather have private conversations in which they can share their issues, which is kept private from the rest of the organization. Examples are performance reviews.
  4. INTENTIONAL SHIELDING: this refers to the methods used by people to protect themselves from being watched. For example hiding individual thoughts.
  5. PURPOSEFUL SOLITUDE: this refers to intentional separation from a group or public space so as to express your feelings; concentrate or doing personal things.
Now that the five strategies to achieve information and stimulation control have been outlined, a next step for organizations is to comprehend the needs for privacy at work. An understanding is needed to choose the right strategy with respect to private and public spaces to implement.

  1. PROTOCOLS: Organizations could establish rules and protocols that define decent behaviors concerning privacy boundaries. It is important that those protocols – and reasons for those particular protocols – are communicated clearly, so that everyone comprehends what their rights and responsibilities are.
  2. SIGNALING: Organizations can also use signaling, which are rules about privacy developed y the employees themselves. Those rules and devices, however, will only be accepted in organizational cultures that respects the individual desire for privacy. Thus, organizations need to clearly express their understanding for privacy needs.
  3. STRATEGIC SPACE PLANNING: this refers to design approaches to respond to employees’ privacy needs in workspaces. Organizations can choose from two different models:
    - the distributed model, in which individual and group spaces are blended so that employees easily change between modes of work
    - the zone model, which clearly defines spaces as being private or public.
  4. AN ECOSYSTEM OF SPACES: the most successful way – according to the article – is the provision of a wide set of spaces so that people are able to choose where and how they desire to work. In this way, people can choose according to their own individual privacy needs at any point in time.
Source: Congdon, C. (2014) “Balancing ‘we’ and ‘me’ Harvard Business Review October

Privacy at Work and Two Factor Theory
Fountain, Management Consultant, Australia
The research/results are good and have merit. First though consider the need for privacy/open space:
- Open space for collaboration is great and successful.
- But there are always some things that cannot be conducted in open spaces e.g., private interviews etc.
- If work objectives predominantly demand privacy, then private spaces must predominate.
- If on the other hand - and most likely - the real work need (not personal want) is that large amounts of private work is not needed, then large open space is perhaps a better approach, assuming collaborative work would improve quality, speed up processes, improve ideas generation, innovation etc.
That being the case, three approaches are necessary.
1. Introduce the design of the space and the reasons for it to the people and get their ideas on the design.
2. Train the people on the use of the space and let them contribute their ideas on ground rules.
Some will not adapt, some will with patience assist int the process.
3. Select new recruits to fit criteria that belong to the new job needs.

Personal Privacy at Work
Radha Raj, Other, India
The report by Anneke Zwart is more about personal space and the privacy of the individual employee. If you look at the physical work environment and space planning, I personally prefer a cubicle model, where the individual worker can work in peace and is neither distracted nor a distraction for others. As for personal information, it is up to the individual employee, an adult, to decide where to draw the line. I do not see any scope for policy initiatives in this.

Private and Public Work Spaces
My assumption is that by private and public office spaces, the writer more or less means open and closed offices.
In my opinion, the nature of the work done should determine the type of space employees occupy. Both have their advantages and disadvantages:
- While a public office is cheaper to construct and maintain, confidentiality of sensitive documents may be compromised and it is sometimes noisy.
- The private office ensures confidentiality and a conducive atmosphere to work in peace, but may promote inertia.

Transparency and Privacy at Work
Radha Raj, Other, India
Transparency is fine when both giver and receiver of personal information function at a very high level of spiritual consciousness. But in day-to-day life where there is a lot of competition in job situations, one has to be careful to not become vulnerable. Especially, lady employees need to be extra careful. Let us be practical. On the other hand, discussions about open and closed office spaces can elicit a lot of diverse and interesting opinions.

Three Types of Organizational Workspaces
Gandhi Heryanto, Director, Indonesia
If we talk about workspace, one important thing is that the workspace has to be effective and people believe that the workspace works for them.
Workspace in an organization usually reflects the hierarchy of the organizational structure which is also a value of how organizational members are connected physically, professionally or culturally. The workspace strategy should facilitate the organization to 'live'.
Generally 3 workspaces are required in any organization:
1. Workspace for teams
2. Private workspace, and
3. Social interaction workspace.

Privacy in Public Workplaces
yanney John Parker, Business Consultant, Ghana
In my view workplace efficiency and privacy in public offices is very important to execute the work efficiently. One disadvantage is that there is a high possibility that individuals can easily have access information from third party. The writer cites an example of social media. Therefore the idea about workplace and privacy can expose the organization to danger if care is not taken. Proper work stations are to be set up to secure personal privacy.

Two Types of Work Spaces
Work is an activity that requires two types of spaces:
- COMMON SPACE: these spaces can be used for interaction with staff at different hierarchical levels, to develop teamwork, as a classroom for training, libraries or reading room, for focus group meetings, cubicles for customers, suppliers, union or as an auditorium for special events.
- PRIVATE SPACE: these allow a greater concentration to perform a specific task and keep documented information that our activities are generating. But the risk taken is not having the documentation available. So it is important to have designated (allocated) space for each activity.


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