OPEN OFFICE SPACES – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Open floor plan offices naturally lend themselves to more socializing. But you’re hardly alone in finding the chatter distracting. A study published last year found that open office layouts had a negative effect on productivity, contributing to “mental workload, poor performance, stress, and fatigue.” Another paper, from 2011, found that sound was one of the main factors affecting workplace productivity, with conversation being among the most annoying of them.

Image result for open office spaces

When you need to get something done on deadline, let people know right away. Just make it clear you’re stepping away for the benefit of the company or a particular task—not because you’re trying to avoid your coworkers, says Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach

You might say something like, “I just need a little privacy and some time to concentrate so that I can finish this project on time.”

Peppering it with a bit of humor—”I know you miss me, but I’ve got to get this report done by noon or Julian will have my head” —should help you avoid looking like a grump. You might also make use of the “do no disturb” settings on your instant messenger program, phone and email to underscore your point.

Here are a couple of helpful and humorous articles to help you navigate the noisy world of open concept office spaces:

http://hbr.org/2015/03/stop-noise-from-ruining-your-open-office

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/careers/career-advice/noise-annoys-in-the-workplace/article4353264/

No one wants to talk about this sensitive but growing topic but for Managers who expect high performance, they need to deal with the noise or lose high performers to companies who value productivity. HR must be also be diligent in enforcing established office etiquette. Employees must work to accept that compromises must be made by many for all.

Here are a few of my favourite tips:

EMPLOYERS

Do a sound audit. Identify potential noise hazards and figure out ways to deal with them.

Develop a workplace respect policy that addresses employee behaviour when it comes to noise, including cellphone and speakerphone use.

Soundproof your space. There are plenty of ways to make your office quieter, from acoustic tiles to sound-masking systems to higher cubicle walls. Carpets, curtains and plants all absorb sound, while water fountains and fans produce white noise that will help drown out other noises.

Provide quiet rooms where employees can work on tasks that require complete concentration.

Allow staff to tune out with headphones.

Group staff according to the work they do. For example, set sales staff constantly working the phones well away from staff who require quiet to do their jobs.

EMPLOYEES

Use your inside voice. No one wants to hear every word of your phone conversations, be they professional or personal.

Ask for help. If noise is a constant bother, ask your manager about purchasing a portable noise masking system or noise-cancelling headphones.

Silence your cellphone. Set your phone to vibrate.

Use headphones if you listen to music while you work.

 SOUNDING OFF

21: Percentage of U.S. workers who cite loud noises such as speakerphones and cellphone ring tones are a top pet peeve.

18: Percentage of British workers who say loud phone talkers are among the most annoying workplace behaviours.

71: Percentage of workers who want music played in the workplace.

85: Percentage who say they are happier when listening to music at work.

62: Percentage of workers who say listening to music at work makes them feel more productive.

13: Percentage who say listening to music at work is unprofessional.

…….Next blog post topic, Open Office Spaces – Privacy:  Keeping It Confidential

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