How To Maximise Productivity In An Open Office Culture

Source | INC42 : By Kevin Kruse

How can you maintain focus and avoid distractions in an open office environment?

This is a question I’m asked more and more frequently, as more of us are now working in an organisation without cubicle walls, and sometimes without any office enclosures at all.

Often called “boiler rooms,” it used to be that only outbound sales people sat shoulder-to-shoulder in a large “pit.” But more recently—with Silicon Valley companies leading the way—all kinds of organisations embrace the “no walls” office environment with the stated goals of facilitating communication and teamwork. Of course, cynics would suggest that the real reason companies are moving to open offices is to save money on all those cubicles.

Regardless of the true reason for open offices, and whether or not they improve collaboration, it’s true that they also foster noise and interruptions that can negatively impact productivity.

So what can you do if you’re finding yourself distracted in an open office floorplan? Here are four ideas that you can use to manage the external environment, or to strengthen your internal ability to focus.

Turn Down The Noise

Noise-cancelling headphones are probably your most effective weapon to combat noise in an open office environment. Good ones can cancel outapproximately 90% background sound. The best can cost as much as $300 although others are closer to $100.

If you can’t afford noise-cancelling headphones, simply using your own smartphone with headphones to play background music may also be effective. It’s best to choose tracks that don’t have words: sounds of rainfall, the ocean or even just “white noise” are effective.

Do Not Disturb

Conversations and sounds, of course, are not the only issues you may have in an open plan office. The other productivity killers in an open office are the endless interruptions from people asking if you’ve “got a minute.” These meetings rarely only take a minute, and even brief interruptions have a large impact on your ability to do deep work.

In many offices wearing headphones is a sign that you should not disturb a person. Others have taken to creating an actual “Do Not Disturb” sign—or stealing one from a hotel room—and displaying it on their desk or back of their office chair.

Alternatively, Amazon sells “Do Not Disturb” yellow tape that stretches across your cubicle. Your colleagues may laugh at first but when they see your productivity, they will steal your idea for themselves.

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