Tips for Working in an Open Office

Posted July 11, 2017 by swimcreative

For employers — and employees

Tear down those walls! Or, not?

At Swim, our office is a bit of a mixed bag. It’s mostly an open office concept with a few private offices thrown in for good measure. Collaboration is key in a creative space, but sometimes, a bit more privacy would be nice. Good thing we’re adaptive.

Here are some tips for optimizing the open office lifestyle — whether you’re the boss or the new summer intern.  

For Employees


These little guys are your best friend. They knock out the noise and add the kind you can work along to. Such as an awesome, self-made playlist.

Make Your Cues Known

You know when you’re in the zone, but everyone else doesn’t?

Let others know your working cues so you don’t get disrupted at the worst possible moment. Your cue could be as subtle as earbuds or as big as a “Do Not Bug Me” sign on the back of your chair. You could even set up visitation hours by your desk like a professor. Then no one will bug you ever.

Visual Barriers

If possible, surround your desk with bookshelves or similar visual barriers. This helps you stay focused despite what’s going on around you.

Know Your Limits

It’s always fun to go from talking about a project to talking about what you’re doing this weekend. Just make sure to know when to reign it in. This saves you from having to fill out your timesheets with “showing off pictures of my dog.”

Steer Clear of Email

Plan to check your email once an hour, but keep it out of sight the rest of the time. This lets you concentrate on what’s in front of you, not what’s incoming. If it’s really that important someone will come find you.

Learn to Roam

You’re not tied to your desk. Find other areas in — and out of — your office to work. This brings new perspectives and can help hide you when you need peace and quiet. Wired into the wall? It’s time to ask your employer for a laptop…or send them this article.


For Employers

Promote Breaks

No one wants to feel married to a desk. Let your employees know that if they can’t concentrate that it’s okay to get up, stretch and move their legs. They’ll feel more comfortable doing so, and will be refreshed and ready to get back to work.

Quiet Time

Collaborative conversations are the beauty of the open office. But there’s a limit to its effectiveness if no one ever stops talking. Embrace your inner librarian and establish the need for quiet times.   

Be Flexible

Sometimes people need to get away completely. Be okay with that. Let them head down to the coffee shop or work from home every once in awhile. Not only will you earn their trust, you’ll get better quality work.

Comforts Help

To give work a more homey feel, add some comfy couches. This will inspire office roaming and help workers feel like they have spaces to escape to right in the office.


This one doesn’t work for every job. But if suitable, staff your team with laptops. Being able to freely move your workstation does wonders.  

Conversation Spaces

If you have space, add a few nooks for smaller conversations. That way, impromptu meetings can happen away from desk space, lessening distractions for everyone else.

Office Makeover

Make the office feel calm with a coat of paint and new artwork. It’s amazing how little changes make a big difference to morale.


How do you make it work in a collaborative office?

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