10 tips to work better in open space

Open-space and wellness can be compatible! Follow these 10 tips to be more efficient and effective when working in a shared space.

by Caroline Le Guludec
10 tips to work better in open space

Working in open-space, a challenge and a way of life.

With the reduction of workspace, the incessant escalation of prices per square metre and the advent of teleworking, ways of working have changed. In recent years, workspaces have evolved, notably with the rise of shared offices, also known as open-spaces. Many companies, both large and small, have opted for this work environment in which everyone works in the same room and side by side throughout the day. 

The space available does not always allow everyone to have an individual office and often only the most senior staff have their own office. The open space allows for a better exchange of ideas, team spirit and a sense of belonging, and speeds up many processes thanks to the proximity. However, it is not always easy to work well in an open-plan office because of the constant background noise, agitation and lack of privacy. Everyone works in a different way, and it is important to take these differences into account to ensure that the open space environment works well together. 

Open-space is now part of our lives, and it's likely to be around for a long time to come, so let's make this experience as good as possible. Here are our 10 tips for making open-space a great place to work. 

Our 10 tips to work better in open-space

Respect each other

Respecting your colleagues is a priority in the world of work in general, and this is even more true when working in open-space. Even if for many people the notion of respect seems obvious, in reality it is very easy to lack it.

Whatever the attitude of your colleagues and even if some of their little habits bother you, our first piece of advice is to always conduct yourself in the most respectful way possible.

The well-being of your neighbours should be your priority. And it is by creating this climate that others will treat you with the same respect. In other words: don't do to others what you wouldn't want them to do to you. Your colleagues will appreciate it! 

For example, if you are hungry, eat discreetly so as not to distract and annoy your neighbours. So avoid eating crisps, the noise of which will drive some of your neighbours crazy, or eating food that smells too unpleasant (such as garlic, onions or durian for the braver ones). In general, food smells in the office can quickly become unpleasant, so it's best to eat outside when possible!

Be discreet! Put your phone on silent to prevent the ringing from disturbing others. If possible, make your calls in a quiet, soundproof area. Ideally, your open space should be equipped with acoustic furniture for this purpose. To learn more about this, you can consult our page on phone boxes. And if you have no choice but to make a phone call in the open space, get a headset with a microphone and try not to speak too loudly. Above all, don't put the speakerphone on: your colleagues probably don't want to know the content of every call you make. If you need to communicate with one of your open-space colleagues who is located at the other end of the set, send them a message or go see them rather than using your voice and disturbing everyone else.

In addition, another pillar of successful open space work is communication, which is also a mark of respect. Whether you agree or disagree, it is essential to share your thoughts with your colleagues. Good things deserve to be said because they can lead to more motivation, a stronger sense of belonging and team bonding. And if there is a disagreement or a difficult topic to discuss, it is extremely beneficial to inform your colleagues of the issues, if done respectfully and gently. 

In addition, each other's tics can be very annoying in the long run. In the same way, it is possible that some of your behaviours irritate your neighbours. If this is the case, it is necessary to get to the bottom of it and politely tell the person concerned what is bothering you. Even if it may seem difficult, it is essential to avoid having to inform the person when you are at the end of your rope and to use words that go beyond your thoughts in anger. Nevertheless, if the discomfort is only temporary and if it is due to fatigue for example, it is better to take it easy and find alternative measures. Similarly, it is advisable to ask your colleagues if your own behaviour is not disturbing them. 

Contribute to creating a friendly atmosphere

We all agree that the atmosphere at work is essential for professional fulfilment. Arriving in the morning and being happy to find your colleagues, your premises and feeling good thanks to a relaxed and caring atmosphere is a must for employees to work at their best.

The advantage of the open space is that it allows its occupants to interact easily and share good times.

Be polite, smiling and friendly, make conversation from time to time, bring cakes sometimes, try to understand how your colleagues work. Everyone has their own little habits, and being aware of those of others is an asset because it allows you not only to get to know them better but also to act accordingly to create a pleasant climate in the open-space. It's all about being sensitive to others and paying attention to them.

Look out for days when your colleagues are not at their best, are stressed or just in a bad mood, and adapt. Your colleagues will appreciate the attention you pay to them and will return the favour. However, be careful to set limits: even if it is not forbidden and is even recommended to talk, it must be done discreetly and with moderation.

If your neighbour is a little too talkative and tells you about his or her vacation for hours while you work, it is necessary to gently tell them that you prefer to continue this conversation later.

