How can I maintain confidentiality in an open office?

My employer is moving to a new office building designed around the ‘Open Work Space’ concept. I work in IT and I support HR/Comp/Benefits/Payroll. I deal with sensitive and confidential matters, such as employee benefit issues, employee pay, employee garnishments, etc. I am very concerned about the lack of privacy and being able to perform my job function in such an open environment.

Ann Kiernan replies:

Although the open office is very popular with businesses, with 70% of US workers now in such environments, employees are not so happy with them. The most common objections are lack of privacy, noise, and distractions, so you are not alone in your concerns.

Here are some ideas on maintaining professional confidentiality in an open office:

  • Use a privacy filter on your screen.
  • Angle your screens away from high-traffic areas.
  • Make sure that all screens are shut down and password protected when not in use.
  • Implement a clean desk policy: Put away any documents containing confidential information immediately after use.
  • Ask for a workstation with secure drawers or other storage areas where confidential documents or devices can be placed.
  • Go to a conference room for phone calls or conversations about confidential matters.

Good luck with your new office.

Posted 03-14-2018

Information here is correct at the time it is posted. Case decisions cited here may be reversed. Please do not rely on this information without consulting an attorney first.


About the Author:

Ann Kiernan has litigated claims of wrongful discharge and discrimination before state and federal courts and administrative matters before the New Jersey Division on Civil Rights, the National Labor Relations Board and the Equal Opportunity Employment Commission, representing both employers and employees. Ms. Kiernan co-hosted The Employee Rights Forum, a weekly radio call-in show reaching up to a half-million listeners in the New York metropolitan area, and her articles on employment law have been published in many books and magazines. Both as a firm partner and as a director, Ms. Kiernan gained solid experience in management and human resources compliance. She has worked with Fair Measures since 1997.