By Andrei Login
You probably work in an open concept office; in fact, most of us do. In recent decades, companies have adopted this layout due to lower building costs, and have been promoting it as an environment that encourages collaboration and teamwork. However, according to a study by The Sound Agency, productivity levels are 66% lower in open offices compared to more traditional, closed-office workplaces. A recent COMMERCIALCafé survey revealed that the main complaints of modern office workers are the lack of privacy and high noise levels, along with a lack of personal space and annoying coworker personalities. Here are a few tips and tricks that will help you overcome these issues and master the open floorplan.
1. Keep Distractions at Bay
DO Create a Playlist
No matter what makes you tick, music will always be there for you. Grab a pair of headphones, preferably the over-the-ear noise-cancelling type, and immerse yourself into the rhythm. You’ll notice the hours of work passing in no time while your productivity is at its best. In addition, headphones are the universal “do not disturb” sign, so your workmates won’t bother you unless it is really necessary. You can set up a playlist that suits your tempo or you can browse already existing playlists on music apps such as Spotify or Apple Music.
DON’T Turn It Up Too Loud
Never turn up your volume too loud. Besides the negative effects of loud music blasting in your ears, you might be isolating yourself too much. After all, open offices are designed for teamwork. Make sure you keep the volume low enough, so you can hear important conversations and don’t forget to take them out once in a while to keep up with your team’s progress. Additionally, try to avoid music with vocals as it might take important brain power and ruin your focus. Classical music, jazz and low-fi hip-hop beats are all good choices that will keep you engaged in your work without an impact on your focus.
2. Manage Heavy Workloads in Style
DO Move Your Work to Quiet Areas
When dealing with deadlines, or just a heavy work week, you may need some extra alone time to focus and organize your workload. Your office is probably equipped with some conference rooms or quiet booths. Why not make the best of them? If possible, borrow a laptop or bring your own from home and move away from the noise. Besides the quietness, these spaces provide far less visual distractions, so your attention will be directed only towards your assignments.
DON’T Spend Your Day Cramming Work Without Breaks
Take plenty of breaks to rest your mind and finish a busy day satisfied with completed plans. While it may seem counterproductive, breaks let you regroup your ideas and see the bigger picture. When lost in the details, fill up your bottle of water or grab a coffee and take a walk around the office. Rest your mind for a few minutes and you will find solutions to otherwise unsolvable problems. Don’t forget to discuss with your team from time to time, as face-to-face discussions are more efficient in conveying ideas than emails.
3. Make the Most out of Your Workplace
DO Personalize Your Workspace to Create Boundaries
You must be familiar with the blandness and lack of individuality of open offices: long rows of dull desks lined with a forest of computer screens. Being part of this scenery everyday sure takes its toll on your psyche. Plus, with a lack of clear boundaries, it might seem that your personal space is constantly challenged by those pesky coworkers. However, you can kill two birds with one stone by giving your workspace more personality, by adding details such as small plants and art pieces. You can even bring a basket or a small shelf to better organize your documents. These not only give your workspace a homelier feel, but they also create a barrier between your personal space and your colleagues’.
DON’T Isolate Yourself from the Team
However, confining yourself in an impenetrable bubble is also not a good idea. To keep a high level of communication and focus on projects, discuss with your team to select a space for teamwork. Moving to an area where ideas and conversations can flow freely can make a huge difference on productivity. Pick a conference room, a quiet booth, or even some spare tables if you don’t have another option, and schedule team meetings throughout the week. Make use of the projectors and whiteboards to communicate your ideas more efficiently, write everything down, and use chatting apps to discuss less important team issues.
If all else fails, look into the possibility of working remotely
You’ve bought a new pair of headphones, one of the meeting rooms bears your name and you’re the proud owner of a small fortress of plants and shelves. However, something’s still not right and you can’t seem to get your bearings and focus on your work. Rest assured, as you’re not the only one in this position. In fact, work-from-home is an extremely popular practice, with about 50% of American workers holding a job with at least partial teleworking. So, speak to your manager about the possibility of remote work and try experimenting with different environments until you find the perfect workspace.
Images courtesy of Shutterstock