Last week, I was researching the pros and cons of today’s collaborative (open-space) work environment. I am preparing for a speech that I will give at our 23rd Annual Conference for Administrative Excellence: The Revolutionary Assistant later this year. Not only is this topic of interest because I am going to speak on how to be effective in this new work space, but because I am hearing administrative assistants and business people talk about the challenges they are facing in this new environment. They are wondering how they are supposed to stay focused or watch a webinar when their environment is so open.
I imagine many of you can relate to this and, if your office is not open space yet, just wait. It is completely changing the way people work. It is great and yet is also a problem in many ways. Let me share with you a few of the pros and cons (sourced from fortune.com and cultureiq.com).
PROS of open office space:
- More cost effective and flexible.
- Fosters collaboration.
- Handles rapid changes in personnel number.
- Increases natural lighting.
CONS of open office space:
- For one-third to nearly half of the global population, open-office layouts can create feelings of anxiety.
- Introverts don’t flourish as easily. Constant interaction can be stifling to their creativity.
- Lack of privacy.
- Noise levels can be prohibitive for individuals trying to concentrate on work.
- Unhealthy, needlessly stress-inducing, hostile to productivity.
Solutions to work more effectively in an open work space:
Obviously you need solutions. Here are a few good ideas I found in my research. And I have a few of my own.
- Purposely make some quiet time for yourself throughout the day. All that socializing, brainstorming, talking and noise can be exhausting. Figure out how to make some quiet time for yourself. Can you take a walk around your building? Is there a privacy room you can go to for 15 minutes? Go sit in your car for 15 minutes? This allows you time to regroup with yourself and get grounded.
- Use noise-cancelling headphones.
- Try to create privacy around your work area. Can you fit a tall plant? One source recommended a freestanding bookshelf.
- Maybe you can create some kind of fun, signage to put up that lets people know you are working on a project; or wish to not be disturbed. Maybe place a small white board or plaque on your desk to write a short note with a dry-erase marker.
- Get together with your cubicle buddies and set some ground rules.
- Can you adjust your hours so you can be in the office during quieter times, say starting at 7:00 or 7:30; or maybe stay after 5:00?
I thought this was very interesting from www.inc.com:
“Block out noise, thoughtfully. ”Headphones are the new wall,” but don’t just slap on any old music. Consider carefully what you’re listening to on those headphones. Different activities call for different sorts of auditory environments. Research suggests that listening to music might impact your productivity if you are trying to retain new information.
So what’s the alternative? Other research shows that if you pick the right stimulation to drown out the noise you can actually be more productive. It might sound really strange, but try white noise, nature sounds, or ambient music without lyrics.”
This topic deserves your attention and I hope you will look into it further. Be aware of your work environment and how it affects you. Are you constantly distracted or interrupted? Do you hear lots of chatter? What about coworkers playing music? I realize that brainstorming and collaborating is necessary. It stimulates ideas and helps office workers solve problems. Just know how it impacts you and determine ways to make it work to your advantage.
P.S. We’re doing some fun things in February! Watch out for Flash Sales, an amazing webinar on goal setting and a 14-day challenge to encourage you to enjoy (and even love) your career as an administrative professional.
Learn about our Love Your Admin Career Challenge, click the image below.
Related: How Assistants Can Be Like Zappos