Updated: March 30, 2022
In an open office layout, it can be difficult to find a place where you can focus and get work done and overall increase your office productivity. You may be constantly interrupted by people walking by, talking on the phone, or having meetings in the cubicle next to you. And if you’re trying to concentrate, all of those distractions can really kill your productivity.
Checking your phone, switching tabs on your browser, eavesdropping in on a workmate’s conversation from four desks away – these are the usual things employees do in the office when they are meant to be working.
Distractions are a common occurrence in the office, and they are lowering employee productivity. According to a study of the University of California Irvine, it takes 25 minutes for a person to refocus on a task after a slight distraction. If an employee is side-tracked by more than one distraction during the day, this leads to backlogs and delays, affecting business operations. Workers also have to compensate for lost time, increasing stress and frustration.
What Causes Distractions?
In a work environment where walls and cubicles are stripped down, the need to encourage communication and collaboration comes with a new set of challenges: noise and disturbance.
A 2019 study by communications company Poly surveyed around 5,000 employees around the world asked what causes their inability to focus at work. They discovered that 76 per cent of respondents said that their biggest distraction is a co-worker talking loudly on the phone, while 65 per cent are distracted by a colleague talking nearby.
Although the debate about the effectiveness of an open office design continues, over half of Gen Z and millennial employees said they want to work in open areas despite the associated distractions. The same study by Poly revealed that Gen X and Baby Boomers prefer quieter spaces.
Managing Distractions in an Open Office
Despite the distractions surrounding an open office, there are ways to design a workplace to encourage focus for employees under all generations. Some examples include…
- Acoustic Zoning. Add design elements that help absorb ambient sounds, such as rugs and tapestry. Designate “quiet” spaces where phone calls and conversations are not allowed.
- Elimination of Peripheral Distractions. Position workstations away from hallways or windows. You can also add partitions, or large potted or hanging plants next to the workstation closest to areas of constant movement.
- Separate Activity Areas. Separate areas for collaboration and meetings from workstations where quiet and focus is required.
- Add Private Spaces. Add workstations with booths for employees who want to work with uninterrupted focus. If your budget is limited, allow workers to use meeting rooms to finish a task or make a lengthy phone call.
Open office designs are popular, as they increase collaboration, communication, creativity and ultimately help to produce a successful modern office. However, the challenge is minimising the distractions that come with the lack of partitions. Optimising the workplace environment for focus ensures that everyone in the office finishes their task on or before their deadlines.
So now that we know a little bit more about distraction causes and some basic examples on how to manager them. Lets go into some tips to help you increase your productivity within an open office and reduce all of these common place distractions.
1. Find a quiet place to work
If you need to focus on a task, try to find a quiet place to work. This may mean working in a conference room, an empty cubicle, or even going off-site to a coffee shop or library.
2. Use noise-cancelling headphones
If you can’t find a quiet place to work, or if you need to block out the noise around you, try using noise-cancelling headphones. This will help you focus on your work and tune out the distractions.
3. Get up and move around
If you’re finding it difficult to focus, try getting up and moving around. Go for a walk, stretch, or do some light exercises. This will help you clear your head and come back to your work refreshed.
4. Take Breaks
Make sure to take breaks throughout the day. Get up and stretch, grab a cup of coffee, or step outside for some fresh air. This will help you avoid burnout and stay productive.
5. Set a schedule
One of the best ways to increase your productivity is to set a schedule. Decide when you’re going to start working, take breaks, and stop working for the day. This will help you stay on track and make the most of your time.
6. Set goals
When you have a task to do, set a goal for yourself. This will help you stay focused and motivated. For example, if you’re writing a report, set a goal to finish it by the end of the day.
7. break down tasks into smaller steps
If a task seems overwhelming, break it down into smaller steps. This will help you focus on one thing at a time and make progress.
8. Eliminate distractions
Eliminate anything that might distract you from your work. Turn off your phone, close social media tabs, and put away any other distractions. This will help you focus on what’s important.
9. Find a work buddy
If you’re struggling to stay focused, find someone to work with. This can be a colleague, friend, or family member. Having someone to work with will help you stay on track and motivated.
10. Take advantage of down time
If you have a few minutes between tasks, use that time to your advantage. Get started on the next task, or take a break. This way you’ll be able to stay productive and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
11. Reward yourself
When you accomplish a goal, reward yourself. This will help you stay motivated and focused on your work. For example, you could take a break after finishing a task, or treat yourself to a coffee.
By following these tips, you can increase your productivity in an open office. However, it’s important to remember that everyone is different. Find what works for you and stick with it. And if you ever feel like you’re not being productive, take a step back and reassess. There’s always room for improvement.
In this article, we’ve discussed some of the most common distractions in an open office environment and how to manage them. We hope that you find these tips helpful as they will not only help you increase your productivity but also reduce all of those workplace distractions.