How to survive an open-plan office

The fish-bowl effect of an office can be overwhelming. Here’s how to improve your working day. By Sarah Neish

by Psychologies

working in an open plan office

1. Create your own space: Working in an environment where employees are seen at all times can lead to a deep sense of loss for your personal space, says career coach Sue Clarke. Do something small to personalise your area, such as putting up photos, to help you feel like it’s yours.

2. Keep anger under wraps: Noisy eating, sniffing and loud phone conversations topped a recent poll of unbearable office habits. ‘It’s not your colleagues’ noise that frustrates you, but the effect it has on your focus, so don’t get angry with them.’ says Clarke. ‘Practise your concentration techniques instead.’

3. Get rid of clocks: Working with one eye on the clock increases pressure and slows us down. Set an alarm for 48 minutes (the optimum concentration limit). Work on one task until the time’s up. If you struggle to shut out distractions, try earphones. They’ll act as a cue for colleagues not to interrupt you.

4. Leave on time: A study of 1,000 workers by Microsoft revealed that open-plan offices caused longer working hours as people tend to sit tight until someone else moves. ‘It’s a common form of peer pressure,’ says Clarke. ‘If you’ve worked efficiently throughout the day, don’t worry about leaving on time.’