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March 5, 2015 / Toby Dayton

The 2015 NFP Roller Coaster Ride Starts Tomorrow

In perhaps the biggest understatement of the week, we are a bit of an outlier for tomorrow’s NFP jobs number. Of the 94 estimates, not only are we the highest, but we’re nearly 60% above the median estimate and 80,000 jobs above the next highest estimate.


Our estimate is based on the steep increase we saw in new and total job openings on LInkUp in January, which we expect preceded an increase in hiring in February. In addition to all the data we typically look at (and wrote about earlier this week with our forecast and related analysis), another important data point we examine provides, at best, some mixed signals as the projected hiring in Q1.

LinkUp’s ‘Job Duration’ report shows the length in days of jobs that have rolled off the site during the prior 6 months. So in February, for example and as depicted in the inset graphic below, job listings that rolled off of LinkUp between September and February (presumably because they were filled) had been on our job search engine for an average of just under 48 days. As that same inset graphic shows, the pace of hiring or ‘velocity’ accelerated dramatically last year, dropping from 51 days in April to 41 days in October. Since October, the average job duration has risen to 48 days.

Jobs Duration Feb 2015 (2)

Of course, the lengthening duration can be interpreted in a number of ways. During the Great Recession, companies simply decreased the volume and pace of hiring. For the fewer jobs that were being filled, employers could also be very selective in their hiring process due to the fact that labor supply was much greater than labor demand. Those factors clearly led to a slowdown in hiring or a longer ‘Job Duration.’

In the current environment, our interpretation is that demand is now greater than supply, and companies are finding it increasingly difficult to fill their openings. While that is great news for job seekers, unemployment, wage growth, and the U.S. economy in general (at least up to a point), it definitely will have an impact on monthly net job growth. With demand finally outweighing supply, wages will start to climb (which we are just beginning to see in the past few months on a large-scale basis), voluntary quits will continue to increase, and general ‘churn’ in the labor market should increase quite a bit. In general, all of those things point to continued momentum around a strengthening labor market, but they will take place in fits and starts across different job categories, sectors of the economy, and regions of the country. While we expect that job growth will remain strong over the course of the year (see our February forecast and our call for a net gain of 4 million jobs in 2015), there will undoubtedly be volatility in the monthly numbers with lots of revisions of significant magnitude. It should be a pretty fun roller coaster ride, and we look forward to our first big thrill tomorrow morning.

March 3, 2015 / Toby Dayton

Strong Growth In January Job Openings Points To Above-Consensus February Jobs Estimate

Following a strong year of net job gains, a year in which just over 3 million new jobs were added to the U.S. economy (finally!), it looks like 2015 will be an even stronger year. But of course, any forecast relating to sustained job growth for the year, especially one made on March 3rd, rests on a huge number of assumptions even in the best of circumstances and in the most ‘normal’ of times (as if such a time does, in fact, exist). But these are no ordinary times, and the list of potential issues that could derail a strengthening labor market include, among countless others:

• Geopolitical risk throughout the world (Russia, Syria, ISIS, Israel/Iran, etc.)

• U.S. currency

• Low oil prices (which could go either way and maybe off-set)

• Totally dysfunctional and inept Congress that refuses (for about the 5th year in a row) to address any real issues impacting the U.S. economy

• Uncertainty about the timing of the Fed’s move on raising interest rates and what impact it might have on the economy

• China, Europe, Greece, South America….(and the list goes on and on….)

• Markets that appear to be reaching (have reached?) designation as over-valued and should (have to?) correct at some point

Needless to say, the list of potential risks to the U.S. jobs market is long and frightening. And nagging in everyone’s mind should be the number of times over the past 5 years that we started the year off with decent numbers in Q1, only to be disappointed (or more accurately – CRUSHED) as the jobs market petered out in subsequent quarters.

But having said all that, 2015 got off to a terrific start in January with a net gain of 257,000 jobs added to the U.S. economy. And based on the strong increase in job openings in LinkUp’s job search engine in January (new job posts up 24% and total job posts up 9%), we are forecasting an even better month in February with a net gain of 370,000 last month. (We won’t even attempt to account for the possible impact that crazy blizzards might have had in job gains last month, but if hiring was down in February because of the horrible weather, we should see that labor demand being met in March with higher-than-expected numbers this month).

