Is it possible to actually focus in a noisy open plan office? We show you how.

Struggling to focus?

Collaboration is the buzz word in the modern workplace, yet many of us still have the need to focus and perform quiet individual work on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s difficult to find the privacy we need to do this. A UC Irvine study showed that it takes up to 23 minutes to recover from a distraction – that’s quite a bit of downtime when you have a deadline to meet. With the return of the office in 2022, workplaces will only get noisier and distractions more numerous so having coping strategies to hand will help.

Open to distraction?

In open plan workplaces high screens and walls have disappeared, and while this may make collaboration easier, it can make it very hard to focus. Workmates stop by to chat or to bounce ideas off you; people nearby have loud phone conversations. The most well executed open plan spaces can sometimes be full of distractions – even if acoustics have been well considered. A beautiful view outside your window or the sight of others collaborating can cause your mind to wander depending on your mood. How is it possible to create the circumstances that allow you to operate in a focused state for as long as you need to?

Focus on the solutions

Tips and tutorials abound online, and you only need to gaze around the office to see that everyone has a different way of coping. We’ve researched some of the most common solutions and added in a few that we find work well from personal experience too.

1 - Find an alternative workspace

  • Sometimes you need to make yourself unreachable or invisible - try moving locations to isolate yourself temporarily while you get your task done.
  • Ensure you choose the optimal environment – no distractions – noise or visual – find a break out seating area with some visual and acoustic privacy.

2 - Manage noise levels

  • Noise masking: Use acoustic treatments to absorb noise – such as rugs, lighting with acoustic properties and soft furnishings to combat hard noise-reflecting surfaces.
  • Try techniques such as noise cancellation: use ear buds or white noise to cancel out sound.

3 - Don’t be distracted by discomfort

According to science, an ergonomic workstation can boost your productivity by allowing you to focus comfortably for longer periods of time.

4 - Reorganise the way you work

  • Choose the time of day when the office is quietest to perform focused work.
  • Work from home in the morning to miss traffic and get some focused work done.

5 - Take breaks and relax

  • Go for a walk to a quieter location – maybe get some fresh air or grab a coffee - gain a better state of mind and then come back and try to tune out the noise and regain your concentration.

6 - And a bonus 6th: Choose the right music

According to a study, music helps you focus better on your thoughts – if it’s the kind of music you like and enjoy. The right music can help you to work much better, even under highly stressful situations such as an approaching deadline.

Taking regular breaks can help you stay focused.

Focus + Collaboration

In spite of all the “noise” on the difficulty of concentrating in today’s busy open plan offices, it is still possible to improve your productivity and keep your sanity whilst performing focused work.

Following tips like these can help you succeed without forgoing the improved creativity and knowledge exchange you can also achieve from collaboration.

Contact us to learn more about focused and collaborative work solutions

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