Surviving the Open Floor Plan

Traditional cubical layouts break up rooms into specific functional areas: walk spaces, common spaces, individual work spaces, etc. Cubes also break up the line of sight in a room. In the open floor plan everything is, well…you know, “open.” This helps facilitate spontaneous collaboration because your coworkers can immediately see if you are “free” to chat and just about anywhere can become a collaborative space, easing the constant struggle of finding an open conference room. A modern layout might seem ideal at first but you may grow to find that the downsides to open-concept office space are much the same as the upsides:

You are always approachable. Your entire workday can quickly fill up with drop-ins unless you set boundaries with your coworkers. “Office hours” tend to work well for individual contributors and managers alike. Setting a “busy” or “in-a-meeting” status on your instant messaging client or email is also a helpful deterrent. Just remember that some will ignore or fail to check your status. Refer these people to your office hours in the first suggestion.

Some people signal that they are busy by putting in earbuds, but I strongly caution you to read your office culture first before doing this as it can easily come across as antisocial. And, honestly, keeping your ears pricked in an open floorplan; environment can teach you a great deal.

Your desk is now client facing. So is everyone else’s, which means you have to be careful what you keep on your desk. Now, I’m not just talking about old Dorito crumbs in your keyboard either – you need to be careful that sensitive or restricted material isn’t laying out where anyone could see it. Invest (or better yet, ask your employer to invest) in organizational materials like manila folders, binders, file drawers, etc. and put those items out of sight when you aren’t using them.

I wish I could say this won’t happen to you but there’s a distinct possibility that the stuff on your desk will become “common use” stuff, even in the most professional of work environments. Just put your personal items away in your desk, drawers, backpack, handbag – wherever – and you can avoid getting in an argument with Jeff from Sales about why he left your umbrella in an Uber.

I mean, c’mon Jeffs of the world, why did you have our umbrella in the first place?

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