Feb 2015 Forecast

Unfortunately in February, the growth in job openings cooled off a bit (perhaps also due, in part, to the fact that no one in the eastern half of the country was in the office much during the snowy month to post new openings on their company career portals). As the chart below shows, new job openings by state fell 3% while total job openings by state increased only 2%. Perhaps most concerning, 32 states reported a decline in new job openings.

Jobs By State Feb 2015

New and total job openings by category shows a similar picture, with new job postings falling 4% from January and total job openings rising a scant 1% from the prior month.

Jobs By Category Feb 2015

But the blended average of new and total job openings still rose nearly 2%, and as a result, our preliminary forecast for March is still a very robust gain of 415,000 jobs. That would put Q1 2015 net job growth at just over 1 million, surpassing even the phenomenal quarter we had to close out 2014. 

Jobs By Qtr 2011-2015

LinkUp Forecasts Net Gain of 4.1 Million Jobs in 2015

To gain additional perspective on the recent state of the labor market, I thought it would make sense to compare the past few years of actual job growth to the seasonal hiring trends that strongly characterize the U.S. labor market in a ‘normal’ environment. The chart below graphs average monthly recruitment advertising revenue of JobDig and LinkUp (JobDig is the parent company that owns LinkUp) over the past 13 years.

In almost every year, revenue starts off in January at the lowest point for the year as companies typically take a month or two to kick off their hiring plans for the year. Hiring then picks up considerably through Q2, plateaus a bit in the summer, peaks in Q3, and then tapers off in Q4. Keep in mind, the chart below depicts recruitment advertising which always precedes actual hiring or net job growth. (Hence our common refrain and well-grounded assumption that the best indicator of a future job being added to the economy is when a company advertises that opening or, better yet, posts that job on its own corporate career portal).

Average alone

In looking at net job gains in 2011, 2012, and 2013, it’s clear that hiring in those years did not track in the least bit with traditional seasonal hiring trends at any point during those 36 months. Recall that in each of those 3 years, early jobs momentum (with endless references to ‘green shoots’) crumbled as the year progressed.


But in 2014, hiring patterns finally returned to normal, with job gains once again tracking strongly to traditional seasonal hiring trends. It is this graph that also points to the very strong correlation between job openings in one period (call it period t) and job growth (or decline) in the next period (t + 1).


If we were to map out monthly job gains in 2015 with near-perfect correlation to historical seasonality trends, the graph of monthly jobs gains for the year would resemble the chart below (which adjusts for the approximated 45-day lag between job openings appearing on a corporate career portal and those jobs being filled with new hires).

2015 Forecast 4M

With all the standard qualifications about assumptions, risk factors, hypothetical scenarios, and forward-looking statements, the graphic above depicts a scenario in which just over 4 million new jobs are added to the U.S. economy in 2015.

annual net job growth 2011-2015

Without a doubt, it’s early in the year to be making predictions about a second consecutive year with 30+% growth in jobs, even considering that the annual growth rate of 32.2% we envision above is slightly less than the 32.9% growth in jobs we saw in 2014. But with the strong start to 2015 and the ‘return to normal’ we saw last year with monthly job gains once again mapping closely to historical seasonality trends, our baseline forecast for the year calls for a net gain of 4.1 million jobs. Let’s hope those $#@!%#$& ‘green shoots’ can maintain their immunity to any Round Up that might come their way this year.

March 3, 2015 / Stephanie Anderson

Layoff rumors? Position yourself for success after the pink slip

shutterstock_166310288Have layoff rumors been floating around your place of work? The thought of losing your job can leave a lump in your stomach and a sour taste in your mouth.

No one likes the stress of wondering each day if it might be your last at work, but even in good economic times businesses can and will lay off employees for a variety of reasons. The best thing is to know the signs and be prepared for the next step in your career. While difficult at first, a layoff might be the reason you find a better job with even better benefits.

