It’s 9:30 am and everyone has finally started waking up for the day. Phones are ringing, loud laughter is punctuated by random coughs and grunts — then comes the Spotify playlist regurgitating generic pop songs for all to hear… Sound like your company’s open office? Well, you’re part of the 70 percent of U.S. businesses currently utilizing this corporate feng shui to organize their offices for better or worse! Whatever your take, we’ll explore what surviving an open office plan really takes and how employees can stay working efficiently.
Trickling down from Silicon Valley’s all-knowing corporate wizardry, open office plans have become the norm for many modern businesses. Mostly, this means large open spaces with desks, no walled offices, and very low partitions — or sometimes none at all! For trendy, techy startups, open office plans provide easily reconfigurable setups, and ultimately a way to cut costs. Bosses can keep tabs on employees with ease, and gazing out into a thrumming open office just looks productive… but is it?
Since open office plans have become popular, studies show that many workers actually despise the ebb and flow these plans create. Many cite a lack of privacy, difficulty concentrating and avoiding illness, as well as an all or nothing approach to environmental factors like lighting, temperature, sound, and smell. Disgruntled employees are also much less productive in an open office, although that’s an issue in and of itself.
Surviving an Open Office Plan | The Basics
Clearly, surviving an open office plan is something more employees are dealing with than ever before. So what can workers, managers, and bosses do to really optimize these types of spaces? Let’s explore:
Crack Open That Suggestions Box!
Sure, nobody really has an old, wooden box with specifically-worded pet peeves on note cards anymore, but that doesn’t mean the practice itself is outdated. If your company is growing and adding new team members into the mix, you may be due for a good ol’ roundtable on office etiquette. Just ask employees how they feel things are going with the open office. Be aware that broaching certain subjects can get a little too particular for some.
If certain employees insist on eating strong-smelling foods or others feel the need to scream into their phones, it’s important to address these issues in generalities. Singling out employees has the potential to create more issues than before, so tread lightly.
Consider the Solutions
Surviving an open office plan isn’t always as easy as just saying “hey stop eating stinky food,” or “just tune it out,” although that’s part of it.
Many of the possible solutions come from working with the resources your company already has. Are there pieces of furniture you can rearrange? Can open team discussions take place in a quiet space instead? Where is the best place to eat that weird-smelling sandwich? Designating particular zones for certain activities is one way to make surviving an open office easier.
Sometimes, there are no real changes to make — so that’s up to you! If you’re feeling oddly stressed by every small crinkle of a water bottle or squeaky office chair, take a little stroll outside, and breathe deeply. I know, how zen of me to recommend, but honestly don’t knock it until you try it. Just pretend you’re a basketball player making a free-throw with screaming fans from the other team. Tune it out. Or maybe you’re a concert pianist with all ears on you. Focus inward. It takes practice, but it pays off if you can whip up some Buddha-like vibes to fend off annoyances.
Otherwise, invest in some noise-canceling headphones or even a white-noise generator if you’re an employer. Also, consider ways to better partition an open space to cut down on visual distractions. Surviving an open office plan isn’t always easy, but with the right communal efforts, it’s definitely possible!
What are your experiences with surviving an open office plan? Let us know your story and solutions in the comments below!