Blog: Here’s how to stay focused in an open office

Life @ Work

Here’s how to stay focused in an open office

It can be a challenge to work with all the distractions that come from having an open office.
Here’s how to stay focused in an open office

Open offices make ample room for collaborations, foster frequent creative chats, cultivate a sense of community (less hierarchical), but all of it comes with a cost. Yes, we are talking about distractions, lack of privacy, increasing absenteeism due to sickness and not being able to work for minutes at a stretch without interruptions. The cumulative result of these is reduced productivity. 

So, what are the odds that you can actually train yourself to work in an open workspace? After all, you will always have someone walk up to your desk asking ‘you’ve got a minute?’ or ‘I’d like to pick your brain.’ Some colleagues will talk loudly on the phone without abandon. The least considerate ones will think it’s their right to hijack your time and pull you into a meeting room or hold you back by the water cooler. What’s worse is that you can’t call them out for being uncivil or ask them to hum the song in their head. Right?

If you want to get back on track and minimize distractions then here are a couple of things you can do. 

Use noise-canceling headphones

In a Ted Talk by Julian Treasure, a sound and communication expert noted that in open-plan offices productivity drops down by 66%. He further said that “You are one-third as productive in open-plan offices as in quiet rooms. I have a tip for you: if you work in spaces like that, carry headphones with you, with a soothing sound like birdsong. Put them on, and your productivity goes back up to triple what it would be.” 

Perhaps, you already do it but if you don’t then now is the time to switch to carry them to work. Flaunt the ‘I am busy symbol’. Once you are tuned into your favorite music genre, you will be miles away from the every noise-creating human or machine. 

Ask for remote work

With technological advances, traditional office landscape is changing. Employers allow employees to work remotely. While it may not be feasible everywhere, you can negotiate for it, if you need it.  

Mitali Bose, Senior Manager, Marketing Communications at Work Better Training & Development says “I have worked in an open office all my working years yet haven’t become immune to the hustle and bustle. I believe no one can. To fix my situation, I spoke to the management, and we agreed that I could work remotely on days when my work is cognitively more demanding. Rest of the days I would be at my work attending meetings, handling client queries, etc.”

Ask not to be disturbed

According to a study published in Applied Psychology, people who provide help at work perform worse than those who seek help. So, if you are the go-to person at work, try wearing the DND attitude up your sleeve. The reason is that once you are interrupted, you will require 25 minutes to regain focus

Long story short, be firm and ask your colleagues to send you a meeting request on your preferred day and time. Over a period of time, you will notice fewer people walking up to you at will. 

While the above tips can help people establish boundaries with coworkers, management must also take a few initiatives. 

  • Create quiet work hours: Test-run this idea at your office. Set a couple of hours where everyone gets to work on their own. No collaborations. No discussions. No disturbances. Just work. See how it goes. 

  • Encourage colleagues to head to quiet spaces: Ask them to use conference rooms. Create a policy where they can book in advance which means they can plan their work accordingly and claim their quiet spot. 

Do you work in an open office? How do you manage to ward off distractions? 

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Topics: Life @ Work

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