Opinions are mixed on the benefits and drawbacks of an open plan office. What cannot be denied though is how we all struggle to remain productive in them. With a layout designed to encourage collaboration, distractions are a sure byproduct, capable of delaying or derailing your focus.
As I write this, I am sitting in our own open plan office in Melbourne, complete with communal kitchen, team break-out space and portable putting green. I hear the chatter of multiple phone calls, the tapping of keyboards, and questions from across the room. Staying on task is a learned skill. The habits that support anyone’s productivity though will vary based on their own unique strengths and workplace culture. Here are some things to consider when you feel your productivity levels dropping.
Communicate clearly with your manager and colleagues about how you work best and what workspace options set you on the right track for making the most of your time. Some offices integrate a “signal system” where staff leave a sign or flag at their workstation to indicate how open they are to interruption. Others adopt a “silent space” where employees can set up a hot desk knowing they will be free from phone calls, chatter and disruption.
The best way to stay productive in an open office sometimes though, is to simply get out of it. Remote and flexible work allows workers to select where and when they do business. A tight deadline can be met at home while waiting for a delivery, or a new business case can be drafted in a local cafe with lots of ambient noise, Wi-Fi, and (hopefully) powerpoints.
Frame the day around your energy and atmosphere to make productivity feel like a glide rather than an uphill battle. If you know you are a morning person who wakes up with lots of energy and determination, tackle big tasks first thing. Alternatively, if you need a little time to get yourself going, try to keep a list of small short tasks you can quickly accomplish while the caffeine kicks in. One of these quick tasks could be decluttering your desk of unneeded documents, pens and clutter.
The tried and true productivity tips like taking a break, drinking water, going for a walk, and switching your mobile off outside business hours can enhance your output as well. Start with a clear mind and a goal for the day, see how you go, and if you hit bumps in the road, try to strategise how to work around them next time.
Like putting away the jumpers when the sun comes out, we adapt to changes in our environment to optimise experience. Open plan offices are intended to create more collaborative, innovative, and agile employees, so let the way you work change too and see how your productivity levels soar!