Across the country, many employers have committed to an open office layout in the name of increasing communication and collaboration among team members. Yet studies have shown that while these benefits may apply, there are also adverse psychological effects from working in an open office environment. These include increased stress, emotional exhaustion, inability to focus and stay motivated, and overall lower levels of productivity. As an employee, you may not exercise a lot of influence in shaping your workplace, but here are some effective measures you can take to overcome the challenges of an open office setting.
Add a personal touch
You probably know someone who keeps a framed picture of their loved ones on their desk or pins a favorite quote next to their mirror. We may not think that such elements substantially improve a worker’s performance—they surely make for a great gift, such as personalized knives or other tools of the trade. But even if you’re not a craftsman or involved in a creative discipline, simply having personal items around the office can increase the sense of control and ownership over your space, and by extension, your work. It acts as a buffer against emotional fatigue and the lack of privacy that can prove so disruptive in an open office. Don’t hesitate to bring a touch of the personal into your workplace. You’ll lessen your daily burden and increase mental resources for dealing with work.
Control the noise
Interference and distraction within an open office can come from many sources, but usually, noise is a significant component of these disruptions. Background activities and processes, from the hum of the AC to the more annoying sounds of the office printer or copier mixed with the fluctuating chit-chat among employees, produce a level of noise that you may find more or less acceptable.
Being more conducive to conversations among colleagues is part of open office design; doing so to the point of distraction and reduced productivity is not. You can make it easier to drown out the noise on daily by resorting to a headset with active noise cancellation (ANC). New improvements to ANC technology allow you to filter out background noise while still hearing essential sounds, such as music and the human voice. This way, you don’t need to exert your willpower to tune out distractions, and you can focus without the side effect of subconsciously raising your voice.
Work with time and space
While many workers want to have greater long-term flexibility, such as a permanent remote working arrangement, sometimes small adjustments within the open office are all you need to stay productive. There may be different locations where you can set up your tools and find yourself free from distractions. Avoid the busier parts of the office adjacent to where people gather and engage in idle conversation. Spaces such as a conference room or patio, for instance, tend to be infrequently used; plan your work schedule around those times of day when your preferred location is relatively quiet.
For many employers, the open office layout is something that might take time to change or overhaul. In the meantime, you can make these adjustments to your daily routine and offset the potential drawbacks of working in such an environment.