Indicators of upcoming layoffs

When large companies plan layoffs, many employees are well aware that they might be on the chopping block in the near future. Other times, a layoff can come out of the blue. To avoid being completely blindsided, here are some key indicators of a potential upcoming layoff:

  • Co-workers have already been let go and there has been no communication that it’s an isolated event.
  • Co-workers are proactively leaving their positions to find new opportunities out of fear they may not have a job in the future.
  • You notice something different about how management communicates about future plans and employee functions.
  • Annual raises and bonuses have been eliminated or significantly reduced.
  • Employee developmental programs are being discontinued.
  • Co-workers are openly discussing their concern for the future of the company and their jobs.
  • Online buzz is brewing on message boards like www.thelayoff.com. (Note: Beware of message board information. While some posts may be accurate, many posts are blatantly false, created only to damage a company’s reputation, not to mention cause unnecessary stress for worried employees.)

Knowing the signs of a layoff is a start, but to protect your best interests it’s best to be prepared before the pink slip comes. Here are 10 simple yet highly effective ways to prepare yourself for a layoff so you can survive and thrive in the future:

1. Organize your job search
Job hunting is time consuming, so you should be prepared to hit the ground running by organizing your search now. Update your resume, assess your list of references and decide on a strategy for getting another position. Be sure to leverage LinkUp’s 5-Step Job Search action plan template.

2. Network
Make networking activities part of your daily routine. Connect with friends, former colleagues, past clients, etc. Join a professional association and start attending meetings. Get your name out there.

3. Update LinkedIn
As part of your networking efforts, make sure your LinkedIn profile is up to date and active. Don’t forget to upload a fresh head shot, post articles and remain active in conversations.

4. Set up job alerts
Set up parameters on LinkUp to have job alerts sent directly to you. You can start applying for jobs of interest before you even get the notice.

5. Order your finances
Cut back on spending and try to boost your savings as much as possible. It’s smart to live below your means and have a nest egg to fall back on.

6. Use your benefits
Schedule doctor and dentist appointments now and don’t forget about expense reports and reimbursement programs. A layoff means dramatic changes to these benefits.

7. Negotiate severance
If you are offered a severance package, you may be able to negotiate for more money or better terms. Don’t feel pressured to sign anything immediately; simply ask how long you have to review and leverage legal council if necessary before responing.

8. Understand unemployment
Learn about unemployment benefits and how to apply for them in the state where you work. Many unemployment offices let you apply and manage benefits completely online.

9. Gather info
While you never want to take confidential or proprietary information that may get you in trouble, you will want to get necessary information prior to leaving. This could include important contact information only stored on your work computer or samples of work for your professional portfolio.

10. Ask for help
Even if you leave with a great severance package and a recommendation letter in hand, a layoff can be disheartening. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and lean on the support of friends and family so you can stay positive.

February 25, 2015 / Molly Moseley

Terrorism and the Workplace, Keeping Employees Safe

shutterstock_147973478Terrorist threats are plentiful around the globe, but when those threats hit close to home, it can be extremely concerning. The recent Al Shabaab threats to shopping centers, including the Mall of America here in the Twin Cities, have many people wondering about the safety of shoppers, as well as the thousands of employees who work in the retail center every day.

Sure, if you work in the military, intelligence community or at another high-risk job, it’s expected that you’ll face threats in your line of work. But for people who work at the various shops at the mall, it’s not likely what they signed up for when they started the job.

In reality, risks are widespread. “Truck drivers can get hijacked or involved in fatal accidents, armed robberies happen at warehouses, and hospitality workers often come across crime scenes when they clean rooms,” says Liz D’Aloia, founder of HR Virtuoso. “Employers should be aware of risks to their employees and mitigate them.”

It’s important for every employer to be proactive in keeping employees safe, and being prepared for the unexpected demonstrates you truly care. Be sure to provide an action plan to reference if something does occur, because in a crisis there is little time to think and quick action can make a big difference. Here are some things to consider:

Establish plans and procedures
The first step is to create plans. This includes evacuation routes, processes for involving the police, and the development of an emergency contact list. Depending on the threat, there may be different procedures to follow, so multiple plans will likely be needed. After all, an employee’s response to a fire will be different from his response to a robbery or bombing.

Make sure employees know what’s expected
When employees are armed with the right information, they will be able to act appropriately in an emergency. “HR needs to be working closely with regional, store managers and security to ensure that employees understand what they should do in the event of an actual attack, as well as what the company’s expectations are,” says Janine Truitt of Talent Think Innovations.

