Adapting to Open Office Environments

Open office environments are supposed to foster collaboration, spark creativity, and cultivate a culture of transparency. But with the lack of walls comes a host of challenges , leaving many employees having difficulty with this transition to “the new normal”.


Increase productivity and help employees adapt to open office environments.

The problem with open office plans

In today’s workforce, the majority of employees find themselves in open office space . While the intent is to create a more vibrant work environment, it can be a nightmare for working on tasks that need our focused and undivided attention. Noise, lack of privacy, and loss of productivity are the most common employee complaints. But the biggest challenge employees face is difficulty adapting to the environment.

Finding the right solutions

There is no denying the short-term cost-effectiveness of open office spaces — especially in urban markets. But it should not be at the expense of your employees' health and productivity. To keep your employees engaged, it is crucial to find ways to help them adapt to this type of environment, since there is no going back to the closed offices of yesterday. Solutions will vary depending on your organization, location, and budget. Talk to your employees to determine what is working and what needs improvement in your current space. Then, consider the following tips and suggestions to fix it.


Assist Staff With Adapting To An Open Office Environment

  1. Invest in high-quality or noise cancelling headphones - Encourage the use of headphones for tasks that need intense concentration. Listening to ambient sounds or white noise (this can be found on YouTube and most streaming apps) will help further enhance focus.

  2. Adjust work schedules - Schedule the hardest or most challenging tasks during times when coworkers are out of the office (such as lunchtime). Or, if possible, come in earlier to get tasks out of the way first thing.

  3. Get an office plant - Studies have proven that indoor plants help lower stress and make us feel happier. Adding plants in the workplace will help boost productivity and increase employee satisfaction.

  4. Create privacy wherever possible - Incorporate more private spaces for employees to use. This could include adding more meeting rooms or designating areas for private conversations. Make sure they are a mix of reservation only and first come, first served.

  5. Take a break - Encourage employees to go for a quick walk outside or around the building for 5–10 minutes when they feel stressed or overwhelmed. This will help them refresh mentally and return to work with enhanced concentration.

  6. Consider the office layout - Determine which employees work together regularly and try to seat them closer together. This will make it easier for teams to communicate without getting up and/or distracting those around them.

  7. Provide tips for improving focus - Help employees improve their focus by providing tips to tune out distractions. This could include turning off email notifications, prioritizing tasks on a to-do list, or having a sign/signal on their desk to indicate “do not disturb”.

  8. Set office rules - Meet with your team to set a few ground rules to help combat common office complaints (e.g. no loud music, designate quiet times, etc). Regroup in a few weeks to evaluate and adjust the rules if necessary.

Reference Material

How to cope with an open office

How To Focus And Stay Productive In A Noisy Open Office

63% of employees say open concept workplaces actually decrease productivity

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