5 Open Office Space Etiquette Tips You Need To Know


It’s very likely that if you currently work in an office space, that it is considered an open-plan office. According to a survey from CoreNet Global, about 81% of companies in North America have adopted an open-space floor plan. The open office space plan started as a reaction against hierarchical workplace structures and as a means to move employees away from working in boxes. They’ve become very commonplace over the past ten years or so.

As with any type of office environment there are pros and cons to consider before adopting an open office space.

On the one hand, open-plan offices can inspire a more collaborative, innovative and social environment where ideas transfer easily between members of different departments and teams. On the other, open-plan workspaces are being recognized as a wildly distracting environment to work in. According to one study by The Sound Agency, workers are 66% less productive.

If you work in an open office space the following 5 tips will help you navigate the day to day etiquette to make your space more productive and tolerable for everyone.

1. Have a Separate Meeting Space

According to Quill’s blog post on ways to reduce noise in an open office space they suggest having a separate meeting space that is closed off. Having an open office space is great for creating a sense of community between team members. At the same time, there are certain types of activities like brainstorming sessions or conference calls that require the privacy of a separate room. That way, discussions can go on as long as they need to without any risk of disturbing employees who are trying to concentrate. Quill also provides other great tips for cutting noise.

2. Create a Virtual Wall

When it comes to open-plan offices, hell can be other people around you. The human brain only has the capacity for 1.6 conversations, according to Julian Treasure, TED speaker and author of Sound Business, and if your mind wanders to a nearby discussion, you don’t have much brain power left to work with.

If you are having trouble concentrating because of the voices and antics of your colleagues, you can create a “virtual wall” between yourself and the rest of your office. How to achieve this? It’s easier than you think. Headphones. A good pair of noise cancelling headphones is key.

3. Put yourself in everyone else’s shoes

When working in an open office space, the most important thing to do is be mindful of others. Put yourself in the shoes of your colleagues’ who might have a different role than you. What’s important for them to succeed in your shared space? Being able to acknowledge and understand people’s comfort levels will help you succeed just as much as them. And it is not just about noise levels either. Be mindful of your colleagues’ food allergies and food preferences. We all know perhaps too well that smell travels, and with an odorous lunch, it could reach every nose in an open office.

4. Don’t invade your neighbor’s territory

I admit that this is my biggest pet peeve about working in an open office space – when someone comes over to your desk and does not respect personal space. They invade your space and stand there staring at you while you are on the phone or basically start reading what you are working on. Be respectful of other peoples’ need for personal space.

5. Keep your area tidy

It’s the team’s responsibility to make sure working areas are kept neat and tidy. If you have things scattered around your desk during the work day, don’t sweat it; that’s completely okay. Just make sure you organize your area before heading home to show that you’re gone for the night and aren’t moving in anytime soon. It can make you stand out for the wrong reasons. In common areas make sure you do your part and pick up after yourself. Don’t leave dirty dishes lying around, throw out trash and put the recycling in the proper containers.

If you find yourself having to work in an open office space for the first time, don’t be afraid. Talk to your colleagues to see how they’ve adjusted. Everyone has a different approach that may be beneficial to finding your groove. Be considerate of those around you and you will do just fine.

You also have to be ready to go with the flow if a new colleague or two are seated close to you. You may need to make adjustments given the balance of personalities or preferences.

Working in an open office can be daunting for those who might be accustomed to the high walls of cubicles or the privacy of a door with an office. But it can also help you to bond with your fellow employees and really soak up knowledge that flows more easily with less walls in the way.


Photo Credit: Pixabay

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