How To: Keep Distractions At Bay In An Open Office Space

How To: Keep Distractions At Bay In An Open Office Space

Beth Zeigler
Nov 25, 2008


We loved seeing the cool desks Gregory posted about yesterday in Look!: Carte Blanche Love Table. The open office space reminded us of a workshop we gave this summer on eliminating distractions in an open office environment. We know how important it is to get in the zone and stay focused when you're at work and found these tips super helpful.

Apparently there are 10 predictors of job performance with the top 2 being the ability to do distraction free work for teams and individuals and the ability to have easy, frequent and informal conversations. As you can see, that can be a tricky catch 22. Working in a cubicle gives you more privacy to get work done but it's rather depressing and cramped. An open office space (which is where the work force is headed) allows easy and frequent conversations, which promotes team building but comes with tons of distractions. Here are some tips to keep your work distraction-free and get you in the zone.

  • Wear headphones. You can download white noise for free on the internet or purchase noise canceling headphones to block out loud conversations. You can also wear the headphones as a deterrent factor. You'll be less likely to get a shoulder tap or a question asked if you look busy wearing headphones.
  • Put a sign up that says you're working. It could say something as simple as "unavailable" just so long as it's noticeable to coworkers. Your company could incorporate an identical sign for everyone where the top says "busy" and when you flip it over it reads, "not busy." That way, colleagues will know ahead of time to keep walking.
    [Image from freshview]

  • Many new open office spaces have private rooms like these pictured above. If you need to have an impromptu meeting with someone, use these soundproof rooms so as not to interrupt your coworkers.
  • Make sure your iChat is set to "away" and use the company wide email calendar to let others know when you're available and when you're not.
  • Remember when you were in high school and had study hall? Get your company to introduce one hour in the morning and one hour in the afternoon when everyone is working in "the zone." During these specified hours, noise should be kept at a bare minimum.
  • Even if you follow these tips and rules, chances are you're still going to be interrupted. If a coworker stops by your desk while you're working, stand up to greet him/her. If they're notorious for being chatty, sit back down when the business part of the conversation is done. Hopefully they'll get the hint that you need to get back to work.

    Do you share an office space at home or at a bigger office? How do you keep distractions at bay?

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