As anyone who’s worked in an open office space will tell you, having the freedom to chat and collaborate with co-workers all day long without ever having to leave your desk can be great.

It can also be really friggin’ hard to get work done—especially the kind of work that requires your focused, interrupted attention.

But heading to the other extreme and installing a maze of cubicle walls isn’t the only solution. In a recent Fast Company article, author Laura Vanderkam offers four simple changes that can make a huge difference in your ability to function—and focus—in this type of environment.

If the open office chaos is getting to you, try or recommend the following in your workplace:


1. Designate Quiet Spaces

If possible, create a few “library-like environments,” away from the general workspace where people can go if they need silence—think a conference room, a specific corner of the office. “Particularly if your organization doesn’t embrace remote work—perhaps the best way to let people focus when they need to—then giving people options to hide for an hour is key,” says Vanderkam.


2. Have Study Hall For Grown-ups

In other words, set aside a couple hour-long periods of the workday where everyone agrees to not schedule meetings or collaborate with others—and instead hunkers down for quiet, individual work.


3. Try a Busy Signal

If you need quiet time outside of the officially designated time, try coming up with an office-wide signal that says “please do not bug me,” Vanderkam suggests. (Think headphones in or a flag on top of your computer.)


4. Ask Others to Batch Communication

Constantly interrupted by a certain manager, employee, or co-worker? Ask this person to keep a running list of questions, needs, or requests, then set aside 1-2 chunks of time during the day to address them. (As a bonus, this should drastically reduce your email volume, too.)



What tips do you have for staying focused in an open office? Share them in the comments section!


Photo of open office courtesy of pcruciatti / Shutterstock.