Sticky solutions to your everyday business challenges
Question: My company recently leased a new floor in our building for IT. It had private offices for everyone. Some higher up at our company made the decision to knock down all the walls and convert the entire floor to an open office. I’m upset.
Answer: There is an ongoing debate about the pros and cons of open offices. Some research indicates that they spark creativity and camaraderie. More recent studies suggest that open offices encourage employees to avoid one another. However, as much as you’d like to lead a rebellion against the open office layout, that’s not a productive use of your time and talent. Instead, try taking a leadership role with your team by adopting some survival strategies.
Here are a few ideas:
Give change a chance. There’s a lot of benefit to getting to know your colleagues better and being part of a community. Try to embrace the open office concept by focusing on the positives (the spontaneous humor) and downplaying the negatives (the TMI). Even those of us who are level 5 introverts need to build connections with people we work with. When you seriously need a break, investigate private spaces in the office where you can think, write, and brainstorm free of distraction.
Make a game plan. Talk with your team to come up with a few ground rules for working together optimally. Find the agreed-upon norms that you can operate within, like “do not disturb” indicators when you really need to focus on a given task. Ask team members to be a second set of eyes for each other so that when a colleague is on an important call, for example, you can politely signal each other to keep the noise down.
Invest in headphones. When you’re working on something that requires intense concentration, a set of noise-canceling headphones can be a life saver. You can listen to white noise or classical music or whatever it is that helps you feel and perform at your best. Headphones also serve as a visual cue to your colleagues that you’re not to be disturbed unless it’s absolutely necessary. Again, use discretion in how often you use them. No one should be permanently uninterruptible.