Finding the Right Balance Between Collaboration and Privacy In Your Next Office Refurbishment

When it comes to office design and office refurbishment it’s important to get the balance right between spaces where collaboration can take place and individual office spaces that offer privacy. This can be especially difficult in workplaces where space is at a premium however it’s important to find the right mix of collaborative and private office space that will work for your business and your staff.


We know from research that privacy and quiet can be a must for any company that is carrying out sensitive work which needs to be done in private. It can also be a much sought after commodity when it comes to what staff want from their workspace.

A number of different studies have shown that noise can be a major issue for many employees when it comes to the workplace.

In a survey conducted by Gensler “What we’ve learned about focus in the workplace” they sought to understand “the connection between workplace design and the effectiveness of work”. Gensler looked at what 90,000 people from 155 companies across 10 industries said, “really drives their productivity at work” and found that the most significant factor in workplace effectiveness was not collaboration, but individual focus work.

Gensler explains “Distractions—visual, noise or always-on technology—abound in the contemporary office. Providing ample private spaces to get away and think is one strategy companies use to balance out the negatives of open-office plans.” They go onto say “Concentration requires a more individualized set of options than today’s standard playbook. To enhance both collaboration and concentration, we are seeking to invent a workplace that provides a spectrum of individual choices of primary workspaces, supported by places to collaborate, socialize and learn. This new hybrid could unlock untapped value through a more equitable balance of concentration and collaboration in the workplace: a new approach that could create a fresh level of success for organizations.”

Ecophon, who develop, manufacture and market acoustic products and systems, published a report on “Noise in the workplace” which found that “noise is probably the most prevalent annoyance source in offices, and can lead to increased stress for occupants.” They went onto say that noise is a “superdriver” which affects “individual focus and collaborative work, meetings, phone conversations, conferences, reading and thinking.“

This is also the finding of a ResearchGate field study which looked at “Office noise and employee concentration: Identifying causes of disruption and potential improvements” and found that of those surveyed 99% reported that their concentration was impaired by various components of office noise, especially telephones left ringing at vacant desks and people talking in the background.


Teamwork and collaboration are vital to many businesses and having the workspace to be able to bring people together is a must. So, while privacy and quiet are important so too are office layouts that allow staff to come together to collaborate.

Where teamwork and collaboration are a priority then individual office space may be a barrier to communication and an open plan office space is more likely to meet your business needs. Open plan office space encourages team interaction and enables staff to communicate more easily with one another, brainstorm and exchange ideas. Open plan also allows for a far greater degree of flexibility when it comes to making changes to teams or to future changes in work processes.

Interestingly an article in ScienceDirect “Effects of control over office workspace on perceptions of the work environment and work outcomes” collected data from a questionnaire across five organisations looking at “the effects of distractions, flexible use of workspace and personal control over the work environment on perceived job performance, job satisfaction, group cohesiveness, and inclinations to work alone or in an enclosed space and their interrelationships” and came to the conclusion that “more personal control over the physical workspace (e.g., adjustment) and easy access to meeting places led to higher perceived group cohesiveness and job satisfaction. Contrary to expectation, the results indicated that distractions may have little influence on self-rated performance.”

A Pub Med study “The work environment pilot: An experiment to determine the optimal office design for a technology company” which looked at 4 office design layouts: open-plan, zoned open-plan, activity based, and team offices and compared them against well-being and productivity measurements found that although open plan office layouts scored poorly in terms of higher levels of noise and caused employees to spend more time away from their desk to seek relief from the noise levels, zoned open plan spaces performed well.

Open plan office space can be zoned to divide areas through the use of colour or furniture like freestanding custom shelving and planting. Temporary or mobile partitioning, acoustic panels or living walls can also be used to separate space. Many of these options will also help to reduce ambient office noise which may well be the reason that zoned open plan was better received in the Pub Med study than open plan office space.

Finding A Workspace Balance

A study by Steelcase “found that although 77% of people have their own assigned workstation, the vast majority, 87%, spend two to four hours every day working someplace else. Over 51% of people say they need an escape from working in the same place during their day, whether they were alone or with others. They’re also seeking deeper relationships with colleagues, and 43% believe informal spaces can help build more trust.”

Ultimately it’s about incorporating different types of “work spaces” into your office design to allow staff to work alone in private, work as part of a team, collaborate with others in small or large groups and to be able to break away from work when they need some downtime.

Think about your business needs, your processes and the space available to you. Consider whether the work that your company does requires privacy. Do you have teams that need to be close to one another to collaborate?  Essentially your office design should be tailored towards your business, your processes and your staff. In essence, the right office layout will depend on the specific needs and goals of your business.

JBH Refurbishments, Experts In Office Design and Refurbishment

JBH Refurbishments have over 30+ years experience in office design  and office refurbishment and fit outs. We can advise on all aspects of your Kent or London office refurbishment. We understand what’s required to design an office space and carry out a refurbishment to the highest standards. We can provide the right expertise for your project. Contact us via our contact form or by calling us on 0333 207 0339 today for a free on-site consultation.

Know How

Overcoming Office Design Challenges Across Kent and London

Kent and London office space need office design to get the most out of the available space and balance business objectives and staff needs.

London Office Refurbishments Continue To Power The London Office Market

The Deloitte Summer 2024 Edition of the London Office Crane Survey finds developers are turning to refurbishments over new builds.