An open office layout encourages camaraderie and collaboration. However, to some, it can be a bit of a productivity drain. Luckily, productivity doesn’t have to suffer if you take the right steps to focus.
When it comes to work environment, there was only ever one option for me when I started my business: an open, collaborative arrangement. Now, almost three years later, our ever-growing team still sits side by side in what we lovingly call “the bullpen” and works together every day toward a shared goal.
Although I’m a huge fan of the camaraderie, collaboration and open communication that this layout inspires in my team, I will be the first to admit that sometimes it can be a challenge to stay focused on individual tasks. I believe strongly that the benefits outweigh the costs, however, and promoting strategies to help focus in this environment will not only help your team, but you as the business owner.
Intentionally Block Your Time
As an executive, your schedule is jam-packed. The precious moments you have to sit and clear your inbox or complete a quiet task seem few and far between. When I find myself with open time in my schedule, I love sitting out with my team — not locked in my office.
One way I make sure that I complete my to-do list while still sitting out with the team is making calendar events for tasks, even if they’re just for me. By intentionally blocking off time, I am not only reminded of the task, but I am less likely to be distracted by other items on my to-do list.
Find Your Quiet Space
Knowing you have somewhere to go if you just can’t seem to focus is important. For most executives, this means retreating to your office. For the rest of the team, make sure you remind them what their options are for quiet time. Recommend that they book a meeting space for an hour alone, or designate a certain area of the office as the “no-talk zone.”
Walk and Talk
Have a question for someone or finding it hard to focus? Get up from your desk and physically take a walk around the office or down the street. By removing yourself from your computer and talking it out in person, you can clear your head and are able to revisit it with a fresh perspective. Sometimes, all you need is a change of scenery to really focus on a challenge.
Start Your Morning Off Right
I believe in the power of positive thinking. If you start your day off with a little inspiration and motivation, you set yourself up for success for the rest of the day. Every morning, my team gathers together for what we call the “pump-up,” which is one of my favorite traditions. A different team member leads a five-minute activity that is meant to energize and motivate the group. These have ranged from flash dance parties, yoga and meditation, to inspirational stories or funny videos.
Taking five minutes at the start of every day to do something as a group (that is not related to work!) clears the collective mind and prepares you and your team for the day ahead.
Set Clear Expectations
I’m a major advocate for open floor plans to improve collaboration and simply get stuff done. In our office, not only do we all sit together, we play music as well. This environment might seem fun and relaxed, but the expectation is clearly set that noise and chatter should be kept to a minimum and productivity shouldn’t have to suffer.
If you are not up front with your team about your expectations around your office layout, it can easily lead to an unfocused workspace. Make sure all of your team members are respectful of others’ work habits and phone activity, and that you as a leader offer alternative solutions if needed.
The balance of a relaxed, open environment — with the importance of focused productivity — is the sweet spot for many businesses. And by employing these strategies for mindfulness, you’re sure to make the most of it. So go ahead — open up!
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