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Users' privacy preferences in open plan offices

Suining Ding (Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne, Fort Wayne, Indiana, USA)


ISSN: 0263-2772

Article publication date: 4 July 2008




The purpose of this paper is to explore managers' and employees' opinions regarding privacy in open plan offices and also investigate the relationship between the perception of managers and employees on visual and acoustical privacy in order to provide better design solutions in an open plan office setting.


The research method is a structured interview. The categorized data are analyzed with percentage of frequency distributions and Chi square analysis. A total of 42 subjects were interviewed and separated in two groups as managers and employees.


It was found that lack of privacy still exists as an unsolved negative aspect in open plan offices. Findings indicated that there is a strong desire for employees to change and control their physical working space when both visual and acoustical privacy is needed in an open plan office setting. Another finding is that there is a difference of opinion regarding visual privacy between managers and employees.

Research limitations/implications

The limitation of the paper is that the sample is small and all subjects' occupations are computer‐related. Future studies are needed to further investigate diverse subjects in a larger population. Any future research instrument would have to be different from a structured interview.

Practical implications

Research findings provide valid recommendations to system furniture designers and manufacturers. System furniture design needs to be modular and easily changeable and adjustable for open plan offices.


The significant contribution of this research is that it provided valid data and makes a valuable contribution to the body of knowledge in open plan office design.



Ding, S. (2008), "Users' privacy preferences in open plan offices", Facilities, Vol. 26 No. 9/10, pp. 401-417.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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