One of the most noticeable differences between modern and traditional office culture is in infrastructure. As little as a decade ago, the notion of having an “open office” space was a foreign concept. Your cubicle was your home away from home, solace from your coworkers and your boss, a place where no one would bother you and work could be done in peace.

Nowadays, however, many companies are following in the steps of Google and Facebook and opting for workspaces without doors. This trend has not gone unopposed. Lindsey Kaufman of the Washington Post remarks “While employees feel like they’re part of a laid-back, innovative enterprise, the environment ultimately damages workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.”

If your job has recently transitioned to an open office space, here are some tips to keep productivity and morale high during your workday.


  1. Respect Personal Space

No cubicles or doors means no walls to dictate where you end and your coworkers begin. Therefore, make it a point to designate the area in front of your computer or laptop as “yours” and make sure everyone in the office knows. Think of them as strangers on a train — not really, but don’t be a jerk about it.

  1. Block it Out

Many people working together in one room can be a detriment to concentration and productivity for obvious reasons. Headphones are a great way to let people know that you need to get things done, and noise-canceling ones block out the noise when your co-workers aren’t keeping it quiet. Headphones are also great for listening to music to get you in the zone.

  1. Communicate

Effective communication is paramount in any relationship. The same goes for your work colleagues. People can’t read minds. If something about a coworker annoys you, talk to them about it. The worst thing you can do is bottle your emotions until you unwillingly become the subject of a “crazy employee” YouTube video. Also, no one likes a tattletale. Your boss will not fix every problem for you.

  1. Practice Good Hygiene

In an open office setting, chances are you’ll be a lot closer to your coworkers in terms of proximity. Remember to keep your office space clean, lighten up on the cologne and make sure to wear deodorant. Sure, these all seem like givens now, but imagine what you look (and smell) like after six hours of work. Also, your office is not a kitchen; leave the pungent stuff at home.

  1. Set Universal Rules

This particular task might be for your boss, but setting some ground rules for the entire office can be really helpful in the long run. Whether it’s “no music after 3 p.m.” or taking personal calls outside, having a list of rules helps everything run smoothly.

  1. Lock Up

Open spaces mean your stuff is fair game, and even though you trust your colleagues, visitors and maintenance staff are also around the office. Designate a cabinet with a key lock to store important items like your wallet, bag or keys.

  1. Use Conference Rooms for Meetings and Extended Phone Calls

If you really need to get way, see if your company has conference rooms available for use during meetings and intellectually demanding projects. Use them when you need a break from everything else.

  1. Find Your Rhythm

The switch to an open office will, most likely, be a permanent one, which means you’ll have to find ways to get your work done. Try working during your lunch hour or a quiet room off campus, just to figure out where and how you work best.

  1. Take Notes

Are you having a tough time adapting to your new office culture? Look at the people who seem unaffected and emulate them. Open communities offer a certain level of transparency when it comes to larger administrative issues. Take notice of any problems and see if you can contribute in any way.

  1. Work From Home

The transition to open space isn’t an easy one. Some people need to be alone to focus. Ask your boss if you can work a few days from home in order to increase your work out put. If telecommuting isn’t possible, you might want to consider staying late or coming in early. Do you think you have what it takes to work at home? Check out this checklist from our friends at US News.

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Sarah Landrum is the founder of Punched Clocks.

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