I think it’s important to note when you see a trend.
At this moment, every corporate client we’re working with has at least one group transitioning from high-walled private cubicles and closed-door offices to open, collaborative work configurations.
While the business case for this open office shift is well-defined—increased employee density equals lower overhead costs—the more subtle impacts on productivity are less clear.
What I don’t see are honest discussions about open offices and productivity. These conversations aren’t happening for two reasons. Either people assume they’re the only one struggling to focus, or they aren’t aware of small, simple changes that can make a big difference.
Here are five common open-office productivity drains and quick, flexible work tweaks you can make the fix the problem.
1. Problem: Distractions from conversations at neighboring desks.
Flexible Fix: Wear a set of noise-canceling headphones that cover both ears.
2. Problem: Interruptions when you’re in the middle of a call or thought.
Flexible Fix: Establish a clear “rule of engagement.” For example: “When I have my headphones on or when you see a Do Not Disturb note on my computer, please come back later.”
3. Problem: Noise from groups meeting in close proximity.
Flexible Fix: Even when no one says anything, assume noisy group meetings bother others. Find breakout spaces to hold spontaneous group meetings or reserve a meeting room in advance.
4. Problem: Lack of focus for work that requires deep, unbroken concentration.
Flexible Fix: Work from a remote office (home, library, coffee shop where you don’t know anyone) as needed.
5. Problem: Inability to have private phone conversations.
Flexible Fix: Plan calls in advance as much as possible, and reserve a breakout room or use an empty office. If you have a number of calls, work from a more private remote location as needed.
How do you stay productive in an open office space? I’d love to hear your tips in either the comments section or on our Facebook page.