Working in an open office has its downsides. These tools and tips can help you stay productive.
- Technology can help you be more productive in a distracting atmosphere.
- Headphones are essential when working in an open environment.
- Don't neglect company culture and interaction when working in a remote office.
Open offices – with their modular seating and minimalistic aesthetics – have become the go-to workplace layout over the last couple of years. This type of office setup was supposed to be a less expensive alternative that fostered a collaborative, open atmosphere compared to the more traditional office spaces. While it is certainly less expensive than installing cubicles, this environment can be extremely difficult to work in. Here are five tech tools to help you focus and be more productive in an open office workspace.
1. Noise-canceling headphones
These are a must-have for anyone who works in an open office. Even if you don't like to listen to music while you work, the noise-canceling setting allows you to literally tune out the noise happening around you. While some models are a little pricey – the Bose QuietComfort 35 II headphones go for $349 – there are affordable options. If you want to splurge on a high-end pair of headphones, see if your employer will spring for them as a work-related expense.
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2. Smart monitor stand
Working in an open office can also mean fighting for desk space. The Satechi F1 Smart Monitor Stand can combat that. This monitor stand not only allows you to keep your desk tidier, but also has four USB ports with data transfer speeds up to 5Gbps, separate microphone and headphone jacks, two sets of legs to adjust the height of the stand, and a weight capacity of up to 22 pounds.
3. Smart writing set
Crowded conference rooms can make it difficult to bring your laptop to meetings. The Moleskine Smart Writing Set allows you to handwrite your notes and then go back to digitally edit and annotate them via the Moleskine Notes app. The set includes the Pen+, equipped with a mini camera at the tip to digitize your notes, and the Paper Tablet notebook, which has the classic leather-bound notebook design Moleskine is known for but is also embedded with nCode technology to allow the Pen+ to record and transfer everything you write and draw to the Moleskine Notes app. The app is available on iOS and Android devices, and it can sync to your Google Drive or Evernote accounts.
4. Multi-device keyboard
If you must toggle between working on your phone, tablet, and laptop or desktop, it can be annoying to stop typing on your keyboard to answer a text on your phone or fire off an email on your tablet. A multi-device keyboard can help with that. Logitech's $64.95 multi-device keyboard is a normal-sized keyboard that can connect to your various devices at the same time. It has a built-in cradle to hold your phone and tablet at the perfect angle for reading and typing, and a dial function to let you choose where the keyboard is typing. It's compatible with Windows and Mac computers and iOS, Chrome, and Android tablets and smartphones.
5. Portable laptop monitor
Again, desk real estate can be difficult to come by in open office settings, meaning there's usually only room for one desktop or laptop per employee. If you're used to working with more than one monitor, switching back to one screen can be difficult. Portable laptop monitors, like this one from Packed Pixels, can help increase your productivity without taking up a lot of desk space. The monitors are available in multiple sizes and resolutions and are compatible with most laptop brands and operating systems.
Additional tips for working in an open office
Open offices can offer some great benefits, but they also have unique challenges. Here are some other ways to not only help your own work along, but to make the environment as comfortable and productive for your team as possible.
1. Understand open office etiquette.
It seems simple, but knowing common etiquette for working in an open office is essential. Does the office space itself have rules you must adhere to? Knowing the rules and being mindful of your co-workers is the first step to smooth and productive open office work.
Because you're working in a shared space, you not only need to keep up your own productivity, but also do your part to make it a productive space for others. Be considerate of your officemates' privacy by keeping your eyes on your own computer screen. Sitting in close proximity to others, especially colleagues and managers, can make people self-conscious about their web activity or feel like they're being monitored, so avoid even the appearance of looking over others' shoulders.
It can also distract your employees or co-workers if you make a lot of noise or let clutter build up on your desk. Out of respect for others, move your long conversations online or to a private office, use headphones for all audio, and make sure your workspace isn't an eyesore or spilling over into your neighbor's space.
2. Embrace company culture.
Open office spaces can really highlight a company's culture. According to Monster, a strong company culture allows you to attract and retain better employees. Millennials particularly value company culture when choosing an employer.
Since employees are collaborating and sharing spaces more closely in an open office, hiring for cultural fit is even more important. The big draw of open offices is the atmosphere of social and professional interaction – ideally strengthening co-worker bonds, improving communication, and inspiring innovation. This only works with a strong, cohesive team of people who believe in the company mission and pull together to achieve it. Make sure everyone you bring on board meshes with the kind of team you want to have, because everyone will have to share space and interact. [Read related article: How to Hire an Employee for Cultural Fit]
3. Create space for yourself.
An open office can be hectic and distracting at times, so it's important to create your own personal space and find privacy. Going for walks throughout the day or buying some plants to section off your space can provide a little separation. Even if you don't have your own private office, you can personalize your desk to make it feel like your own space.
You can also find polite ways to show employees and colleagues you need space, like wearing headphones to signify that you're in concentration mode or, if you use an online platform like Slack or Skype, setting your status to "do not disturb." Some open offices also have common areas, like sections with couches and comfortable chairs, that you can use when you need a change of scenery or a less crowded workstation.
4. Be mindful of germs.
An open office might be great for collaboration, but sharing the same space and air with your colleagues increases the risk of spreading germs. If you're sick, stay home (which is a good idea even in more traditional offices). If you must be in the office, wash your hands frequently and use sanitizer to wipe down surfaces. Basic etiquette, like covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, become even more important than usual in close quarters. [Read related article: Employees Coming to Work Sick Costs Businesses]