Train employees on what is considered suspicious activity
It can be difficult to know what is considered normal or abnormal activity. To make matters more confusing, this can also change depending on what industry they work in. Give employees clear examples of what should put them on alert and what they should do about it (call manager, law enforcement, security, etc.) The National Terror Alert website has guidance for getting started.

Keep open lines of communication with employees and be flexible
Encourage employees to voice any concerns they have and be open to their requests to work from home or take a leave of absence. “I suggest that employers should be sensitive to any ethnic, racial, religious, gender and other issues that might arise with terrorist threats. Consequently, leaves of absences could be one way to accommodate employee requests for time off due to threats,” says Charles Krugel, a human resources attorney and counselor.

Act quickly at the time of the incident
The more quickly a company can act to address threats and help employees, the better. “Immediately deploy HR staff along with counselors from the Employee Assistance Program. If the employer doesn’t have an EAP program, they can hire local therapists to assist,” says D’Aloia. “If an employee is traumatized by the event and is seeking medical care, the employee may be eligible for leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act.”

Update insurance policies
Make sure your business is protected by having the correct policies in place to cover high-level threats. One option is terrorism risk insurance. Furthermore, insurance companies can often provide quality resources for developing proper plans and procedures to ensure both the business and employees are prepared no matter what.

February 19, 2015 / Stephanie Anderson

5 simple tips to refresh your headshot

What does your LinkedIn profile picture say about you? As content on the web becomes increasingly more visual, pictures have become an integral component of our LinkedIn profiles. In fact, according to LinkedIn, you’re 14 times more likely to have your profile viewed if you have a headshot, and most people do. The real question now is, of all those LinkedIn profile pictures, does yours stand out?

Well, if it’s a cropped picture from the last wedding you were in, a selfie you took with your smart phone at your desk, or that picture of you with your three best friends in Cabo, probably not. I’d say it’s time for a headshot refresh.

Hiring a professional photographer can run anywhere from $50 to $500, but with any camera and a colleague you can update your profile picture, and maybe even your career. Here are LinkUp’s five no-fail photo techniques for a better headshot:

1. Utilize natural light

Flashes and fluorescent lighting cause harsh shadows and shiny spots. Find a window with good natural light to illuminate your face.




Fluorescent lighting


Natural light











2. Select the right wardrobe

When selecting your outfit, find something that is aligned with what you actually wear in your office and industry (business, business casual, or casual) and avoid busy patterns that could distract from your face.


Too casual


Too busy


Just right










3. Find a clean background

The goal of a headshot is to highlight your face, don’t make it compete with the background.


Distracting color and shape


Clean lines


Solid background










4. Use a flattering angle

Taking headshots from an elevated angle flatters by slimming the face. Avoid shooting the image head-on or you’ll risk looking like a mugshot.


Head-on mugshot


Snag a stool and shoot


Flattering downward angle










5. Have a friend use your phone

We were able to use a Nikon D600 for our office photoshoot, but any point and shoot, or even your phone, will do if you utilize these tips. Be sure to avoid an unprofessional looking selfie, by having someone else take it for you.


An obvious selfie


Background distractions


Clean iPhone image









Follow LinkUp on LinkedIn and connect with me for more job search and career tips and tricks!

February 16, 2015 / Molly Moseley

Listen to the Buzz: Employees Prefer an Open Office

open office 3Last week’s post on open offices generated a lot of strong opinions in the comments on LinkedIn. I’m humbled by all of the “likes” and excited about the quality discussion on both sides of the debate. From people discussing building acoustics to offering their own advice on open-office courtesy and etiquette, everyone shared their two cents and no one held back! Thanks!

Some people felt our tips for staying productive were simply mechanisms to take people out of the open-office structure, which was a really interesting argument. For example, we recommended people wear headphones, which means they are temporarily unavailable to the conversation and collaboration the open-office environment is supposed to stimulate. That’s a fair observation, but I’d argue wearing headphones is a concentration tactic that people in cubicles and even closed offices employ; thus not relegated only to open offices.

