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What advice would you give for being productive in an open office?

  • 1.  What advice would you give for being productive in an open office?

    Posted 02-12-2020 16:01
    Open-office environments are now the norm, but often aren't conducive to "getting in the flow" with your work. For an upcoming Career Connections column, what advice would you give for getting work done in a less private environment. (Assume we all know about noise-cancelling headphones!)

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    Loraine Kasprzak MBA
    Managing Director,Advantage Marketing Consulting Services
    Advantage Marketing Consulting Services
    Westfield NJ
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  • 2.  RE: What advice would you give for being productive in an open office?

    Posted 02-13-2020 07:44
    @Loraine Kasprzak Good question! I have become fairly good at tuning noise out although I admit that I still get distracted at times from noise. Headphones are a great idea. Being conscious of how you can be more courteous so when you request it from others, it makes sense.

    I also think that reducing other distractions can help. For example, removing pop-up email notifications on your computer and or setting up rules for less-important emails to skip the inbox and go to a folder that can be checked later.

    The long and the short of it is that it's really hard to reduce distractions regardless of office environment in today's world. It takes willpower, focus, and often choosing between what ought to be worked on and letting your email rule your workday.

    I'm curious what others think about productivity tips for open-office environments.

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    Very Best,

    John Vasko
    Director, Communications & Online Content
    New York NY
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  • 3.  RE: What advice would you give for being productive in an open office?

    Posted 02-13-2020 08:15

    Thanks @John Vasko. Excellent tip on controlling email as a way to reduce distractions.

     

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    Loraine Kasprzak
    Managing Director, Advantage Marketing Consulting

      908.233.6265

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      www.advantage-marketing.com

     

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  • 4.  RE: What advice would you give for being productive in an open office?

    Posted 02-13-2020 10:47
    Our division in the company has just starting the implementation of a "Civility" mindset.  It is expected of course to follow the fundamental Human Resource policies (i.e. no discrimination, etc..)   But I believe we are taking it to the next level with "Civility."  We are even incorporating it in our business principles with out customers.  But I think the simple dictionary definition says a lot....."politeness and courtesy in behavior or speech"​  This helps everyone in a Open-Office environment to be more productive.

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    John Howell PE
    Senior Process Engineer
    Stantec
    Fredericton NB
    Canada
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  • 5.  RE: What advice would you give for being productive in an open office?

    Posted 02-19-2020 08:28
    John - incorporating a Civility Mindset is an excellent idea. I'm wondering if other companies are doing something similar as well?

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    Loraine Kasprzak MBA
    Managing Director,Advantage Marketing Consulting Services
    Advantage Marketing Consulting Services
    Westfield NJ
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  • 6.  RE: What advice would you give for being productive in an open office?

    Posted 02-13-2020 12:24

    I would highly recommend a good pair of noise cancelling headphones. I also use an app called Brain.fm that plays music/rhythms (without lyrics) that is supposed to help focus and concentration. It really works well for me in my crowded and loud work area.






  • 7.  RE: What advice would you give for being productive in an open office?

    Posted 02-19-2020 08:33
    I checked out Brain.fm and I'm going to recommend it to some colleagues who work in an open office. Thanks for the recommendation, Paul.

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    Loraine Kasprzak MBA
    Managing Director,Advantage Marketing Consulting Services
    Advantage Marketing Consulting Services
    Westfield NJ
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  • 8.  RE: What advice would you give for being productive in an open office?

    Posted 02-14-2020 08:22
    Full disclosure is the fact that I was never able to fully settle into an open-office and after a year of working in an open office I left the company.

    In addition to the noise canceling headphones, the 2 strategies I used were to make good use of the common areas and flexibility policies that allowed working from home.

    1- Most open-office layouts have significantly increased the common spaces.  Telephone booths, lounges, grand foyers in a conference center, etc.  Many of the spaces are under utilized.  Another attribute of these work environments is excellent WiFi everywhere.  It is easy to take a laptop and cell phone and find a quite spot to focus on work or get some private time to think.

