Believe it or not, open office layouts were created with good intentions. The idea behind the open floor plan is to encourage collaboration and teamwork among employees, rather than having walls that literally divide people. The design also helps companies save on the amount of office space needed to accommodate everyone. Individual offices take up much more space, and therefore cost companies more money to rent and fill.
While some people love working in an open office layout, it certainly isn’t a fit for everyone. Some people thrive among the constant chatter and collaboration of coworkers, while others find it distracting.
If an open office setting is preventing you from accomplishing your to-do list each day, there are ways you can make it easier on yourself. Here are six simple ways to stay focused while working in an open office.
1. Get some fresh air
When the office is full of distractions, it is sometimes best to walk away for a minute to clear your mind. The best way to do this is to step outside for some fresh air. A deep breath of nature can restore the mind from the mental fatigue of work, allowing you to return to your tasks with a fresh perspective and decreased stress.
In fact, Steve Jobs of Apple was notorious for holding walking meetings in order to spend more time outdoors. (See also: 5 Bedtime Routines of Famous Financial Gurus)
2. Invest in headphones
Noise-canceling headphones are a lifesaver when it comes to eliminating distractions. Not only do they help drown out office chatter, but they also signify to others that you’re trying to work. People tend to interrupt you less if they see that you’re wearing headphones and are in work mode.
Further, research conducted Cornell University in 2016 shows that “streamlined” music can help improve your focus at work, and your mood — giving you all the more reason to crank your favorite tunes. (See also: This Is the Best Music to Listen to If You Want to Be Productive)
3. Establish boundaries
Perhaps the best open office survival tip is to establish boundaries with those around you. There’s no shame in letting people know how you work best. You’re there to do a job, and if the open office layout is becoming a distraction, it’s up to you to find a way to make it work.
Block off an hour or two a day on your calendar that is strictly dedicated to working on your own. Share your calendar with others so they know when you are or aren’t available. And chances are, you aren’t the only person in your office struggling with the open concept. Lead the charge by creating an office plan of how to let one another know when you’re busy. Perhaps you put a do not disturb sign up while you are occupied, or you ask everyone on your team to coordinate an hour of distraction-free work. Whatever the case, find something that works for you and your coworkers.
4. Ask for emails
How can anyone get anything done when coworkers are constantly stopping by or pinging you on Slack? The truth is, it’s difficult for anyone to work with constant interruptions.
Fortunately, there’s another form of communication can help prevent interruptions: email. Most things aren’t urgent, so it’s okay to ask your coworkers to email you instead of verbally asking you, or messaging you. By requesting emails, you can respond when it works for you and better establish your priorities. Plus, you can close your email when you’re working to eliminate yet another distraction. If someone really needs to speak with you, encourage them to email you and setup a time to speak later in the day. (See also: 5 Easy Ways to Declutter Your Digital Life)
5. Find an alternative workspace
Sometimes, it may be impossible to accomplish your objectives in an open office atmosphere. If this is the case, talk to your boss about finding an alternative workspace to use when you seriously need to concentrate. Whether you need a private conference room for a few hours or the chance to work from home once a week, come up with a few options to present to your manager.
If all else fails, you can always ask to move to a cubical that faces the wall. These are often less distracting since you don’t see everyone in the office while you work. (See also: 14 Reasons Your Boss Should Let You Work From Home)
6. Practice tolerance
After setting some established boundaries, your coworkers should better be able to accommodate your need for privacy. However, no one is perfect. Respect and tolerance goes both ways in the workplace.
While it might not be an ideal situation for you at all times, try to see the benefit of your office layout. Understand that no matter your work setup, everyone you work with communicates differently. By practicing tolerance, you can focus your energy back onto your work.