The Case for Office Partitions (And How They Improve Work Performance)


Along with ‘creativity’ and ‘innovation,’ collaboration is a buzzword that defines business environments today. Among many other benefits, collaboration pools the skills and strengths of the entire team, allows for faster innovation, supports both team and individual goals, and improves employee retention rates by strengthening company culture. It also increases the sharing of knowledge and creates a strong sense of community.

But paradoxically, most efforts to increase productivity by fueling more collaboration at work obtain the opposite effect. A growing body of research shows that, while interaction and togetherness are vital in today’s workplace, too much of it can actually hurt workers’ efficiency.

Without question, effective collaboration means granting people access to one another; it also requires giving each individual the space and time to concentrate on their tasks, decompress, and recharge. Finding the balance between these two needs is, according to the inventor of the first open-office panel system Robert Probst, critical for any organization that is interested in evolving and achieving innovation. Managing collaboration to prevent overload, he says, includes allowing the office landscape to reflect the realities of work and the needs of people populating it.

Fortunately, privacy doesn’t necessarily involve architecturally private spaces, although some companies continue to provide workers with their individual spaces to ensure a lower level of interruption. In many open-office environments, this balance can be achieved by simply offering added controls such as doors, floor-to-ceiling modular walls, and other office partitions, which can revitalize the space to offer varying degrees of privacy and collaboration.

The Benefits of Office Partitions

The Benefits of Office Partitions

Promoting Concentration

Separating co-workers from each other will minimize the amount of interruptions and allow them to focus on the task at hand. By improving workers’ ability to focus and simultaneously decreasing their frustration and stress levels, the success of collaboration, learning, and socializing will also improve.

Ensuring Privacy

No matter how much emphasis is placed on collaboration, teams are made of individuals, who are expected to make individual contributions. Designing a facility that offers varying degrees of privacy in accordance with workers’ needs will add the comfort of knowing they can fully immerse themselves into work without being interrupted.

Reducing Noise

The accidental and sometimes hostile noise distractions are one of the biggest drains on performance and productivity in today’s modern workplace. Speech sound affects not only workers’ mood and emotions, but also their ability to concentrate. Oftentimes, it impedes the thought process by drowning out their own ideas and turning them into involuntary eavesdroppers.

Creating Additional Storage Space

Desk and wall partitions can create additional storage space by holding baskets and shelves or double as a pinboard or a whiteboard that can be used to generate ideas, jot down notes, and hold project documents in one place.

Improving Aesthetics

By bringing a modern and sleek look to an office, office partitions can improve the space’s aesthetics and increase its attractiveness. Although typically not on the list of elements that can impact the success of an organization, the furnishes a business chooses define the company culture and directly influence employees’ performance and satisfaction levels, inspiring them to do their best work and helping them thrive.

Increasing Employee Engagement

Increasing Employee Engagement

At companies throughout the world, employee disengagement is one of the greatest causes of revenue loss. Gallup’s State of the American Workforce Report for 2012 found that 54 percent of the North American workforce is not actively engaged in their work, costing companies hundreds of billions of dollars every year. The reasons workers cited for not caring more about their job include: inability to focus (85%), inability to feel calm and relaxed at work (85%), lack of a sense of belonging to and identifying with a company’s culture (84%), inability to choose where to work within the office (86%), and inability to work in teams without being disrupted (87%).

Designing environments that will reconcile workers’ need of escaping into private spaces with opportunities for collaboration requires a lot of planning and creative thinking. In the modern era, it’s essential to stop viewing the business environment as simply a facility that accommodates workers’ activity, and start looking at it as a strategic business tool that can significantly enhance productivity and align the space with the company’s culture.

About the Author Lynne Lemieux

Lynne Lemieux, Founder and President of Alliance Interiors Inc., has devoted more than 20 years of experience developing and implementing growth opportunities for some of Canada's leading office furniture dealers. Her ability to provide clients with inspiring and versatile interior solutions for both business and home office environments has garnered her title of Aboriginal Business Woman of the Year in the city of Toronto for 2012. In her spare time, Lynne takes an active interest in politics, public speaking, and philanthropy, but also enjoys gardening, interior decorating, cooking, yoga, and traveling.

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