Maintaining wellbeing when working in an open plan office

Maintaining wellbeing when working in an open plan office

Open plan offices have become the norm in the UK with banks of desks for anywhere between 4 to 400 employees all in one wide open space. It is supposed to increase creativity, allowing you to be more in tune with your colleagues on a work and personal level. However, when does spontaneous brainstorming become distracting chatter, impacting your teams mental wellbeing?

Below are some tips, taken from Rebecca Knight’s article, Staying Focussed in a Noisy Open Office[1].

Embrace the positives – Karen Dillan, author of Harvard Business Review Guide to Office Politics, says “There’s a lot of benefit to getting to know your colleagues on a more intimate level. There’s laughter, there’s humour, and you feel the rhythm of each other’s work and lives.”

Set team boundaries – Having a group conversation about optimising working in an open plan office means everyone can contribute and will be bought into decisions. Agree set ways of keeping the noise to a minimum for when someone is on the phone, or when to interrupt someone for example.

Noise cancelling headphones – Or some other visual cues help others to know when you are interruptible. You could try white noise or even music to help you focus.

Radio on, radio off – These days it is common for offices to play the radio. However, some may consider this a distraction. Before turning on and tuning in, have a conversation with everyone on the team to ensure it isn’t going to distract anyone making it difficult for them to work.

Make a move – Move around the office regularly. Get up and speak to colleagues at different desks, in other offices and on different floors. It is good for your physical and mental health to move about regularly, but also utilise quieter corners or unutilised rooms when you really need to concentrate. Break the cycle of needing to be visible all the time. If you can’t find somewhere quiet enough to concentrate, consider asking to leave the office altogether to use a local library/café to work temporarily.

If all else fails – Ask to move desks permanently. If you have exhausted all other options and are really struggling to concentrate, you can always ask to move desks. Position it with your boss that it will make you more productive. Just don’t bottle up your feelings and explode at your colleague when they are still talking about last night’s Coronation Street!

If your team would benefit from tailored, cost effective leadership and engagement training on how your actions impact the physical and mental wellbeing of your teams, then get in touch on 01924 666 295.

[1] Harvard Business Review,