The open-plan office revolution solved the problem of physical collaboration and communication barriers. However, it also created a new problem. With the rise of openness and having more people in one space, speech privacy in the workplace significantly decreased. Then following the introduction of the GDPR act in 2018, protecting public information became more important than ever. Whether you’re operating a healthcare facility, HR department or customer service call centre, ensuring speech privacy is one way you can keep private information safe and secure. But are you legally obligated to provide speech privacy? We’re revealing what your obligations are in this article.
Is a lack of speech privacy a problem?
While some employees, patients or customers may not be overly concerned about certain information being out in the open, others value privacy to the point where they may struggle to open up or have certain discussions.
In some environments, you may have patients, clients or stakeholders who will expect a certain level of privacy as part of the service. If you fall short on this basic, essential requirement, you may just put off paying clients or even jeopardise their privacy or confidentiality.
We conducted a noise and wellbeing in the workplace survey to determine whether a lack of speech privacy was an issue. Almost half of respondents reported that they were reluctant to speak about a confidential, business-sensitive or personal issue for fear of being overheard. This suggests that lack of privacy is a problem.
What are your legal obligations to provide speech privacy?
When it comes to the legal aspects of providing speech privacy, this is a grey area. Privacy is taken very seriously to prevent the sharing of sensitive or personal information but also by respecting your right to a private life. However, when it comes to speech privacy, it’s not so well documented. When it comes to privacy law, this varies from country to country, but there is nearly always a clause which discusses the right for a person’s speech to remain private. In the UK, this is covered under GDPR. But how does this apply to different environments?
- Call Centres
In call centres it’s important to prevent other call handlers or anyone else in the call centre from overhearing private customer information such as credit card details.
Not only do healthcare providers have a legal obligation to ensure patient privacy but an obligation to help their patients feel more comfortable and confident of their privacy – sound privacy is one element of this.
Although not specifically governed by state law in many countries, lawyers are becoming very aware of the need for speech privacy in their practices.
What can you do to improve your speech privacy?
There are a few solutions available to improve speech privacy. One such solution is sound masking which minimises intelligibility of conversation to prevent people overhearing sensitive or confidential information. Sound masking is one of the most effective and efficient solutions to any company’s noise problem. This acoustic technology uses a frequency at the same level as human speech to essentially mask conversation to ensure they become unintelligible. So, if you have thin walls or an open-plan office space, this is a great solution to incorporate into your space to ensure you’re maintaining your speech privacy obligations.