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We have an open office (no cubical walls) that is intended to increase productivity.
However I find that the increase in distractions, both sound and visual negates this due to the difficulty in concentrating and focusing on tasks.
How can I overcome those distractions but still keep in touch with colleagues in a (fairly) open manner?

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2  
Fire that secretary! –  Tomarinator Apr 23 '12 at 8:00
    
If my answer was helpful, could you accept it? meta.stackexchange.com/a/5235/182862 –  dwwilson66 Apr 26 '12 at 2:18
    
I have the same problem even though I have cubical walls. I am right near a major walkway and with people walking through it all the time and talking to one another, it is a big distraction. Using noise cancelling headphones helps! –  Gaʀʀʏ Jul 5 '12 at 4:12

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

I have a similar problem, and invested in a set of noise-cancelling headphones. Because we're in an open environment, it's easy to still see people coming toward my workstation, and am able to make eye contact to let them know that I'm still attentive and not shutting myself out. I've also made comments to my coworkers like, "Wow, I am really distracted today...I'm gonna put on headphones so I can focus. just wave really big if you need me..." to cue them in. Best investment I've made for work.

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I agree. Depending on the type of work you do, the best solution is to focus on your computer and put in some headphones. I do this all the time and I already have a cubicle in the corner. When I'm working, I'm working and if someone needs me all they need to do is knock on my desk or say something to get my attention. –  Raystafarian Apr 21 '12 at 10:46
    
I have a budget noise-canceling headphone, but thinking about getting a better one. The only thing is that these headphones are all priced around 300 euro. And I think it is rather stupid to invest that kind of money because other people just don't let me do my job. –  JP Hellemons Jul 9 at 12:21

Is it possible to switch desks so that you are in one of the dark corners? So facing a wall, or just off the normal walking ways around the office? Just thinking of thinks you could be looking at that don't change much. I'd go with a couple of big pot plants either side of your monitor...

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Unfortunately, I've never had an issue focusing on visual things...much to the chagrin of my friends when we're in a bar or restaurant with monitors :)

I have a programmer friend who had a more traditional cubicle with dual monitors, but was developing a new system and found himself CONSTANTLY referring to ten or so pages of requirements and flowcharts in a binder. He bought himself one of those tri-fold school science-project displays, cut holes for his monitors, and tapes up all the project documentation he needed on the same visual plane of his monitors.

An added side benefit of that is that he instant has a 30" or so "wall" in his visual field.

I contracted in a truly open-concept office for about ten days...it was computers on antique library tables in an old warehouse loft..., and I found it VERY distracting when I wasn't knees deep in my project. I discussed it with my boss, and he was happy to let me use a conference room and a laptop.

Keep in mind that unless your employer is a complete jackass, they're paying for your expertise to be delivered in an efficient manner. Explaining that you can't be as effective in the environment usually leads to compromises and accommodations. It's worth asking.

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+1 for talking to your employer. If the open setup is intended to increase productivity, they should want to know if it's not working! Hopefully they can help you settle on at least a partial solution. The wall of notes sounds funny and possibly useful too! –  weronika Apr 22 '12 at 3:47

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