The cubicle wall has been torn down, and open offices have become all the rage these days. An open floor plan allows for an increase in productivity and sociability by enhancing the way employees work with one another, creating opportunity for better interaction and collaboration. These are all fantastic but can sometimes present challenges, one of those being noise management. Cubicles presented a barrier that separated us from the on-going chatter and brainstorming commotion in the office, allowing for a small semblance of privacy and dare we say ‘restful’ atmosphere. For us the open format, inclusive environment works hand in hand with our brand personality and how we function in the workplace. But sometimes communication around the office can get chaotic with so many cooks in one kitchen.

So how can we stay focused, keep our creativity flowing, and keep the work day as pleasant and productive as we can? Here are a few ideas:

1. Drop the bass. No really…can you turn that noise down?

Invest in noise-canceling headphones. They are probably the most effective weapon to combat noise in an open office environment, and if you decide to spend a little extra on a good pair, they can cancel out approximately 90% of background noise. Of course, if you don’t want to spend the cash and you have a pair of generic headphones, those will work just fine for listening to background music. We keep a few pairs around the Outspoke office for anyone who might need total separation from the surrounding office noise.

We also like to utilize our Amazon Echo to keep the tunes rolling at a respectable but enjoyable volume. The voice control features are perfect for changing up the playlist without having to stop what you’re doing or pick up the device you’re playing from. (It’s also really fun to yell things at Alexa from across the office.)

2. Do Not Disturb

Another productivity killer are the endless interruptions from people asking if you’ve “got a minute.” These meetings rarely only take a minute, and even brief interruptions can have a large impact on your ability to do work and keep your focus. Take the time to communicate with your co-workers. Let them know that you are busy with a project and unless it is an emergency, to respect your creative space and flow. Designing a “Do Not Disturb” sign and putting it on your desk is also an option. If your company is using a group-messaging app such as Slack, send a message to your team to notify them, and change your availability status. We use Slack like it’s going out of style, it’s a fantastic way to facilitate one off or ongoing conversations without disturbing the rest of the office with conversation.

3. Give your mind a break

Controlling your external environment is important, but taking care of yourself should also be high priority. By taking breaks throughout the day, you can actually re-wire yourself internally and increase your ability to focus, and reduce visual stress. Stand up, stretch, walk around, go to the kitchen and get a big glass of water to hydrate yourself with. When things get tense around the office, we like to step over to Purple Door Coffee for a refuel or just take a stroll down Welton Street to decompress.

For a few more tried and true methods for building productive work habits and reducing stress, read our blog on preserving your IQ and mental capacity.