Between his colleagues’ comments on the last hockey game and conversations about the current project, it is sometimes impossible to concentrate in an open-plan office. Here are five strategies for getting the job done.
The first option to escape the ambient noise is to go and find peace for a few hours in an empty meeting room. But this is not always possible, as some companies have few rooms and reserve access to real meetings. In this case, you can always arrive at the office earlier in the morning or stay later to take advantage of these quiet moments to carry out tasks that require concentration.
Ramparts for protection
When you really have to stay at your desk, you can use plants, rows of books or decorative objects to at least avoid visual distractions… and be forgotten by the colleague who likes to peddle the latest office gossip from office to office. Those who are often solicited by their colleagues can make themselves a small “Do Not Disturb” sign that will encourage them to come back and ask their questions later.
Noise is the main cause of complaint for employees in an open-plan environment. Ambient noise, conversations, ringing phones… Silence is rare in these offices. To remedy this, many employees spend their days with their earphones screwed on their ears. A strategy that can work, but especially for extroverts, who find it harder to work in absolute silence, and provided they listen to instrumental music or noises of nature.
Some people use earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones to lower the decibel level. White noise generators can also reduce the stress caused by incessant noise.
The brain is already under great strain from all the multiple sources of distraction, so it’s best to give it a boost by avoiding additional overload. Forbidding yourself to go on Facebook or other websites that are not essential for work, leaving your phone in your bag or jacket, or even reducing the number of times you check your e-mails are all ways to avoid exhausting your concentration.
Despite their shortcomings, open-plan offices allow for better interaction and collaboration between employees than traditional offices. So they are here to stay. If you can’t get to the source of the problem, you can try to mitigate the impact by strengthening your ability to concentrate. Strengthening it allows the brain to better manage distractions and thus be more effective in performing tasks. Regular practice of mindfulness meditation, for example, teaches the brain how to deal with environmental disturbances and helps to keep the brain calm inside… for productivity!