Why is speech privacy important?
Lack of speech privacy carries real risk, particularly in facilities where there’s a perceived need for it, an expectation on the part of its users, or where it’s mandated by law.
Hospitals, banks, law firms and military facilities readily spring to mind. But occupants of other types of spaces also need privacy. In fact, a decade-long survey of 65,000 people run by the Center for the Built Environment found that lack of speech privacy is the number one complaint in commercial offices.
And no wonder. Overhearing conversations also affects concentration. According to research conducted by Finland’s Institute of Occupational Health, unwilling listeners demonstrate a five to 10 percent decline in performance when engaged in reading, writing or other forms of creative work. Given that office occupants spend over half their time on individual tasks requiring focus, the overall impact can be significant.
Though an organization might not consider privacy a goal—particularly within an open plan—taking the steps required to lower speech intelligibility also improves wellness and productivity.