I’ve spent the past 16 months in an open office environment, which has been both a positive and negative experience. I gathered these thoughts on how to make the experience better.
Be quiet, clean, and odorless
Stimuli that you are not in control of can be a major stressor. Stressors, of course, reduce happiness and productivity. Do not be a happiness and productivity killer! If you annoy your coworkers, they may start to dislike or resent you, which will not be good for your career or job satisfaction.
Bottom line is, be aware that every action you take may emit stimuli that affect your coworkers.
- Do not eat at your desk. No matter how hard you try, someone will dislike the smells and sounds of you eating.
- When you use headphones, leave them off at first to make sure the sound isn’t audible.
- If you must tap your foot, either (a) bounce your heel up and down without the heel ever touching the floor or (b) bring in something soft to put under your foot to eliminate the noise.
- Take all phone calls away from your desk. Every time. Even if it is five seconds.
Stress, anger, and pessimism are contagious. But so is positivity! Dealing with stress and emotion in a healthy manner is important for your own sake. But the stakes are higher when you can ruin someone else’s day. If you feel yourself losing it, get up and take a walk.
Train your coworkers on interruptions
When people interrupt you, first, remember to be pleasant. Second, triage the interruption.
If it is….
- … social and welcome -> leave the coworking space to a social space and have a chat
- … social and unwelcome -> politely ask to talk after work
- … urgent -> find a private room and discuss the details of the urgent task
- … important -> ask them to send you an email or message and tell them you will respond within 30 minutes (or sooner or later depending on the importance)
- … normal -> ask them to send you an email and tell them you will respond within 24 hours
If you follow this formula consistently, eventually your coworkers will learn how to communicate with you effectively.
Do not come to work sick
If you are well enough, ask to work from home. When you come back to work, do not touch other people’s stuff, wash your hands often, and disinfect your work station a couple times a day.