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The Modern Rule Book: 6 Ways to Thrive in Open Space Offices

View the headquarters of the coolest companies and you may be reminded of spaceships or futuristic cities, complete with open floor plans where groups of employees work around communal tables rather than in separate cubicles. Companies across the world are investing in open space offices (also called open plan offices or open office workspaces), tearing down walls in an effort to increase employee collaboration and appeal to Millennials' desire to rub elbows with their coworkers.

While this is great from a cooperation standpoint, fewer walls mean more opportunities to annoy that person sitting next to you. If your office is heading toward wide open spaces, we’ve got your back. Consider this your rule book for how to behave in an open space offices and become a standout—just not in the “company pariah” sort of way.

How to Make Friends in the Office

1. Adapt to coworkers’ personalities and compromise on scheduling

Depending on your company’s seating arrangement, salespeople on back-to-back cold calls may sit alongside programmers who need quiet to concentrate. Introverts who prefer to communicate over email may work next to extroverts who want to chat face-to-face.

Doing your best to address these varying needs can set the stage for positive coworker relationships. If you realize that your tablemate needs tranquility in the morning, try moving your loud phone calls to the afternoon. Ask them to work around your schedule as well. Creating positive routines like this can help you both have better work days and remain productive!

2. Get to know people outside of your team

We tend to become closer to our team members than other colleagues due to vicinity and time spent together. Open space offices present the perfect opportunity to reach connect with employees outside of your inner circle, becoming friends or establishing mentor-mentee relationships. Invite someone from another department out to lunch or break the ice by striking up a conversation about a personal item on their desk.

Tip: Cultivating positive relationships is a foundational pillar of career success. Uncover 5 more career-building secrets that managers wish employees knew !

3. Imagine invisible doors

Just because you can reach out and touch your manager’s or coworker’s desk does not mean you should consider them open for business at every point throughout the day. Research shows that after a distraction it takes an average of 25 minutes to refocus on the task at hand, which means that every interruption leads to lost productivity (and possibly an irate colleague).

Imagine invisible doors in front of each employee’s chair and ask: is this question or concern urgent/important enough to walk through their door, or will an email or meeting request suffice?

How to Annoy Your Coworkers in an Open Space Office

1. Play puppeteer

Gossip always spreads through the office grapevine like wildfire, but this is particularly true in open space offices. Talk badly about another employee or the company and you’re sure to be overheard—just don’t do it!

Tip: Have 5 minutes to spare? Learn how to positively engage in office politics in “Why You Are Dealing With Company Politics All Wrong.”

2. Spread out

Have you heard of manspreading? The practice of people—in this case, men, but really everyone is guilty of this at some point or another—taking up too much leg room on public transportation has become such a big problem that some metro systems are posting prohibition signs or even arresting riders. Long story short, people don’t appreciate having their personal space invaded. Leaving empty food wrappers or papers spread around a communal table won’t win you any fans.

3. Push through the flu

No one likes to fall behind, but coming to work with even a slight cold can infect the entire office in an open workspace. Forget toughing it out when you’re feeling low; ask about working from home or taking a sick day before returning to the office.

Succeeding in an open space office often starts with great onboarding to set the right expectations and proactively address challenges. Talk to your HR team, and then contact Talmundo to see how your open space onboarding process can improve!

Topics: HR
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