Secrets of enjoying the open plan office

What would be your five top tips for working in an open plan environment, like some of the spaces at blue-infinity? We've all experienced the downsides, so how can we keep sane and avoid driving each other up the wall?

1. Create a signal to let others know you’re concentrating

One common complaint of open offices is that the lack of walls invites every passing colleague to stop for a chat. To get any sort of sustained work done, you're going to need to develop a polite but firm way to communicate that you're head down and not looking to banter -- before someone stops and distracts you. A signal can be something as simple as wearing a set of headphones to show that you don't want to be disturbed or putting a sign on top of your computer that says 'Busy Right Now.’

2. Noise control is a big one

Step far outside the boundaries of your screen for a change of scene. Although you might talk with coworkers more in an open office, your conversations can be short as they are overheard by everyone, and it's hard to have a serious meeting. To avoid this, have more in depth conversations with coworkers in a conference room, or do a walking meeting between buildings. Avoid talking loudly in common areas that are nearby colleagues.

3. Desktop dining again?

Do you often book a table for one at your computer at work? So-called desktop diners are a common sight in many open plan offices. A few things to consider are not eating food that is particurlary smelly, try avoid using the phone while lunching and simple food is best rather than that which requires concentration.

4. Create a sense of private space within your personal area

You can't control most of what you see in an open office, so make sure that you spend a little effort to personalise what little you can. Make your own desk yours visually; bring a small plant, a pen holder, a lamp, or picture frames. Bring small items to make the space you have more familiar. This will make you feel like you have a little more control over the environment around you without being a nuisance to co-workers.

5. Take more lunches and coffee breaks by yourself

If it’s all too much, take a few minutes in one of the relax areas or outside. Concentrate on something in the distance to help your eyes readjust. Sit on a couch or read a book a few times a week to prevent stress from building up.

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About the author

Kirk Havelock

Kirk is a keen writer and part of blue-infinity's Marcom team, previously holding diverse roles with leading multinationals, and is originally from New Zealand.