Donna Lin Niles received an MBA in 2009 from the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland - College Park, and has worked in sales and marketing ever since. She is a freelance writer and editor covering a variety of business topics.
How to Increase Productivity in a Busy Office
There was a time when most office workers would expect to spend their Mondays through Fridays in a high-walled cubicle, enjoying a modicum of privacy, and relative peace and quiet, although without much interaction with their peers. Companies have responded to that trend over the past decade, with an estimated 70 percent of offices now offering employees low or no partitions in workspaces. While it might seem ideal for collaboration and teamwork, it can be difficult to be productive when the office is abuzz with activity. Studies show that the average office worker is interrupted every 11.2 minutes, and it takes up to 23 minutes to return focus back to the task at hand. Luckily, there are many ways to regain your focus and increase your productivity while working in a busy office.
Maybe it’s the general hum of the office, or too much talking on the floor, but either way, it’s keeping you from getting your work done. Earplugs, if you really need complete silence in order to focus, probably come to mind, but they might not be the most comfortable choice. Luckily, there are a wide array of noise-cancelling headphones on the market that you can use to help drown out the noise. If you need complete focus, try classical music. It’s been proven to help stimulate the mind. Just remember to not turn the volume up too high. You still want to be responsive at the office.
Find a quiet spot that you can rely on to use when you really need to concentrate. Most offices will provide some private work spaces that employees can use for private calls or intense work sessions, but if those aren’t readily available when you’re up against a deadline, you should have a backup spot that can allow you to get your work done. This can be a quiet corner on the opposite side of the floor or even in the waiting area near the reception. Don’t forget to let your manager know where he or she can find you if they need you.
Hold yourself accountable for your work each day by making a to-do list in the mornings. In order to generate a to-do list that is actually effective, start with a section for the top priorities for the day of what you must complete before you leave in the evening. If you have any big strategies or projects with immediate due dates listed in that top priority section, break them up into smaller tasks, and list them separately. Leave any daily routines off your to-do list, as those should be part of your regular work schedule. Remember that creating this list shouldn’t take up more than 10-15 minutes of your morning.
Don’t be afraid to take breaks and look for opportunities to enjoy some alone time. Sometimes you just need to let your mind relax when it’s having a hard time concentrating. When you find yourself unable to focus, stop forcing yourself and do something else: chat with co-workers, take a short walk, or eat a light snack. There may even be health benefits to taking breaks or seeking out solitude; if you sit too long, fat cells can build up, and increase your risk of heart attacks.With all the attention and buzz surrounding open workspaces at high-tech companies in Silicon Valley, it’s unlikely that professional workplaces will revert back to the world of offices and high cubicles. Luckily, that doesn’t mean workers have to give up productivity when it comes to working in open space offices. It’s important to prioritise personal comfort and top objectives in order to get the job done. These methods will ensure that you are as productive as possible every day in the office.