Another interesting point brought up was that while many businesses use an open-office design for the majority of employees, executives do not participate and instead receive closed-office privileges. That certainly could be true, but it could also be an issue of privacy at those businesses where executives are regularly conducting confidential calls or in-person client meetings. Nonetheless, I’m proud that this is not the case at LinkUp. My work space is in the open office along with the majority of our executives, and I personally really enjoy it!

Seeing how passionate readers are about this topic, we decided to poll LinkUp employees to see how they really feel about working in an open office. Was all the positivity simply for show? Do they all secretly despise it? We conducted a brief anonymous survey to uncover the truth, and the results are fascinating:

1. The majority of people do enjoy the open-office setting: Only 17 percent of employees at LinkUp dislike our open office, 22 percent are indifferent and 61 percent stated they like or love it.

2. Our office is split between introverts and extroverts: 33 percent of employees consider themselves introverts, 39 percent label themselves extraverts and 28 percent say it depends on the day.

3. What people like best is the buzz and energy, ease of collaboration and the sense of community.

4. Our employees’ biggest challenges are distractions and issues concentrating. Lack of privacy is also a concern.

5. Tips from our employees for people in open offices include: invest in nice headphones, be respectful to those around you with your conversations and noise, and have reasonable expectations (you will be interrupted, people will see your screen, etc.).

Whether a company should employ an open-office design will depend on a number of variables. Some businesses are more fitting than others just by the nature of the work conducted. For example, when client privacy is required or confidential meetings are frequent, an open office may not be the best choice. Culture and personality are big considerations as well, as some people are more or less likely to be successful in an open-office environment. Before implementation, leaders must consider if their employees would be able to operate and meet expectations in that type of setting.

February 11, 2015 / Molly Moseley

HR insight: Lessons learned from the Brian Williams scandal

Brian Williams

CC image courtesy of tomblanton1957, Flickr

Late last night NBC announced Brian Williams’ suspension without pay for 6 months from his job as the anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News. After he recanted a story from 2003, in which he claimed a helicopter he was riding in during the Iraq war was shot down, headlines about his journalistic and personal integrity have run rampant.

Did Williams intentionally lie to sensationalize the story? Did he simply make a mistake and misremember? Psychologists have even weighed in, stating that his false memory could be attributed to a traumatic event experienced while reporting the war. We may never know the truth, yet the damage is done; many people now question any reporting he has done and, of course, will do so in the future.

To err is to be human, and in reality, people lie all the time in their careers. Brian Williams is far from alone. Many top executives at leading companies have told lies to better themselves and their careers. Fortune recently listed some of the most notorious executives who have made intentional resume goofs, such as David Tovar, former VP of corporate communications at Walmart. He never graduated from the college he claimed, and Jeffrey Papows, former president of IBM’s Lotus, told tall tales of being a marine, earning a PhD and having a black belt in tae kwon do.

For HR professionals, the topic of employees lying is no laughing matter. When it is uncovered that an employee has been untruthful, what are the proper procedures to take? Much depends on the type of lie and severity of the situation, of course. Regardless, having an internal plan to reference ahead of time can be helpful in making the process is clear so any investigation can be handled in a quick, professional manner.

Step 1: Gather evidence
It’s best to remain impartial and gather evidence so you can separate facts from fictional claims, but these actions must be taken quickly and efficiently. Your gut reaction might be to immediately confront the employee, but a wrongful accusation can have devastating and costly consequences. Employee observations, witness accounts, emails, online records, and more are all things that can be analyzed.

Step 2: Talk face to face with the employee
After you have promptly gathered evidence, it’s time to speak to the employee directly. This person deserves to be made aware of the claim and have a chance to respond. Stay calm and be sure to convey the seriousness of the situation during the interview. A face-to-face conversation is more likely to yield an honest response than an email or phone call, plus it lets the employee give his side of the story and/or provide an apology.

Step 3: Assess the conversation
How did the employee respond to the accusation? Did he own up to the lie, make up excuses, seem jolted? What was the root cause for this person to lie? Analyze the employee’s responses and determine if it’s an isolated event or evidence of a pattern.

