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The LinkUp Blog The Industry's Best-Kept Secret

February 4, 2015 / Molly Moseley

6 simple ideas for staying productive in an open-office setting

open office2The open-office design made popular by tech companies like Google and Facebook recently has been met with some backlash. What was believed to create an innovative and collaborative work space is now being criticized for being too distracting and ultimately inefficient.

Is it no longer a positive thing to have an open office? With an estimated 70 percent of offices in America adhering to an open-office design, this is the million-dollar question. However, the answer is not so black and white.

LinkUp moved to an open-office environment about a year and a half ago, and in that time we’ve learned a few things. The benefits are huge, for one. Collaboration is up, team members know each other well, creativity flows freely, and there is noticeably more energy each day. But with the open office come many distractions, and those can be a big drawback.

No system is perfect, but we ultimately think the benefits far outweigh the distractions. We’ve found that by working with employees to find solutions and help them remain productive throughout the day, we’ve curtailed the majority of issues. Here are the top six things employees and businesses can do to keep focused and productive in an open-office setting:

1. Wear headphones
Some people thrive off the hustle-and-bustle noise of fellow workers, others not so much. For those who do enjoy more active surroundings, there are times when it’s necessary to cut down on the buzz. That’s when noise-cancelling headphones are your best friend. Wearing headphones is also a subtle way to tell co-workers you’re on task and would prefer not to be disturbed.

2. Encourage employee tunes
Let employees stream the music of their choice to their headphones. Some might prefer all-instrumental and jazz, others rock or hip-hop. Just like many doctors play their favorite music to help them focus during surgery, letting employees listen to their preferred tunes can increase productivity.

3. Set up IM and lean on email
Of course if something is urgent, we can all agree that walking to someone’s desk to have an in-person discussion is a priority. This isn’t, however, necessary for all communication. Set a policy stating that non-urgent communication should be sent via email or instant message instead of interrupting the workflow.

4. Designate spaces for privacy
There will inevitably be times when coworkers will want to have privacy when conversing. Have public spaces with closed doors that can be accessed by all. At LinkUp, we have several rooms where employees can engage in private or important conversations without worrying about someone eavesdropping.

5. Make time for no interruptions
No-interruption times should be a part of everyone’s daily calendar. Employees must have the freedom (and confidence) to tell co-workers politely that they can’t talk and will respond later. Some employees even use “do not disturb” signs at their desks, which can be effective as long as they are not abused.

6. Telecommute when necessary
When there’s a really big project or tight deadline looming, it can be beneficial to work from home to eliminate all in-office distractions. Supervisors should be open to telecommuting when the situation calls for it and set a policy that everyone can follow.