While the aim of an open plan office is to foster collaboration and team work, I think we can all agree that there are work activities and times during the day which require concentrated focus and privacy. It is at these times were the negatives associated with an open plan office seem to present themselves most e.g. constant interruptions, background noise and chatter or anything which draws your focus away from the task at hand.
So what can be done in the open office environment to assist teams/individuals focus as well as collaborate? We at Axiom Projects have developed a list of techniques discussing both company wide and personal initiatives which you can undertake to maximise the success of your open office plan – and make it a better environment for individual work and group collaboration.
· WORKSTATION SET UP – Diagonal Pattern
When setting up your new open plan workspace you may consider avoiding workstations positioning staff members back to back in favour of a diagonal pattern. This may reduce distraction as when you lift your eyes from your screen you’re not looking directly into your colleagues face.
· WORKSTATION SET UP – “The Buffer Zone”
Be sure not to overcrowd workstations in your open place office – ensure your staff members all have enough personal space to operate effectively. This could also create a ‘buffer zone’ between colleagues which will assist with concentrated focus.
· OFFICE MUSIC – Soothing not Startling
If you are a workplace which plays music office wide – it would be worthwhile investing in lyric/word free music with a relaxing and methodical rhythm. This will have the benefit of reducing irritating office noises in favour of soothing music.
· DESIGNATED SPACE – For quiet time
Designate spaces in your office designed to be more of a ‘library like environment’ could be the answer to giving team members a chance to separate themselves from the noise and complete high focus work. This could be a conference room during particular times of the day or a corner of the office which is away from most employee desks.
· OFFICE WIDE STUDY HALL
Another solution could be setting up a companywide policy of a couple hour-long periods of the workweek where meetings are not scheduled and collaboration is on hold. Instead employees are encouraged during that time to focus on quiet, individual work.
· SET UP A BUSY SIGNAL (no not on your phone)
Come up with a signal which informs your co-workers to ‘Do – Not – Disturb’. This could be headphones in or a flag/image on top of your computer.
· BATCH COMMUNICATION
If there is a particular person in your office that constantly interrupts you – ask that person to keep a running list of questions or requests and then set aside a few chunks of time during the day to address them. These could coinside with the breaks you take during the day e.g. just before morning tea / lunch / afternoon tea / coffee break
· ALONE TIME
On a more personal level you need to understand your own work methods. Setting aside alone time and withdrawing yourself from the group may be the answer. E.g. assign time in your calendar for no meetings or perhaps come into the office early for focused work without the distractions.
· SOCIAL TIME
Following on from the above, set times to be more social with your team. Studies show productivity dwindles in the afternoon. This is the perfect opportunity to go and touch base with co-workers about their week and re-invigorate yourself with conversation unrelated to work. Ensure you give yourself time during the day to rest your mind and leave your desk; it will almost certainly help your focus and productivity rather than hinder it.