So your company has made the decision to go with an open office plan. OK, great. You’re already looking forward to more interaction with your coworkers and easier collaboration on shared projects. You might also have some trepidation, however, and rightly so. Open office plans can be overwhelming and distracting if you’re not used to them. Here’s how to take the potential pitfalls and use them to your advantage.
No Personal Space!
One of the biggest complaints about open office layouts is that everyone is all up in your business, all the time. With your desk right out in the middle of the room, it can feel like all eyes are on you and that your work and personal effects are always on display. You might feel self-conscious about your messy desk or just not want to start up a conversation about your lunch every day. Never fear. You can still find ways to create some personal space in the midst of all this publicness. Experiment with moving your filing cabinet or even just your trash can to the side of your desk so it creates a mini barrier between you and the rest of the office. Potted plants also work well. People can still talk and engage with you as needed, but this little wall gives you some extra me-space.
You’re Always Around People
Introverts love to hate the open office plan because it seems to force, or at least permit, much more casual interaction. This is great for building camaraderie and strengthening team bonds, but what about those projects that require your utmost concentration? Consider booking one of your company’s conference rooms or meeting spaces just for you. No one will bother you, and you’ll have a relatively soundproof room in which to work, think, write, meditate, or whatever else you need to do.
Some days you’re just busy. You don’t need to wall yourself off in a conference room to work on a project, but you do need to be left alone to hit your targets for the day. Come up with a tactful but obvious way to indicate to coworkers that you don’t wish to be disturbed. Many employees simply put in their headphones, but that may not work in your environment. Find a signal that you can use to clue in your teammates and others that your office door is “closed” and you can’t chat right now. It could be a sign on your cubicle wall, turning your chair around so you face away from the walkway, or a silly little token that only makes an appearance on your shelf when you’re not accepting visitors. Whatever it is, find what works and enforce it. You’re entitled to quiet thinking and working time – in fact, your success at work depends on it.
So Much Socializing
Open office plans naturally encourage more casual conversation and impromptu interactions throughout the day. This is great for building strong teams, but some people can tolerate more “togetherness” than others. If you feel yourself getting sick of your colleagues, don’t be afraid to go to lunch by yourself or take a solo walk around the block on your coffee break. You don’t have to spend every moment during the day with your coworkers. It’s more than OK to spend time with just yourself to recharge.
Constant Chaos Means No Predictability
It’s a common misconception that open office plans mean perpetual noise and commotion, no matter what time of day or night. The truth is that every office has patterns, even if they’re not easy to spot right away. Keep an eye on the routines of your coworkers and capitalize on them. When does everyone schedule their meetings? Are Monday mornings extra quiet, or maybe Friday afternoons? Does your coworker across the desk from you take a coffee break at exactly 3pm every day? Make note of those times when things are a bit less hectic and use them to your advantage. If your work hours are flexible, plan your office time for off-hours to get a little more peace. You’ll soon get into a rhythm that fits right into the hum of your office.
It’s Not All Bad
Open office plans get a bad rap, but in truth they’re one of the best ways to build a vibrant, interconnected company culture. We have an open office plan at 360 Payments, and although it might take some getting used to at first, it’s part of our fun, open, and transparent atmosphere. Our team thinks of each other like family, and that’s why the open office format works for us. We’d love to put this family to work for you. Give us a call at 408-295-8360 or drop us a line on our website.
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