How to Get Work Done in an Open Office

Julie Shenkman
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Designers introduced the open office as a way to improve communication and make it easier for people to collaborate. Having an open office offers some benefits, but it also invites concerns about productivity and confidentiality. The amount of noise in this type of office makes it difficult to hear telephone conversations and concentrate on detailed work, making it tougher for many administrative professionals to maintain high levels of productivity. If you must work in an open office, use these productivity tips for getting work done.

Tom Eich, an IDEO partner, says there is a "healthy level of hubbub" in an open office. Working in a noisy environment often reduces motivation because you have no control over the noise around you. Instead of putting up with the noise, wear a pair of headphones when you need to focus on your work. This will give you more control over your situation and drown out noise from colleagues, making it easier to concentrate. If you work in a particularly noisy environment, use an online white-noise generator to reduce distractions. Listening to upbeat music can also help you drown out noise and increase your productivity.

Ask your boss if you can use a conference room or empty office if wearing headphones is not an option. Working in a private space helps eliminate distractions, which can actually prevent you from making mistakes if you are writing a report or working with numbers. If space is at a premium in your workplace, ask to work from home for a few hours each week. Many administrative professionals use tablets, smartphones, and other devices to maintain their productivity while they are out of the office, so your boss may be willing to let you work from home if you are able to show it will have a positive effect on your work output.

If you are an office manager, offer flexible seating arrangements to the people you supervise. Some people get more done if they sit by themselves, but others maintain high levels of productivity when they collaborate with fellow workers. Allowing staff members to move from one seat to another is a good way to combat the distractions of an open office and increase employee satisfaction at the same time. Ask your employer to purchase portable furniture to make it even easier for employees to move around when they need a break from distractions.

Many employers switched to open work environments to save money on building private offices, so this type of office is not going away any time soon. Although open-plan offices have many benefits, some people have a hard time being productive in a noisy environment. Wearing headphones, asking for permission to work from home, and allowing the people you supervise to move around the office are all good ways to stay efficient. Follow these productivity tips to make working in an open office more pleasant.


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