Whether you’re freelancing from a co-working space or your company thought an open floor plan was a good idea, you probably realized that it’s exhausting. A shared office can save money, but only if you’re able to concentrate, despite all the distractions.
Scientific studies have shown over and over again that some types of background noise, like those found in an open plan office, can decrease your concentration, which makes it harder for you to process and memorize information. Interruptions by colleagues and constant noise can also cause you stress, resulting in high blood pressure and other unpleasant symptoms. As a result, people are less satisfied with their jobs and experience decreased motivation, leading to a steep decrease in creativity, collaboration, productivity, and an increase in sick leave.
In other words, German designers made something popular that ultimately made people less efficient at their jobs. If you’re still suffering from that poor development, let us help you out.
Get Your Colleagues On Your Side
Your colleagues are probably suffering just as much as you are. If certain things keep bothering you, they certainly bother others. Share how you feel, although be sure to not blame anyone. Instead, ask your colleagues how they are coping. They might have some great advice for you. Once you got the conversation rolling, they will be interested in what you are intending to do about it, which will also make it less awkward once you do it.
For example, if you have colleagues who keep interrupting you, the next time you’re having a conversation with them, ask whether they ever get interrupted while concentrating on something at work. Inquire about how it makes them feel and share what you’ve noticed about how it makes you feel. Next, ask them how they handle it and share with them what you’ve come up with to make it easier for others to see when you really need to focus.
In other words, don’t tell them what they should do, tell them what you will do to deal with the situation! Then pray it will work and your colleagues will respect your new ways.
Drown Out Noise
The noise is actually the most disruptive factor in an open office. While studies have shown that listening to music can be just as distracting as office noise, other research shows that some sounds can aid in stress recovery and help you focus. In other words, pick the right auditory stimulation to drown out the noise and you can really boost your performance. This includes nature sounds, white noise, and ambient music…and you can find lots of resources right here.
To make these focus enhancing sounds most effective, you might want to try a pair of noise cancelling headphones.
Take A Break
People who share an office or work in a noisy environment don’t adjust their position as often as if they worked in private. Sitting isn’t good for you and an increased physical strain on your back and joints from taking even fewer breaks makes the damage from sitting even worse.
You can counteract your natural tendency to literally sit through your job and set up reminders to take a break, change your position, and stretch. Tools that can do that for you include:
EVO – Set it up to remind you at different intervals and follow its eye gymnastics intructions to reduce eye strain.
Big Stretch Reminder – Use this tool if you need reminders and instructions for doing stretches.
Breaker [No Longer Available] – Best reminder app if you have a busy schedule and need a tool that allows you to set up custom patterns for breaks.
Create Privacy On Your Desktop
Some of the stress and uncomfort of working in an open office comes from this feeling of being watched. Not only are you not taking your breaks, you are also not doodling or checking Facebook, which, if done in moderation, can actually increase your creativity and productivity.
Taking breaks can release some of that uncomfort, especially if you can withdraw to a private corner to check on your phone. You could also bring a laptop and excuse yourself into a private meeting room if you really need to focus on something. And maybe your boss will allow you to work from the quiet of your home once a week.
If you feel you need more privacy at your desk, try a privacy screen filter for your monitor. The reversible screens come in various sizes, are easy to attach, and make the data on your screen visible only to the person sitting directly in front of the monitor — you.
The Situation In Europe Today
Atlhough Germans made the open office popular, it has since been disappearing. In the 1970s, the codetermination movement, which started in Germany and was subsequently adopted by its neighbors, led to legislation that gave workers the right to a window, minimum personal space, and generally promoted private offices. We can only hope that modern movements that are earning workers more freedom in terms of how and where they work, will ultimately lead to increased creativity, productivity, and collaboration. We badly need it.
How Do you Work?
What is your office situation and what helps you be productive? If you share your tips, you might inspire and help a fellow reader, so be generous with your comments!
Image Credit: K2 Space Via Flickr, Busy Office Building by John via Flickr, Change Yourself by BK via Flickr [No Longer Available], Noise via Audimute, Privacy Screen Filter by Miika Silfverberg via Flickr