7 Tips for Surviving an Open Plan Office

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An open plan office space has its pros and cons, along with most things in life. Within a lot of companies this is becoming more and more popular. But for those who are used to having their own space this can be quite a shock to the system and it can feel like you are sharing a small London flat again with several strangers!

An open plan office space is designed to enhance communication between teams, break down department silos and generate camaraderie amongst personnel. In other cases, it can be a necessity for businesses as a cost saving by reducing construction, utilities, office equipment and improved air flow and light.

Open plan office spaces might work well for extroverts who thrive on social interaction to get things done, but for introverts, who can be easily overwhelmed and who need alone time to recharge and stay focused, this kind of setup can be challenging.

We are all different, so what can we do to make life in an open plan work space more enjoyable?

Here are 7 tips on how to thrive in an open office:

Accept we are all different
Rather than focusing on all the things you don’t like about working in an open plan office; focus on accepting that this is how we now work and find ways to make it work for you. Everyone has different personalities and habits. You don’t have to like them, but you can control how to respond to them.

Take more lunches and coffee breaks by yourself or offsite
This one seems obvious, but it’s easy to overlook. If you are feeling overwhelmed by the office environment remove yourself when you can. Not only will the fresh air and exercise do you good, the change of environment can change your mindset and give you the break you need.

Create some personal space
This doesn’t mean building a fort! Depending on how much space you have, start thinking creatively about how you can create subtle personal space. It can be as simple as defining your space with a freestanding bookshelf or even potted plants (here’s our blog about the health benefits of indoor plants). It isn’t a brick wall; but you won’t be as vulnerable and it can go a long way in making you feel less under siege by local traffic.

Protect your boundaries
Boundaries can vary from protecting your precious work mug to removing yourself from negative office banter. Embed boundaries that serve you and protects your wellbeing. Are you getting dragged into negative workplace banter? Learn to politely remove yourself from the conversations to avoid negativity.

Learn the art of subtle signals
A signal can be something as simple as wearing a set of headphones to show that you are concentrating. You still want to be approachable in an office environment, so try to avoid the ‘KEEP OUT’ signs! Learning the art of subtle signals can help avoid unnecessary interruptions.

Note what times of the day and days of the week are typically quieter in the office
After a couple of weeks or months in an office, you will notice a pattern of activity that you can make work for you. Use those times for more difficult work or even downtime for yourself.

Book a small meeting room on a semi-regular basis for yourself.
This doesn’t just have to be for those stressful times at work with deadlines looming. A break away from the hustle and bustle of an open plan office floor is just what you need for some time to yourself. Schedule and book yourself a room for two hours and work alone without interruptions.

The challenges of an open plan office don’t mean the end of a happy work life. You don’t have to be aggressive or stage a protest to overcome it. Pockets of time and space can be effectively carved out to give you space to breathe and, yes, you can enjoy your work again.

What can you do today to help shape your working environment to work for you?

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