Define the rules from the outset

Open-space, because of its openness, can in fact be a good tool for learning on the ground by observing the people around you. We therefore recommend taking advantage of this configuration to discover how your colleagues work and benefit from a community spirit. However, for open-space cohabitation to go well, it is necessary for everyone to respect rules common to all occupants. Since everyone has a different character and education, the rules of corporate manners vary.

It is therefore essential to establish rules applicable to everyone from the outset, in particular through the creation of rules of procedure to formalise the whole thing. 

Many rules appear in tacit ways, such as allowing eating in the office, recommending not to make calls in open-space etc. 

But it is important to simply define the rules from the outset with the whole team. Once defined, the rules will have to be applied and respected by everyone. If you are working in an open-space environment, you will need to be aware of potential unspoken rules and make sure that you follow the rules defined by the company.

Take breaks!

To work well and perform well throughout the day, it is necessary to take regular breaks. In addition to recharging batteries, breaks are a great way to bond with your open-space colleagues. 

Sharing moments of relaxation with others helps to unite teams, to facilitate communication and to discover a little more the personality of the people who share the open-space. Moreover, in an open-space, the faces you see all day long are often the same. Taking a coffee or lunch break therefore also allows you to discover new people, those sitting at the other end of the open-space for example. It will also allow you to breathe a little if the tics of your office neighbours annoy you too much and to put things into perspective. 

It is also through these breaks that the general atmosphere in the open space is shaped! So don't hesitate any longer and suggest to the people around you to take a break and go and sip a coffee on the terrace.

Arrange your workspace

To be fulfilled at work, it is important that employees feel comfortable in their work space. And in order to feel comfortable somewhere, it is first and foremost necessary to make the place one's own. Open spaces, because of their "chain" layout, can quickly appear impersonal and cold if left as such. 

We therefore strongly recommend that you design your workspace to your taste. Brighten up your office with plants, photos, and colors that you like. You can even bring in items from home that will be useful in the office, such as a coffee mug, notebook, pen, etc. that will make you feel at home.

You can even partner with your colleagues to set up the open-space if it is too impersonal. You'll share good times with colleagues to think about decorating and the open-space will appeal to everyone. 

Isolate yourself when necessary

As we have already mentioned, open-space allows for easy communication and proximity to others allows some processes to go faster. However, some tasks require concentration and working in open-space can quickly become a nightmare. 

In case you need to concentrate, isolate yourself! 

Nowadays, this is all the easier as many employees use laptops or tablets on a daily basis and are therefore highly mobile.  

Set up in a quiet area, ideally designed for this purpose. More and more companies are offering dedicated spaces for this purpose to meet employees' need for peace and quiet. This is the case of rest rooms made for napping, meeting rooms, brainstorming rooms, phone boxes etc. In these places, you will be much more comfortable to perform your tasks and concentrate. If your company does not offer such places, you can also isolate yourself in the office of an absent colleague who has a personal office or in an unused meeting room. But be careful not to make isolation a habit: your colleagues might end up thinking you are running away from them! 

Propose acoustic insulation solutions

If your company does not offer any acoustically insulated space where you can enjoy peace and quiet, make or receive a call, you can offer solutions that are easy to set up and not necessarily expensive.

There are many different solutions, in different sizes, insulation and design. The most effective solutions are acoustic booths, which are totally soundproof and allow total confidentiality. Acoustic partitions, although less interesting in terms of sound insulation, remain viable solutions in the short term. Although some solutions sometimes represent a cost for the company, they are easy to install and are an excellent investment.

Modulate your schedules

If you realize that open-space noise really disturbs you and prevents you from concentrating, ask to adjust your schedule. A solution for you would be to arrive earlier in the morning to leave earlier in the evening or conversely to arrive later to leave later in the evening.

This will allow you to enjoy a longer period of tranquility by being present when the open-space is quiet and empty. Teleworking is also an excellent solution if your teleworking space is quiet.

The open-space is dead, long live the open-space

Open-space can be a challenge for many employees, especially because of the noise and bustle that can be found there. However, there are many measures that can be applied to make life in open-space enjoyable. 

At the time of the COVID-19 crisis and the mandatory wearing of masks, life in open-space is being turned upside down and employees are being asked to change their office habits. With the advent of teleworking, videoconferencing and telephone calls are used more than ever to link members of a company, which can result in a lot of ambient noise and inconvenience for some people. It is therefore even more recommended to apply these 10 tips to work better in open-space. 

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