The open office layout has almost become a cliché for “cool” tech companies — so much so that 70 percent of U.S. offices now have an open office layout. For startups, collaborative work is so imperative that open offices seem like a no brainer. However, when you need to double down on work that requires individual productivity, the open office may seem more like a busy, loud nightmare. In fact, audio expert Julian Treasure estimates that workers are 66 percent less productive in an open office arrangement.
For those days when you have a task that requires all of your brainpower, here’s 6 tips for remaining focused and making the best out of an open office.
Headphones are akin to a “Do Not Disturb” sign in the workplace. You don’t even have to be listening to music — just putting in headphones is enough to signal to co-workers that “now isn’t the time.” When you have a looming deadline and don’t want to be sucked into casual work conversations, you might even want to consider noise cancelling headphones. Not everyone can sit in silence though, which brings us to our next point.
Actually listen to music
Studies have shown that music can enhance productivity when it comes to repetitive tasks. It takes your mind off distractions, yielding higher results. So for those days where you just really need to mindlessly enter data into spreadsheets (it has to happen sometimes!), any good playlist works. However, things are a bit different when the task requires more brainpower. Sounds of nature or binaural beats enhance cognitive functioning and the ability to concentrate, while also masking intelligible speech from colleagues. Plus, when a looming deadline is stressing you out, these sounds will relax you.
This one is straightforward: don’t allow yourself to be accessible all 8 hours of the day. Sometimes, headphones aren’t enough to deter chatty coworkers, and sometimes they aren’t just there to innocently chat. Studies have shown that when a person is constantly harassed for help, they have lower productivity, while the person asking comes out on top. Set out a sign when you don’t want to be bothered, or, if you’re the boss, implement quiet hours for the whole team.
Have private areas
In an open office, private areas can be scarce. However, they’re often needed as some workers get their best work done when they have alone time. When you need to concentrate without the constant whispers of the office, ask to borrow someone’s office or find a comfy nook where you can sit with your laptop.
Private areas may be needed for more than just quiet time, too. When you need to make a sensitive phone call or have disruptive work, like a craft project that needs to be completed, you should separate yourself. If others follow suit, you’ll find that over time the office will likely become less noisy.
Have delegated collaboration spaces
Having a specific area where collaboration is welcome will help avoid the unwanted solicitation for help when everyone is at their desks. This can help employees stay focused when outside of the area and shift gears when they enter the collaboration area. A large table and floor-to-ceiling whiteboard walls can encourage openly flying ideas, and generates participation and communication.
If all else fails, work remotely
With 37 percent of workers in the United States telecommuting, asking to work remotely shouldn’t send your boss into panic. You can control the noise in your home and co-workers have limited access to you, which can often make you more efficient. Plus, not having to sit through a commute for a day or two will enhance your mood, making you more creative and open in your work.
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