Survive An Open Office Plan By Synching Up

Survive An Open Office Plan By Synching Up
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Open offices are a panopticon hellhole. They might make it easier to collaborate, and they might help your boss pack more workers into a smaller space, but they leave you in earshot of every little sound your co-workers make. (You get to see and smell them, too!)

Screenshot: NBC Universal Television Studio

The most obvious coping mechanisms – headphones, phone booths, hiding in conference rooms – rely on closing up that openness. But one strategy, from Fast Company’s podcast Secrets of the Most Productive People, involves actually communicating with your co-workers.

If you can’t run away from all the chit-chat and distraction, try to synch it up, says Fast Company’s Anisa Purbasari Horton. Talk to your team about your daily schedules, and find a consensus on “talk times” and “quiet times”.

If your group can agree on it, you can even build an hourly schedule: 9-9:30 is chat and email time; the rest of the morning is quiet solo work; lunch is social hour; then quiet work until 4:30 when we all get chatty again. You could even have a preferred hour for scheduled phone calls, an afternoon surge of cacophony that makes your office sound like the one in Boiler Room.

This is also a good time to establish some expectations for goofing off online. Not in a strict “thou shalt only check Facebook at lunch” way, but in a “yep, we acknowledge that we can all see each other’s screens, and that we’re not judging each other for doing some clothes shopping in the afternoon”.

And if you’re the one planning a new office layout, consider a more closed space. If you really want your employees to talk to each other all day, get them all on Slack.


  • The pitch to those without any say in the matter is that it’s about open communication. The reality is that it’s about overheads.

    If you’re in one of these hellholes… Good luck.

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