Workspace Wednesday: 9 Ways to Stay Productive in an Open Working Environment

This post is brought to you by the folks at Find My Workspace.

Distractions! Noise! People! Be it the ringing phones, running office machines or colleagues having an energetic discussion, noise is a major problem in open space working environments.

Most of the people who work in open space offices attest that their level of productivity is lowered by the number of distractions, noise, and people in the their surroundings.

Why has the idea of open space working environment spread so fast in the majority of office settings? The fact is, open space working has a number of advantages over the conventional office setting. The benefits of open space working affect both the employees as well as the business.

For the employees, the absence of physical barriers like walls enables easy and regular employee interaction. More consistent interactions between team mates fosters the feeling of togetherness in the workplace, enhances information flow and builds teamwork.

For the business, the increased level of collaboration between the employees results in innovation and advancement of technologies and ideas.

But how do you stay productive in such a setting? Here are 10 solutions:

1. Cancel out the noise.

If you are distracted by sounds, put on noise cancelling headphones and keep working. Headphones also help to signal to other workmates that you are busy.

2. Make use of white or grey noise.

White or grey noise refers to music that has no lyrics. Sites like and offer lots of grey noise to select from. It has been scientifically proven that playing electronic music that is ambient and unpredictable improves the productivity of both human beings and animals. Put on your grey noise and let it drown out the distractions.

3. Position yourself accordingly.

It is imperative that you position yourself in a place with noise levels you can cope with. Some of the considerations you may use to decide where you will sit include your type of job, solo or collaborative, and the location of office equipment.

You will want to select a more secluded part of the office if your job is solo. If your job is collaborative, you will want to sit close to the people with whom you will be sharing ideas.

4. Manage your time well.

Carry out an assessment of the operations in the open working environment to find out the times with the most and least amount of noise and distractions. There are always those hours or days the office is quieter. Therefore, be deliberate in maximizing such moments and work on your most difficult tasks.

5. Create your own "busy signals."

When you are busy at work and don't want to be interrupted, make it known that you are busy. Some methods are subtle, yet effective. For instance, you may choose to make an "I AM BUSY" label and place it on your desk, or use subtle hints like putting on headphones.

6. Create boundaries with workmates.

Well, let’s face it -- some distractions in the workplace are a result of us allowing our workmates to do whatever they want, whenever they want. For instance, you will notice there will always be that workmate who moves around giving some people "friendly" back taps. They will not do that to everyone, but to those who have allowed the gesture.

So how do you respond to such behavior from colleagues? Be polite but firm. Next time your over-friendly workmate decides to give you a back tap, smile and say nicely, “I have to get back to work now.” Or let your body language do the talking: glance up momentarily with a polite smile and then turn your eyes back to your work. Message sent.

7. Develop a private space in the office.

Minimize accessibility and inter-visibility of your work station, and clearly define your space in the open office. You may use simple things like a freestanding bookshelf, potted plants or even hang a coat beside your desk. By doing this, you will stop people from coming to you unnecessarily or having to look at things randomly.

8. Book other rooms occasionally.

If you find that you have some work that really needs focus and you cannot find the perfect time in your open office, you may have the option of booking private rooms. For instance, you may book the whole meeting room to yourself since there is no rule stipulating the minimum number of people that should use a meeting room.

9. Manage your working area.

Sometimes, the distractions that affect productivity are created by ourselves. For instance, if you use a computer to work, how much time do you spend on irrelevant websites? Can you get rid of some piles of paperwork on your desk? A clean desk free from clutter will give you more focus and mental clarity. Therefore, seek to organize your working area and that will have an instant positive effect on your productivity.

The next time you step into your open office, do not let them deter you from being productive. As you have seen, there are so many ways of tackling the issues of noise, distractions and colleagues in the open office. Implement them one by one. In no time, you will be proud of the control you have on your productivity level in the open working environment.

Gemma Reeves is a Content Marketing Executive for Find My Workspace. She also has extensive experience in the sales and advertising industry helping companies generate and convert leads into sales. Gemma has a deep understanding of the property industry and aims to share her knowledge to help companies grow their revenue.