Office Layout Tips: Finding Quiet in an Open Office

5 Ways to Block Out Noise in an Open Office Environment

office layoutWhile cubicles are a thing of the past, an open office layout presents its own unique challenges, like noise and lack of privacy. What are some ways that office workers can mitigate these problems? Today’s blog will take a look at some easy solutions that can give workers the peace and quiet they need.

A Brief History of the Cubicle

Nowadays, the cubicle is slowly becoming a relic, alongside the typewriter, cassette player and PalmPilot. What led to its downfall? According to Interiors & Sources writer Anne Marie Martin, cubicles were a stronghold until the ‘80s, but by the ‘90s Silicon Valley companies encountered a major problem: Because cubicle walls obstructed their sight, employees had trouble finding each other, which reduced their productivity.

On top of that, cubicle walls were required by the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating system to be 42 inches or lower, so that workers could have more exposure to natural light. Due to these factors, the open office has risen as a major trend in office design.

Achieving Privacy in the Open Office

However, while open offices have been praised for encouraging collaboration and creating a more egalitarian office, noise and privacy are still major concerns. While the cubicle may not regain its popularity any time soon, there are several simple ways workers can achieve the peace and quiet they need when they have a major deadline looming. Here are five, courtesy of an article by Unclutterer editor-in-chief Erin Doland and the comments responding to her post.

1. Use Headphones

A quick and easy way to block out noisy distractions is to bring out the headphones when things get too noisy around you. Noise-cancellation headphones are always a solid, if expensive option, but earbuds and music to block out other sounds will work just as well. If neither are allowed in your office, see whether you can use earplugs instead.

2. Find a Quiet Space

Some offices have both private areas as well as open-office plans. If yours doesn’t, see if there’s an available conference room where you can escape and work for an hour or two. Be sure to check with the office admin to see if anyone else will be using the space. With this in mind, you can either plan for the interruption or find a different room.

3. Come In Early

Though you may not be able to change your environment, you do have control over your time. Doland suggests starting your work day an hour or two earlier than everyone else. With no one else around to distract you, you can easily plow through your workload, and save the less intensive tasks for later in the day.

4. Don’t Encourage Visitors

Having certain things on your desk may invite coworkers to linger and chat, such as bowls of candy, desk decorations and office supplies. While there’s no harm in having these things on your desk, it would be a good idea to hide them while you’re under time pressure. Responding to Dolan’s blog, commenter brenda has another good idea to add: If you have a guest chair near your desk, placing items in the seat will discourage people from sitting down and making themselves at home.

5. Discourage Communication

If you can’t use earphones or earplugs, and you don’t have anywhere else to work, you can still do several things to discourage your coworkers from disturbing you. Set up a tray for incoming documents so that they don’t have to be handed to you. If your office uses an instant messenger to communicate online, set your status to Away. The commenter mentioned in #4 has another great idea here: Simply make a sign that says you’re concentrating on work and will get back to them later.

Because cubicles are becoming a thing of the past, it’s crucial that facilities managers help workers adjust to the open-office environment. Thankfully, such adjustments can be easily made, with some discussion over etiquette expectations and alternative work spaces.

What are some ways you achieve privacy in an open office?


photo credit: tomas carrillo via photopin cc

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