The Open Plan Office is Here to Stay: Tips to Survive and Thrive
Office cubicles have been around for decades. Some with higher walls, and some lower, the cubicle affords businesses a cost-effective real estate plan, and gives workers some measure of privacy and reduction of distracting noise.
In the last few years, more companies are moving to a completely open office structure. Typically consisting of long tables with chairs and computer monitors at each station, the open office is often used by companies that have a “hoteling” (also called hot-desking) plan, where workers are not assigned a fixed place, but rather select an open spot when they arrive for work in the morning.
Advantages of being in an open office
Light and a sense of space! If the office has windows, the open plan allows workers to see daylight, and to focus on objects farther away than their computer screen, which is important for the health of their eyes.
Open offices can also facilitate teamwork, by encouraging workers to interact, and to learn about the parts of the workgroup that they wouldn’t otherwise know.
…Counterbalanced by some challenges
When first moved from a cubicle to an open office, some workers may be startled by the increased noise, and may find it hard to concentrate. Here are three tips to stay calm, cool and productive in what’s increasingly a normal, modern office.
- Set some “do not disturb” time if you need to do concentrated thinking or writing without interruptions. You could put a small sign on your computer monitor or the back of your chair, such as Please do not disturb. I’ll be available at 3!
- If you’ve got conference rooms or other meeting space, use them when you need to talk with others, and encourage co-workers to do the same.
- Use noise-cancelling headphones. Headphones really communicate “leave me alone,” so if your office culture is one where collaboration is viewed above individual work, be sparing in your use of them, or check with your manager first. If you do listen to music on headphones, choose instrumentals or ambient electronic music rather than songs with lyrics or podcasts.
Another important tip: Be sure to get up and walk around regularly – especially if you find yourself getting frustrated, or focusing on noise rather than your work. Open offices have benefits for both employers and workers, and with a few strategies for dealing with the downsides, you’ll enjoy a productive and collaborative environment.