Many workplace walls are becoming a relic from the past, as more and more businesses choose to design open office floor plans for employees of all statuses to work together. Employers often cite cost savings for their companies as real estate prices continue to rise. “if you’re company X and company Y has reduced their real estate costs to 25 percent of yours, it puts you at a financial disadvantage,” said Barbara Mullenex, a principal at architecture firm Perkins Eastman in Washington D.C.
Employers claim that the open office floor plan spurs on collaboration and creativity among work colleagues, which may be true for some professions that work together to design buildings or to generate marketing ideas. But there are also challenges to being productive in an open office. Gloria Mark, a professor at University of California says her research shows that there are many more interruptions through out the day for these workers, which makes it challenging to be productive.
Some companies have tried to alleviate this issue by providing quiet spaces with computer stations or small enclosures for phone calls or quick meetings. Some offices have even created sound proof phone booths for workers to have privacy to have sensitive client phone calls or a quick personal call with a spouse to make arrangements for the evening.
There are several options for individuals who work in open floor plans to help create some virtual distance from their peers.
These noise-cancelling headphones block out sounds around you with built-in electronics that create sound waves so you can actually hear yourself think. You can opt to listen to music or other ambient noises while you work by accessing websites via Bluetooth.
Privacy with Plants
Plants can be used to create a degree of privacy at your workspace and soften some of the echoing sounds around you. Plants are useful in helping to keep the air clean by pulling dust and pollutants from the stale air.
White noise generators may help alleviate random sounds in your office, like noisy printers or irritating phone ringtones. You may customize these devices with ambient sounds like falling rain, ocean waves or other sounds meant to help you relax and stay focused on your work.
Group Messaging Tools
Group messaging tools like Slack or HipChat may help alleviate the need for interruptions by your colleagues throughout the day by giving you the ability to have quick conversations or filesharing that may lend to online meetings, rather than face-to-face sit downs.
SOURCE: Wall Street Journal, “An Open-Office Survival Plan,” by Steven Melendez
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