    2- Working from home is an obvious strategy which come with its own set of distraction.  A certain level of discipline is needed to close your office door and not let that next chore be too strong a draw to resist.

    In additions to strategies for tuning out distractions, common courtesy is needed to not be a distraction to others.  Use a break out room for conversations that will be longer than "how about the thing I asked you for".  No speakerphones, I was actually visiting one of our other sites with an open floor and one of the employees insisted on using a speaker phone.

    I will end with an editorial, one of the stated benefits of an open floor was increased collaboration.  I find it less so.  To avoid being a distraction many employees increase texting and email while having fewer conversations.  I have a friend who is constructing a new office building and it will have traditional office space.  Hopefully we are seeing a trend back.


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    Thomas Doolin
    Houston TX
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  • 9.  RE: What advice would you give for being productive in an open office?

    Posted 02-14-2020 10:33
    I agree with @Thomas Doolin and I hope that we are going to see a trend back to conventional offices.  Just because "Open-office environments are now the norm" does not mean that they are the right thing to do.  Management needs to think carefully about the total impact of the work environment for all their workers.

    Here is one study that shows that open offices do not achieve their objectives regarding collaboration and productivity:
    https://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/its-official-open-plan-offices-are-now-dumbest-management-fad-of-all-time.html
    Management should consider engaging their employees on how to overcome the deficiencies that were noted in this and other studies.

    Not all employees can flourish in an open office environment.  We need to make the necessary accommodations for people who have some attention deficit or other issues that make it challenging for them to get their work done with the distractions of an open office.  The use of common space or fishbowl-like "huddle rooms" does not necessarily accommodate those needs.  We need to remember that not all employees are alike.

    The noise-cancelling headphones is a nice idea.  However, when I worked for one major chemical company, they banned the use of headphones that covered both ears, claiming that it was unsafe for people to be unable to hear announcements and they would be unaware of what is going on around them.  The company's work-around was for people to always have one ear uncovered, totally defeating the attention focusing purpose of the headphones!

    If collaboration is the real purpose of the open office concept, then management needs to collaborate with their employees and listen to their suggestions on improving the work environment.


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    Aaron Sarafinas
    Principal
    Sarafinas Process & Mixing Consulting LLC
    Warminster PA
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  • 10.  RE: What advice would you give for being productive in an open office?

    Posted 02-17-2020 15:41
    "When the firms switched to open offices, face-to-face interactions fell by 70%" according to an article in Harvard Business Review in Nov/Dec 2019.  Management needs to remember that behaviors are far more important than faddish architectural features when it comes to having a collaborative and productive work force. 

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    Aaron Sarafinas
    Principal
    Sarafinas Process & Mixing Consulting LLC
    Warminster PA
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  • 11.  RE: What advice would you give for being productive in an open office?

    Posted 02-17-2020 11:18
    I’ve struggled to focus in an open-plan office. I’ve tried some of the tips previously indicated in the posts. However, at some point these do not work anymore. What I’ve found useful is to refresh/reset the environment by making a pause and leaving the space for a moment. Go a get water from somewhere slightly farther than usual. Go for a short walk, or just go down and up the stairs. It refreshes one’s mind and hopefully helps focusing in the ongoing work.

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    Isabel Pazmino
    PhD Student
    University of Manchester
    Manchester
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  • 12.  RE: What advice would you give for being productive in an open office?

    Posted 02-24-2020 18:01
    I found this reference online that provides a nice set of suggestions:
    https://facilityexecutive.com/2017/05/7-tips-for-maximizing-productivity-in-an-open-office/

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    Christine Grant
    Associate Dean and Professor
    Raleigh NC
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  • 13.  RE: What advice would you give for being productive in an open office?

    Posted 02-27-2020 09:21
    That's a great resource Christine, thanks for sharing. I particularly like the author's advice on giving people a choice on where they work.

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    Loraine Kasprzak MBA
    Managing Director,Advantage Marketing Consulting Services
    Advantage Marketing Consulting Services
    Westfield NJ
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