Remember when only tech companies, start-ups and co-working spaces had open floor plans? Who could resist, right? The mingling and brainstorming! Tons of meal options and free snacks in the cafeteria! Colorful murals on the walls! Dogs in the office!
Now it seems that every company, even those with corporate environments, are redesigning their spaces. They want their offices to reflect the look of a start-up, but without the actual benefits. I like to describe these spaces with a Taylor Swift lyric: “A nightmare dressed like a daydream.”
For introverts, these spaces make day-to-day tasks very challenging. It’s impossible to have calls at your desk, with coworkers standing nearby and loudly chattering. With fewer offices and storage spaces available, dozens of boxes are stacked along the walls, creating more of a warehouse vibe. And cubicle partitions are getting so low that you can’t look up without making direct eye contact with someone. Basically, we’re all on full display and working in fishbowls.
And this type of office environment makes it harder for introverts to be their most productive self. But thankfully there are ways to make the 9 to 5 more bearable for introverts like myself.
Wear headphones: They’re a great way to help tune out office noise. They not only signal to others that you’re concentrating on your work, but you get to choose the type of atmosphere to immerse yourself in. You can choose a motivational podcast (click here for a list of suggestions to get started), a music station or even white noise to help you focus and get your best work done.
Block Out Your Day: Open floor plans are a breeding ground for distractions. People randomly drop by to chat or pull you into meetings. So you’re constantly losing your train of thought. But by blocking out hours of your day to batch together specific tasks will help you complete them faster. For example, spend the first hour of the day tackling your biggest project, or respond to emails only at 10am, 1pm and 4pm. Also, let your team know when you’ll be focusing on tasks to minimize the number of times you’re interrupted unless an urgent response is needed.
Book time in on-site private rooms: Sometimes the best way to get work done is away from your desk. If you have a laptop, reserve a phone booth or small conference room to work in. A change of scenery may be just what you need to get over some daily hurdles that are unavoidable at your desk. For those who don’t have an office door, this is a great alternative to having a temporary space where you can focus without interruptions.
Work remotely: Being in the office can make you less productive. Between the meetings, the phone calls and the drop-bys, how can you get any work done?! If you can complete more work from home, present your case to your managers and suggest that you start working remotely on a trial basis. During those days, keep track of the number of projects you’re completing versus the days when you’re in the office. You’re more likely to keep a flexible work schedule by proving that you can contribute more to the company’s bottom line when you’re not in the office.
Eat lunch away from your desk: This one is more for your mental health. Sometimes you just need to take a break away from your desk. Let your lunch hour be the time you step away from your computer to catch your breath. Go chat with friends, read a book or favorite blog, or even take a walk. You’ll return recharged with an improved mindset to knock out the rest of the day with ease.
Open floor plans are not ideal for introverts, but ultimately, you can find ways to make your office space work for you. Comment below on which of the above tips have helped you. And would like to hear your suggestions too!