As discussed in our previous blog, How to Deal With Stress When Working in a Crowded Office Space: Employee Edition, the popularity of open office designs has led to many companies operating in louder and more crowded environments. While it can be energizing to work in a lively space, an office filled with noise and distractions can hurt productivity and increase stress among employees. If you find yourself and your employees in this stressful environment, follow the tips below to help your subordinates remain productive and focused in a crowded workplace.
As mentioned in the employee edition of this blog, most employees are interrupted during the day with emails, phone calls, and pop-ins. Look for patterns of interruption among your employees (who, where, and when). Once you identify the typical triggers for interruptions, you can work with your office staff to manage and minimize the disruptions.
Actively Minimize Distractions
Help your staff do this by showing them how to turn off email and phone notifications, and set up an office-wide system with scheduled daily blocks of time for employees to reply to email and phone messages. You can also advise staff to use some kind of “do not disturb” sign to help deter in-person interruptions by colleagues and place house rules of no interruptions during that time. This sort of idea tend to catch on and next thing you know the entire office will be quieter and less stressful.
The Mistake of Multitasking
What most call multitasking is really task-switching. People tend to only be able to fully focus to one task at a time. As an office manager or employer, you can help combat the task-switching by assigning staff one or two projects at a time. You’ll be surprised at how much more productive your employees will be when they have less tasks to focus on in any given day.
Be Strategic About Seating
If you don’t allow employees to choose their own desks, take a moment to look at the seating arrangement of the office and be strategic. Try not to sit your office workers near places where people tend to gather (such as the coffeemaker or copy machine) or outside the meeting and break rooms. All these locations make your employees targets for interruptions by colleagues or equipment noise.
Consider the physical layout of your office. Improving interiors, such as the paint and lighting used in the office can improve employee moods and reduce stress. Go for bright colors and yellow/dimmer lights to keep the mood peaceful. Make sure the cubicles are not too cramped and some personal space is available to each employee. The perception of crowding can also be reduced through rooms with high ceilings or walls with mirrors, furniture, and other decorative elements. Reducing the impact of “dense” space and the impact of seeing a large amount of people at once (through the repositioning of desk positions to minimize views into others’ workstations) will increase productivity and eliminate distractions.
Eliminate Hard Surfaces
You’ve no doubt been inside a gym or warehouse and noticed how noise carries and echoes. This is because hard surfaces do not absorb sound. If your office space has concrete floors, walls, or ceilings, consider adding soft, noise-absorbing surfaces, such as carpeting or acoustic tiles since soft flooring absorbs more sound with padding underneath. Also try to minimize use of glass or drywall surfaces throughout the office in order to decrease noise over larger distances.
Partition Large Spaces
As mentioned in previous sections, fabric-covered workspace partitions or walls of foliage can soak up and reduce sound paths. Partitioned work space provides privacy to workers and acoustic control within each individual’s area. Sound absorbing panels along the office’s interior walls can reduce the background noise of such a large and open setting.
If a renovation is possible, consider insulation installments. Adding fiberglass or cellulose insulation to the walls and roof of a building’s facade prevents outside noise from transmitting inside the office, creating an already calmer and quieter environment. Reconstruct walls with large air gaps between them, switch to double or triple-paned windows, and replace hollow doors with thick, solid ones.
Open office layouts are today’s popular office trend. Many companies are being drawn into the look of large, expansive office environments. Unfortunately, in addition to the appealing design aesthetics, open office layouts are bringing with them a variety of stimulating sound problems as well. This new office layout has clusters of workstations with little to no partitions, and in many cases, lots of hard surfaces for sound to bounce off. The results of this lead to hindered work productivity and increased employee stress. Follow the tips above to improve your work space today!
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