Work in an Open Office? Avoid These Productivity Pitfalls

open office

An open office environment promises communication, collaboration and camaraderie. But this comes with increased distractions and decreased privacy. So how can you keep your individual productivity high in an open office?

According to a report from architectural firm Gensler, office workers spend the majority of their time on individual, focused tasks versus collaborative work. As administrative professionals, you need to strike the right balance between quiet time to complete these assignments, while also being accessible to others. Here are some approaches to maintain productivity and counter the potential pitfalls if you work in an open office environment:

1. Noise

Cubicle life means a lack of sound-reducing walls between you and your coworkers. A study showed that workers exposed to open office noise for three hours experienced an increase in adrenaline levels associated with the fight-or-flight response. What can you do to minimize this effect?

Reduce the impact of the noise around you by insulating yourself from it. If you don’t need to be attentive to what’s going on around you – say, waiting for your manager to call you in for a meeting – try listening to music on headphones. This can help cut out background distractions and, as a recent study states, it may even boost your productivity.

However, music with lyrics can prove distracting, and any music can lower productivity when you're attempting to interpret or memorize new information. If you find music distracting, you can try listening to soft white noise from sites like Noise-cancelling headphones give the added benefit of reducing background distractions when you keep the volume low or even turn the music off. For admins who need to answer the phone, noise-cancelling headsets are available.

You can also try earplugs that come in a variety of shapes and levels of sound reduction. If you have a single-ear headset that you can't swap out, you may want to put a light earplug in the other ear to keep you focused.

2. Interruptions

In an open office, it's easy for others to approach you for help or to chat. Whenever possible, set aside blocks of time for attention-intensive work. In some open office spaces, there are breakout rooms and private areas you can use that will communicate to others that you are not to be disturbed.

If your employer allows it, try shifting your work hours a little to seek out some alone time in the office. Get critical tasks done before or after the bustle during typical office hours.

Also, reduce any distractions coming from your phone, texts and emails. Set aside time to regularly check in rather than reacting to every notification.

3. Privacy

Lack of a sense of privacy can detract from productivity, according to a study by the Academy of Management. Although you may not be able to erect walls in your office, you can create a sense of privacy and better control of your environment by personalizing your space. A small decorative desk screen can provide a feeling of privacy, for example, if it’s not against company policy. If you'd like your computer screen to be less exposed, you can install a privacy screen filter that will make it impossible to view the screen from a side angle.

An open office environment can promote collaboration, but bog you down by distraction. With a positive attitude and creative approach, you can reduce the disadvantages and reap the intended benefits.

What are your experiences with cubicle life? Please share your most effective hacks for keeping your productivity high.

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