A True Story About How To Overcome Working In An Open Office
It was a stressful change. I went from fabric-covered walls that gave me a sense of privacy to sitting at a table of people from all departments. As one of the few marketing people in the organization I now felt like I was on display. My coworkers took my presence as an opportunity to ask me about the latest promotion or product that was launching. Not to mention that it was a challenge to block out the conversations that occurred amongst the sales team. Either they were socializing with each other or talking to customers on the phone. It was so hard for me to concentrate. It took me about 2 months before I was able to overcome working in this new open office.
This is how I overcame working in an open office:
Leave The Office
If I didn’t have to be in the office, I wasn’t. I found comfort in taking my laptop and going out to our common area outside. Working in an open office, there is often the pressure to socialize. I even found comfort working down the street in a coffee shop. I liked being around people that sought solace there to work. Not talk. Plus, I’d always look forward to my special blend of coffee. I also took walking meetings. I’d go outside and walk around our complex either on a conference call or with others in our office building. It was refreshing.
Take A Hint
After the newness of an open office wore off, it was easier to let others know it was time for me to concentrate. I wore my headphones to show others that I needed quiet. Some of my coworkers were even more direct and made a sign that said, “I’m busy right now” to hang on top of their computer. We all adapted to a culture that took concentration seriously. When we needed to “meet”, we would send a meeting request to talk at a scheduled time.
Our company had mobile partitions that we could move near the area we were working at to create a more private space. Sometimes it would create just enough privacy to define a space where I could work without distraction. If those partitions were already occupied (it quickly caught on and we only had a few), then I’d try and sit next to a wall. We had movable office furniture in Houston so I could try and create a little area to myself especially if I planned to be there for a large chunk of the day. It left me feeling less vulnerable and less under siege by coworker traffic.
Our office consisted mostly of sales people. For that reason, the afternoon was much quitter while they were out with clients. I tried to schedule my focus work to occur after lunch. That way I felt more productive during those quiet hours without having to dodge the social buzz of the office.
Book A Room
When the weather turned colder, instead of walking outside or going to the local coffee shop, I’d book a small meeting room. I’d book one for an hour or two, by myself to work alone without interruptions. It felt like my own private office! Bliss.
I learned (after a few months of pouting) that you don’t have to be aggressive or stage a protest to overcome working in an open office. Pockets of time and space can be carved out to enjoy your work. I eventually fell into a groove and once I got use to the new open office I grew to enjoy it and you can too.
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