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How can you focus in an open office?

How can you focus in an open office?
[Illustration: Rami Niemi]

An open office is supposed to have many benefits: fostering collaboration, creativity, and reducing unnecessary digital communication. But as many Fast Company readers pointed out, the layout brings a set of problems. “Nonstop distractions. I can hardly ever work uninterrupted for more than a few minutes at a time. It takes me twice as long to do my work than if I were able to work in solace,” one reader wrote.

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Others cited lack of privacy, having to endure the smells of a coworker’s lunch, and resorting to wearing headphones to “signal” their lack of availability–defeating the purpose of an open office in the first place.

But despite research that affirms these downsides, it seems like open office plans are here to stay. So how can you find time to  focus and still have productive, spontaneous discussions? How should managers approach working with their direct reports in an open-office environment? How can employers design their workspaces in a way where employees don’t have to make a trade-off between focus and teamwork?

In this week’s episode of Secrets of the Most Productive People, I talk to my cohost and colleague Kate Davis about our own struggles with working in an open office, and the work-arounds that work for us.

We’ll be back on July 11th with our next episode. Subscribe, like, and rate Secrets of the Most Productive People wherever you get your podcasts.

Apple Podcasts (iTunes)

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