The trend towards open plans to promote collaboration, open sight lines, and extend the reach of natural light has had some unintended consequences, according to recent research by Harvard Business School. To help address the number one concern most often cited by employees — the lack of speech privacy — we have outlined the five reasons you should consider adding speech privacy systems in your workplace. We’ve also addressed how this simple solution can also benefit our education and healthcare clients.

5 Reasons Why You Need Speech Privacy

 1. Confidentiality

Think about how often you unintentionally overhear conversations throughout the day. Now think about how often someone may have overheard one of your conversations. A lack of speech privacy is distracting, can lead to a breach in confidentiality, and has been shown to cause stress.

Information truly is the new currency. Everything from personal identities to corporate R&D has become a target for criminals. While many organizations take precautions to safeguard digital information, information shared verbally during collection is often overlooked.

2. Protecting Yourself

In today’s open environments, voices carry further than many people realize. Just as your coworkers may pick up on your conversations, your customers can also pick up on the conversations you may have with your coworkers, even over phone conversations.

Sharing information in a private office with a closed door is safe, right? Think again. The materials of the room’s construction may not provide enough acoustic security to prevent sound from traveling through doors, walls, windows, HVAC ducts, and raised floors. Since doors provide an illusion of privacy, people may speak at a louder volume, unknowingly contributing to the violation of speech privacy.

3. Privacy

Sometimes meetings are meant to be private meetings. From planning a new product launch to addressing performance issues to conversations around acquiring a new company, privacy is critical.

In a study to determine reasons for employee dissatisfaction, 53% of employees reported overhearing private information at the office. As real estate optimization trends continue to condense the square foot per person ratio in spaces where we work, learn, or visit, it’s becoming more difficult to participate in either casual or sensitive discussions or make phone calls without other people overhearing every detail.

4. Reduce Distractions

Whether we admit it or not, we can’t help listening to conversations around us. Think about how often you are distracted at work from conversations, and then how long it takes to get back to the task at hand. A recent study found that employees are interrupted by conversations once every 11 minutes and waste an average of 21.5 minutes a day due to conversational distractions. Research has also shown that office distractions contribute to disengaged employees and increased stress, which then lead to increased absenteeism, higher error rates, and less productivity.

When disengaged employees make up over one third of the global workforce, it’s crucial to provide an environment where they can reliably concentrate on the task at hand and are not consistently exposed to information that carries no relevance to them.

 5. Wellbeing

While noisy environments can be distracting, workspaces that are too quiet can be just as disruptive. When a space is so silent that you can hear a door open, someone opening their drawer, or the key strikes of a coworker 50 feet away, these little sounds can be very distracting.

Not addressing these speech privacy issues leads to stressed workers that affect not only an organization’s bottom line, but also its reputation. Stressed workers account for 27% higher rates of absenteeism, higher error rates and over 60% higher rates of illness and injury.

Can you afford to NOT address speech privacy in your space?

Speech Privacy is a Challenge for Everyone

Corporate Environments

Today’s office environments are designed to be flexible to support teamwork and collaboration. While this improves creativity, it decreases the ability for people in adjacent areas to focus on their work. A study performed by IT research and consulting firm Basex estimated that these distractions cost businesses as much as $588 billion!

Speech privacy high-risk areas:

  • Board / conference rooms
  • Private offices
  • Reception areas
  • Open workstation / benching areas

Healthcare Facilities

Research indicates a clear link between patient satisfaction and their perception of quality of care. As patient satisfaction rates continue to play a greater role in how healthcare providers operate, providers need to address the challenge of a noisy environment. By reducing these disruptions to patients, as well as providing safeguards to prevent private information from being overheard, healthcare providers can take a large step towards promoting better health outcomes.

Speech privacy high-risk areas:

  • Reception areas
  • Corridors/nurses stations
  • Pharmacies
  • Patient rooms
  • Exam rooms
  • Billing departments

Education Environments

As the learning model shifts to creating hands-on environments for the students to learn, the use of collaboration technology continues to increase. While this effectively increases student comprehension, it also increase noise levels that can distract and impair the ability of students in adjacent areas to learn. In secondary education environments, students frequently risk sensitive information such as finances, grades, housing, and personal health being overheard by bystanders in adjoining spaces.

Speech privacy high-risk areas:

  • Learning commons, student unions
  • Building corridors
  • Computer centers
  • Guidance/counseling offices
  • Administrative areas
  • Financial Aid offices

Speech privacy is a growing challenge in our society that can emotionally and financially affect both individuals and large organizations. Fortunately, organizations can support speech privacy throughout their spaces by incorporating one or more solutions.

To keep up with our speech privacy series, sign up for updates to learn more about the benefits of Speech Privacy Systems and the solutions available to you.