You might think everyone, given the chance, would choose to have a private office. Not so, according to initial results of the BOSTI study of what people like and dislike about their offices.

In a survey of a government offices, only one-third of employes said they wanted to be alone. Two-thirds said they did not. "That," says BOSTI's Michael J. Brill, "is a revelation."

They may complain about noise in a group office, "but if given the opportunity to get away from it, only one-third want to."

Another finding: "Private offices are not as private as we believe. In some companies, there are fairly strong management norms about open doors -- you get a private office, but the norm is that you don't close the door. What happens is that it becomes an acoustic sieve. Any noise comes into the office."

At the same time, says Brill, most people in a private office want their desk facing the door. They don't want to miss "the things going on on the outside." The result: They've subjected to the same visual distractions as their staff.

Douglas Spranger, an industrial designer with a New York consulting firm, Human Factors Industrial Design, cites a study in which office workers found the open environment "much more sociable" than a private office.

Nevertheless, they said their lack of privacy was disturbing. Clerical staffs, says Spranger, "were seeking protection against distractions and supervisors who peer too closely over their shoulders." And top executives "don't want free access (by their subordinates) at all times."

Some workers, he says, seem to desire more clearly defined work areas. Because of the office traffic pattern, "people cut right through what they conceive as their office."