Tips for Working in an Open Office Environment
Heidi Zwart
tips for working in an open office environment

If you are working from a physical office space, it’s likely that you are in an open office environment. This functional set-up offers affordable square footage for organizations big and small. Reviews on this kind of working space, however, are mixed. 

Proponents claim increased collaboration, creativity, and energy with this floor plan. Dissenters talk about challenges like distractibility, lack of privacy, and decreased productivity. No matter which side of the argument you are on, if you work in this kind of space, here are some tips for working in an open office environment. 

Transparent communication

One of the most important bridge-builders to strong working relationships is good communication. Creating etiquette guidelines for working together is a best practice tip for working in an open office environment. If you already have guidelines in place, it might be helpful to re-address these during this new era of work. Writing an “It’s okay to…” list is a good way to ensure that your team is operating from the same expectations in your daily work with one another. Building this list through team collaboration encourages camaraderie and helps avoid conflict in your workplace. 

Practice good etiquette

Being a good neighbor is an important tip for working in an open office environment. Be conscious of how your choices may be impacting your co-worker’s environment. Consider the sensory experience of the room. Notice smells (from food or body fragrances), sounds (from music, talking, eating, finger-tapping, humming, etc), and visual distractions (lighting, reflections, or television). Practice empathy by putting yourself in your teammate’s shoes, and if you’re not sure how someone might feel about your choice, ask them. They’ll tell you!

Respect privacy

Open office environments are not ideal for providing privacy. Every team member needs access to private space to attend to both professional and personal tasks. Many co-working spaces offer companies private phone booths and meeting rooms to accommodate this need. If you are not part of a coworking community, make sure your open office space has at least one room or dedicated corner for your team members to use for private calls. For your executive and human resources team, this is a non-negotiable. Wearing headphones while at your desk is another way to prevent eavesdropping and reduce distraction.

Be neat

Even if clean and tidy isn’t a way you would describe yourself, make an effort to keep your workspace presentable. If your organization hosts frequent guests, this first impression matters and is an important tip for working in an open office environment. Even if your company doesn’t host guests, the general appearance of your work space might negatively impact your coworkers who do care about the appearance of their space. Be conscious of when your “stuff” spills into the workspace of another and pick up after yourself in your shared spaces. 

If you have other tips for working in an open office environment, let us know! We’d love to support your effort to be a productive and happy employee, no matter what kind of working environment you call home. 

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