Open offices are all the rage now. Collaboration. Transparency. Camaraderie. Nudging elbows and sharing ideas. Great stuff.

The open office concept is widely regarded as the go-to office layout, often synonymous with forward-thinking, young, vibrant, energetic companies. No one wants to work in stuffy carpeted beige coloured plastic pillared cubicle farms anymore. No, no, those are the workspaces of the late 80s and 90s… we are getting closer to the year 2030 my friend!    

Bean bags. High stools. Bar tops. Green artificial grass carpets. Lounge chairs, and up-cycled meeting tables made out of wooden apple crates and pallets. Organically designed tables that house four to six people; all sharing pens, papers, laughs and streamed music.

That’s more like it.

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But is it all that wonderful actually?

Open office spaces, though more visually stimulating and promotes a better sense of breathable air; actually hampers your productivity far more than you sticking yourself in a 4 x 4 box. All that ‘collaboration’ and ‘camaraderie’ can detract you from the task at hand if gone unchecked.

Your focus tends to squirm around looking for its next target as a bunch of your colleagues mingle in a corner; or the pantry just sizzled with the smell of microwaved lasagne; or the best kind of gossip (hot ones for sure) is heard just over your shoulder. Your attention is mired and the next thing you do is jump right in and join the fun. Work can wait you say.

Productivity has now reached rock bottom.

Well, well then. You tell yourself no! You can’t be distracted. But then again, how can you NOT be distracted?

So how do you stay productive in an open office? I too have problems keeping my focus at bay, so here are 5 tips I can offer that you could use in your war against yourself to keep productivity on track:


1. Be Honest With Your Ground Rules

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An environment that is fun, casual and relaxed has its merits, but people can go overboard sometimes. Make it a point to be clear of your working style, and ask what others expect out of the space as well. This helps create a set of ground rules should be observed by everyone in the radius. Music should only be set to a certain audible level (this is an office, not a rock concert), and that no one needs to shout on top of their lungs. These ground rules are set by everyone so that productivity shouldn’t have to ball up on the floor and suffer a slow death.

Without a set of ground rules in place, an office can easily devolve into a messy unfocused workspace where no one can actually get any work done. Rules like this help create a sense of respect among  your fellow table neighbours and makes sure that each member of the space is wary that what they do can affect others (sometimes much more easily than expected).


2. Plug Your Ears

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No matter what you do, if you don’t plug those ears of yours, you will NEVER be able to concentrate. Audio stimuli is way more powerful than visual when it comes to keeping a sharp focus. You could drape a black cloth over your head and computer screen or wear horse blinders, but the mix of laughs, cackle and music will never let go its grasp on you.

Go on, do yourself a favour and buy yourself some in-ear earphones with a good fit. If you have a little more cash, splurge it on a good set of cans (slang for headphones) that cover your entire ears. There are 2 reasons why you should get headphones:

1 – They help muffle all the external sounds so you can listen to your own productive music like binaural sounds, billboard pop or whatever it may be.

2 – They tell other people to go away because your status is now ‘do not disturb’


3. Block Your Clock

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Your time is precious and you technically have only 8 hours of clock time before the working day ends. So with this you have to plan out your time efficiently to the tasks you need to do in order to stay productive. If you don’t plan your time and block certain portions of the day, people will come and seek your attention. After all that’s what ‘collaboration’ is all about right?

You will need to intentionally block time where only you can utilise fully. This means placing pins on your mental and physical calendar for tasks that must be done within an allotted time frame. This helps you be reminded of the tasks and also be less distracted by other things on your to-do list that are of less importance. And yes, it also keeps other people from stealing those minutes away from you.


4. Have A ‘Zen Corner’

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Look around your office space. Look long and hard. There has to be some small corner where you can acquire just to be alone and undisturbed. Once you identify your small little ‘zen corner’, use it to retreat away from your team or colleagues when you need the sweet sound of silence. Well silence doesn’t have to absolutely no sound at all, just a place where the chatter and buzz of the area does not throw a wrench into your attention span.

It could be a seat by the window; or maybe a corner in the conference room when it’s unused; or it could even be the stairwell outside of your office. Wherever it may be, if it works then that is your best retreat.


5. Prep Your Mind For The Next Day

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The one powerful favour you can do for yourself is to prep your mind for the next day the night before. This allows you to go through your gargantuan list of to-do’s and pick out what is most important for the day to come. By doing this, you are effectively preparing yourself to complete each task systematically within the hours of the next working day.

Hand-in-hand with tip number 2, this will help you prioritise and stay on track for you already know the next day that this proposal needs to be done, and this meeting has to happen, and that call has to be made; all without deviating away to other tasks that could be tackled another day, and also all the extra fun fun stuff that usually happens around the office. There is always time for that but you know better right?



Open office space survival chapter 45: Staying productive. DONE. Now on to the next task. Oh wait. There are muffins in the pantry. And there are only 3 left.

Got any more tips to share with this Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) sufferer?



Posted by Joshua Boey

I write (type) stuff that may or may not make sense unless you speak otter. I also like my sugar with coffee and cream.