Noisy distractions can cause a lot of stress in open plan offices.

Protecting productivity in an open-plan office


Studies have long been heralding the benefits of open office environments. Abolishing cubical spaces and private offices enables employers to more effectively fill building space, and it boosts collaboration, flexibility and communication among workers.

However, anyone who has worked in an open-plan office knows the one biggest flaw with this design – noise.

Unwanted or unexpected sounds can affect our moods, emotions and ability to concentrate, so when our colleagues strike up conversations in the open-plan office, the distraction can lead to dissatisfaction and disengagement.

Even when conversation levels are low, we are constantly monitoring for sounds, both consciously and unconsciously. Every noise is registered before we decide whether to ignore or heed the sound. This means that any unexpected or unnatural sound has the potential to distract us from our work, leading to time management and productivity challenges.

If you’re finding it difficult to switch off from the sounds in your open-plan office, here are two ways to help protect your concentration and productivity.

Listen to music

Plugging in your earphones and playing music may be the most effective way of cutting out the sounds of your colleagues’ conversations. To make the most of this manoeuvre, try listening to instrumental songs, as the lyrics of your favourite tunes can be just as distracting as colleagues’ conversations!

Reminding colleagues of their environments

It is not uncommon to share a space with an individual who seems to hold little respect for others around them. Whether they insist on speaking just a fraction too loudly, or listen to their voicemail on speaker phone, for example, these colleagues can create significant levels of stress and anxiety.

Quietly reminding these workers about the acceptable levels of noise may help them change their ways. If not, consider speaking with your employer about the issue or taking the issue to your human resources manager.

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