Lower productivity in open plan offices

Cubicles in a now-defunct co-working space in ...

A recent study shows that working in open plan offices reduces performance and increases fatigue.   It's not an easy environment in which to be productive.

Easy to put up, easy to reconfigure, there is no privacy and little to stop noise, voices and phones carrying across the office space.

You're separated from from your neighbour by a short partition - in some offices the height and construction may vary but you can still hear the conversation or ad-hoc 'desk meeting' going on next door whether or not you want to or if it's relevant to you.

We all know people who have especially loud voices or who, from their own sense of self-importance, want everyone to hear their conversation.

As a reformed cubicle worker, and Dilbert devotee - I spent years working in the open plan office environment, so I'm aware of what does on.

An open-plan office environment supposedly improves communication but it does mean you suffer far more from distractions and interruptions.  People can see you're 'in' and won't think twice about interrupting.

Some people can work in a noisy environment, others can't.  Some tasks need focus and attention, others don't.

  • Book a meeting room or arrange to work from home if you need quiet undisturbed time.
  • Create boundaries (not necessarily physical) around your time and space.  If you get interrupted at your desk - manage the interruption - do you want to deal with it or can you ask them to come back later?
  • Respect other people in and around your space - if you're having a 'chat' do it away from where you may be disturbing others.
  • If you need to have a meeting with colleagues either book a room or be aware of disturbing others around you.
  • Try noise cancelling headphones or playing 'white noise'.  If you're listening to music - don't have it too loud to block out the office noise, you could damage your hearing.

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(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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