Every job I’ve had since college has either already had or been in the process of transitioning to an open work space/floor plan. Apparently it’s the new hip way of doing things and millennials looooove it (according to older people who insist on calling anyone and everyone a ‘millennial’).
Companies are tearing down traditional cubicles in favor of individual desks or grouped tables where everyone gathers and works communally. Some places aren’t even into the whole “assigned seats” thing anymore, having people just come in and start working wherever they want that day.
Some places keep a small number of cubicles or offices for phone calls or heads down work but some definitely don’t and as fun as it is to listen to your coworkers make appointments to check out that weird rash or hearing them chomping on lunch every day, it can get to be a lot really quickly.
It’s important to make sure you aren’t the source of the problem at work first off.
- Definitely keep mints or something at your desk (offer them to coworkers with bad breath for a win-win situation) and make sure to keep the smelly foods and strong perfume and lotion to a minimum.
- Always wear headphones when you’re listening to music (also good for sending out an aggressive “Do Not Disturb” signal to that Chatty Cathy) and definitely go to an empty room or leave the building if you have to make a personal phone call. Who wants coworkers all up their private business? No one.
- Eat your lunch in your cafeteria or break room or outside if you work in the kind of place where it’ll be disturbing to eat in front of everyone.
- Make sure you aren’t commandeering your table neighbors’ space and be mindful not to distract anyone from anything important.
With that said, sometimes you’re an angel and the rest of your floor is well…not.
If you have an open floor plan, chances are you also have a pretty open relationship with coworkers and can gently tell them if they’re disturbing you. If it’s something someone clearly has no control over then you’re out of luck. No one can tell Carol her laugh is too loud and she needs to never laugh again. People expect mutual respect in these situations so if you kindly mention an issue to a coworker they should kindly adjust their behavior to make things easier.
I’ve found that just listening to music (with headphones) is first of all, a great idea for creativity, but also helps keep me in the working zone. If you’re dealing with someone super stubborn and they won’t listen and you can’t move your desk, it’s time to kick things up a notch and go to your supervisor. If you seriously can’t do your work, something’s gotta give. Who would have thought we’d essentially be going back to Kindergarten, sitting at tables with everyone we work with? I guess my advice is the same as we give Kindergarteners – it’s the golden rule people.
Treat others how you want to be treated.