How to Work Well In an Open Office

Posted by Kara Bosworth on April 04, 2019

There are few business concepts as polarizing as that of the “open office.” While you’ll hear many employees singing the praises of an office environment with fewer cubicles and walls, it’s also easy to find workers who are happy to denounce it. Some find open offices to be loud and distracting. Others aren’t comfortable with the physical exposure, or the sensation that they’re always being watched.

In 2017, about 70 percent of offices in the US had low partitions or none at all, so you’ll likely find yourself working in an open office at some point in your career — especially in fields like advertising and marketing. With that in mind, we’re sharing our top tips for working in this unique space while remaining efficient, productive, and yes, even sane.

Maximize Collaboration

Open office spaces may be unorthodox compared to traditional professional environments, but you can make this work to your advantage.

  • Communicate. Capitalize on your close proximity to team members by communicating in person rather than exclusively over email or a messaging app.
  • Get to know your team. Working next to creatives of all kinds presents an opportunity to learn more about their jobs and work style. Which can have a positive impact on team projects.

Be Considerate of Others

One of the biggest criticisms of open office environments is their lack of privacy. When employees are forced to sit elbow to elbow day after day they can get antsy, and habits that never bothered you before can start to get on your nerves. To be a good colleague in an open space, and encourage your peers to do the same, follow these rules:

  • Keep chitchat to a minimum. If you need to talk to a coworker at length about work, book a conference room or grab a coffee elsewhere. If you want to get their take on the latest episode of The Bachelor, hold off until lunch. Limiting idle banter makes it easier for others to concentrate on their work. And they’ll be more likely to return the favor.
  • Limit lengthy phone calls. Similarly, save long phone conversations for a private room rather than having them out in the open where others are focused on their work. All good open concept offices offer one or more “phone booths” designed specifically to give you privacy when you’re on a call.
  • Tidy up. When your desk is visible to everyone, take a cue from Japanese organization consultant Marie Kondo and organize your workspace. Kondo recommends asking yourself if the objects on your desk make you feel “more positive” and contribute to your efficiency. If the answer is no, let them go. Your colleagues will appreciate the lack of clutter.

Make the Space Your Own

While working in an open office, you may feel as though you don’t have any personal space. But there’s plenty you can do to make your desk your own so you can get more work done on your own terms.

  • Allow yourself some silence. Keeping a set of noise canceling headphones at your desk for those times when you need some peace and quiet can decrease stress and increase your output.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for autonomy. Many open concept employees keep a “Do Not Disturb” sign at their desks for times when they’re on a roll and can’t be interrupted. This strategy is also good for reducing stress, since there’s less of a chance that you’ll be thrown off track.

Even if you love your open concept office, The New York Times says it’s a good idea to work in a separate room or remotely from time to time. “For an open space to be effective, people also need to have the ability to sit alone or with someone else in private,” Roy Mann, chief executive and co-founder of team management software company explains.

Before you write off the open office as a detriment to your career, try these tactics for making it work — and be sure to visit our blog for more strategies designed to improve your work life.

Posted in: Communications, Creative, Employers, General, Marketing

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