Jason Heredia, VP Marketing, Steelcase Asia Pacific
When people say they need some privacy, it can mean very different things. By diving deeper into the people’s experiences and insights of Steelcase’s research, five key pointers indicating privacy needs have been derived. Basic understanding of these privacy situations improves employee productivity. This eventually leads to better execution of organisational commitments.
Steelcase researchers identified and defined these five privacy experiences:
- Strategic anonymity: Being unknown / “invisible”
The ability to make yourself anonymous is a key aspect of privacy, as it frees you from the restraints incurred through normal social surveillance. Being unknown allows people to avoid interruptions, as well as express and experience new behaviours. The key is that it’s strategic—individuals choosing when and why to make themselves anonymous.
Examples: Going to work at a café or other place where you’re unknown, engaging in online discussions using an avatar or handle.
2. Selective exposure: Choosing what others see
Our most personal information and our own quirky behaviours can only be revealed if we choose to do so. People share some information with certain people, while revealing different information to others. Identity construction is a well-established concept in the social sciences and portrayed ‘Self-image’ may differ from actual ‘Self-image’. Today, as personal information is being shared across new channels, people are raising questions about what’s “safe” to divulge.Culture, gender and personality influence the choice through implied permissions as well as personal comfort. Behaviours that are permitted in one culture may be frowned upon in other parts of the world.
Examples: Opting for a telephone call instead of a video conference, choosing which personal items to display in a workstation.
3. Entrusted confidence: Confidential sharing
Privacy isn’t just about being alone but also about privacy with selected others. When we choose to share personal information with someone else, there is a measure of trust involved— which understands that the shared information isn’t for general public consumption. There are many instances in daily work when small groups want to confer. But in today’s mostly open-plan workplaces, it’s difficult to find places where such conversations can occur without being scheduled.
Examples: Discussing a personal situation with a colleague, being in a performance review with your manager.
4. Intentional shielding: Self protection
Personal safety is not just about protection from physical harm. There is a strong psychological component, as well. The feeling of personal invasion that people report after a home break-in leads to taking active measures to protect ourselves from such intrusions.Self-protection may also involve developing a point of view without the distracting influence of groupthink so that, when the group comes together to collaborate, individuals can bring stronger, more compelling insights to the challenges at hand.
Examples: Wearing headphones to block out audio distractions or sitting with your back against a wall hiding your computer screen
5. Purposeful solitude: Separating yourself
Isolation is a state of mind as it is possible to feel isolated from a group even when it surrounds you. But solitude is physical: intentionally separating from a group to concentrate, recharge, express emotions or engage in personal activities. People in individualistic cultures, may take times of solitude almost for granted, but even within a collectivist culture, being alone sometimes is a fundamental need.
Examples: Finding an enclave, going outside, sitting in the farthest empty corner of a large room.