Ensuring Physical Privacy for Employees
Employee privacy extends beyond concerns about the information that the human resources department holds on them. There is a physical element, too. People feel uncomfortable if they think they are constantly being watched, if they lack personal space or if they cannot guarantee the security of their personal belongings in the workplace.
OfficesSome degree of privacy can be obtained even in open-plan workspaces by using partitions between desks. Angling the seating arrangement so that individuals are not directly facing each other, or looking over one another’s shoulders, can also help people to be able to perform confidential work in private. It is also important to allow people a reasonable space in which to work, so they are not crammed up against their colleagues, each continually invading another’s personal space.
The traditional approach to privacy is to give people separate offices in which to work, particularly for managerial roles. In recent years, the trend has been away from this, encouraging managers to share a large room with their subordinates. Even if this is the case, it can be useful to have a separate office shared by the team, which anyone can use when they are working on a confidential task (such as staff appraisals) or just wish to work for a period without interruption.
CCTVIf staff are permanently being viewed or recorded on closed-circuit television (CCTV) then they may feel distrusted and that their privacy is being compromised. If such a system is necessary, for example to prevent shoplifting, it is useful for workers to have a private area that is free from cameras. In environments such as this, provision of a staffroom is a definite benefit.
StaffroomsIt is good for morale to provide a private area for staff to relax during their breaks. If they can leave their desks for a few minutes and go instead to a quite area, they are likely to return to the job refreshed and more focused.
Employees attempting to take a break at their desks may be interrupted by telephone calls or by their colleagues, and cannot be said to have privacy to unwind in this situation.
LockersEmployers should ensure that their workers have somewhere secure to store their personal belongings while they are at work. Office workers can have lockable drawers in their desks, which give them privacy and help to prevent petty theft. Employees who are not based at a desk can be provided with lockers in which to store their possessions.
It could be an invasion of privacy to search an employee’s possessions, even if they are present at the time. This is a delicate issue and must be handled with care. Physically searching members of staff without their consent could count as assault. Such physical searches should be conducted in accordance with a written policy, by a member of the same sex as the person being searched, and with a witness present.