How to Stay Focused in an Open Office

open office

Are you like me, and don’t like working in an open office environment? I don’t think I’m alone in this. Nearly 70% of employers in the US have adopted an open office layout even though numerous studies have found that they reduce productivity, and increase distractions. It originally may have been to foster collaboration, and now might be about cost savings for the employer by putting more employees into the same foot print.


While the lack of walls may be handy for collaboration, and learning from your peers, it isn’t always helpful when you are required to concentrate. Here are some tips to help you keep your focus when you need to.

Things You Can Do:

  • Wear headphones: Obvious, and yet, a great way to block out most of the noise while listening to your favorite tunes.
  • Do Not Disturb: If your office doesn’t have a system in place yet, create your own version of a do-not-disturb sign. It could be your headphones or a sign that you put on the back of your chair.
  • Keep your voice down: Make sure you have self-awareness about how loud you might be when talking, especially when you are on the phone. Also, when one employee starts talking louder, there’s a tendency for the rest of the room to follow. Monitor yourself through-out the day.
  • Do Not Use the speaker when on conference call: There is a big temptation to use the speaker when on a conference call or video conference call. That is a BIG no. Use your headphones. Your neighbors will appreciate your being mindful of their focus.
  • Work from home: If your employer allows you to work remotely, take advantage of that flexibility the next time you are working on a project that requires a disruption free environment.
  • Accept interruptions. Changing the way you think about interruptions helps reduce feelings of frustration, and allows you to get your focus back quicker.

Things for Your Co-workers:

  • Designate quiet hours. Work with your colleagues, and boss to agree on blocking out quiet hours. A few hours in the morning or afternoon every day, or certain days of the week.
  • Book a conference room. Or find a space with a door you can use to stay focused. Also, if you need to talk face to face with someone.
  • Send a message. If it is a conversation that can be done on the company instant messaging app, that lets you carry on the conversation silently.
  • Shield your eyes. Visual noise counts too when you’re sidetracked by watching what your office neighbors are doing. Some employers are limiting the line of sight with oversized plants, privacy screens, and curved computer monitors.
  • Talk with your boss. Your boss has an interest in your performance too. Be creative and proactive about offering suggestions that can help you, and your coworkers to be productive.


Take control over your open office setting. You can make an open office less chaotic and distracting. Get creative about how you structure your day, week to help you do your best. Take steps on your own, and with your employer to create more privacy, and quiet time for concentrating on your work.