Step 4: Decide a course of action
Should an employee be terminated for lying? Whether he should be fired must be based on the specific circumstances. For example, there’s a big difference between an employee who lies about a lunch expense or being sick versus one accused of lying about sexual misconduct or professional credentials. Talk with your team, assess what has been done in the past (if applicable), make sure the business is covered from a legal standpoint, and go with your gut. Usually these situations are not black and white and it takes professionalism and understanding to make the appropriate decision.

February 5, 2015 / Toby Dayton

The Pace Or ‘Velocity’ Of Hiring Among U.S. Employers Has Slowed A Bit Since October

Each month, we look at the pace or ‘velocity’ of hiring among the 50,000 employers whose jobs we index in our job search engine. The graphic below shows, for each of the past 10 months, the length of time that job openings were on LinkUp that had rolled off the site in the prior 6 months. So for example, in January, there were 929,000 that rolled off the site between August and January that were on the site for between 0-15 days. That is 350,000 jobs less than the 1.28 million that rolled off the site between May and October, indicating that employers have slowed down the pace of their hiring since last fall.

Overall, the average number of days that employers are taking to fill their job openings has dropped from 51 days in April to a low of 41 days in October. Since then, the average number of days that job openings are staying on LinkUp has risen slightly to just under 47 days, indicating again that the velocity of hiring has cooled off a bit since October.

Job Duration


February 5, 2015 / Toby Dayton

January Jobs Numbers Will Disappoint But February Looks Excellent; Strength In Labor Market Should Be Sustained Through At Least Q1

While the delay in posting our January jobs forecast is causing a bit of anxiety, the elevated stress levels have been greatly assuaged by the fact that cause of the delay lies the unprecedented demand we’ve seen for our core recruitment advertising services. Not only are we coming off the most successful year in our company’s history, but January also marked the most successful month ever for LinkUp, with paid search revenue jumping 20% from December and 60% from January of last year. And while I’d love to say that our growth can be entirely attributed to market share gains resulting from our highly unique and wildly compelling value proposition, at least a minuscule portion of the phenomenal growth has resulted from an improving job market and rising labor demand among U.S. employers.

Quite appropriately given the horrendous carnage of the Great Recession and the anemic economic recovery we’ve suffered through over the past few years, the nearly 3 million jobs added to the U.S. economy in 2014 have certainly captured the headlines of late. It’s certainly been a long time coming, so it is with great joy that we again post a few charts to further elucidate (and celebrate) the job growth we’ve seen over the past 12 months.

In 2014, the U.S. economy added an average of 242,000 jobs each month, a 25% increase over the 194,000 monthly average in 2013.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.16.33 PM

Job gains averaged 726,000 per quarter in 2014, and following a bit of a slow start in Q1, job gains steadily rose through the year. Employers added 819,000 jobs in Q4, although with revisions for November and December possible tomorrow and again for December in March, the Q4 numbers won’t be finalized for another month.

Screen Shot 2015-02-04 at 5.20.13 PM

Unfortunately, however, we saw a decline in the number of job openings on LinkUp’s job search engine in November (-12.7%) and December (-2.4%). As a result of those declines, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a downward revision for November and December in tomorrow’s jobs report. And regardless of whether or not that occurs, because of the decline in job openings that we saw in December, we are forecasting a net gain of only 212,000 jobs in January, a weaker number than consensus.

The positive news, however, is that job listings in our job search engine (which currently lists about 2.8 million jobs indexed exclusively from 50,000 corporate websites throughout the country and internationally) rose sharply in January. New job openings rose 18.7% and total job openings rose 8.3%. Based on those gains, our preliminary forecast for February calls for a net gain of 362,000 jobs (our February forecast could be revised when we get additional data for January and February at the end of the month).

January 2015 Jobs Forecast

Drilling down into our data on a state by state basis, it’s clear that gains were spread throughout the country. Also of note, the precipitous drop in oil prices clearly is having an impact on labor demand in North and South Dakota, the only two states to show a decline in total job openings.

Jobs By State Jan 2015

The gains in new and total job openings look similarly robust when looking at the 31 job categories that we track in our search engine.

Jobs by Category Jan 2015

So despite what may be a slightly disappointing Non-Farm Payroll (NFP) number for January in tomorrow’s Employment Situation Report, we remain confident that sustained strength in the labor market will result in very strong net job gains for the first quarter.




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.