In my previous post I discussed how to work well with toxic co-workers. What if you find your work place to be toxic? Not too long ago large companies like Google started a trend that has been transforming office culture around the country. Many offices have adopted an “open-office” concept. The benefit of having an open-office is that it is cheap, collaborative, and supposedly encourages more productivity. The only problem is open-offices are not for everyone. In fact, a lot of employees can’t stand it! For some people that are more introverted an open office can be an overwhelming work environment. Open-offices can make employees feel exposed, distracted, and under pressure. The question is “How can I make the most of a work environment that I don’t feel comfortable in?” I have some helpful tips for those of you who find yourself struggling to thrive in a less than ideal work place.
Make Your Space Feel A Little More Like Home
Customize your workspace and have fun with it. You can be as creative as you want, this is where you have to work everyday after all. Set up some family photos, a serene landscape, or paraphernalia of your favorite sports team. Customize the things you have to look at everyday such as the cover of your notebook, desktop, or mouse pad. This helps us feel like we have our own little territory and that helps us relax.
Turn Off The Music
In an attempt to concentrate and drown out all the noise around us many people pop in some ear buds and crank up the music. However, listening to music can be very distracting. Instead of music try playing something more neutral such as nature sounds or soothing ambient sounds. White noise in the background will help you concentrate better, help you get more work done, and put you in a better mood. It will also communicate a more positive energy to coworkers.
Even the smallest adjustments to your workspace can make a significant difference in how you feel. Adding plants and natural wooden accessories to your space can help you feel more relaxed. Unpainted wood and leafy green plants can help us feel at piece even in the midst of a chaotic work environment.
The open-office can make some people feel exposed and like they have less control. If it is possible, have a little control over your work experience by rearranging your space so that your back is not exposed to others. We have a primitive part of our brain that does not like the feeling of exposure and having activity going on behind us. Of course there is no real threat in your office but exposure can create a mood of hostility, insecurity, and pressure for some people.
The supposed “collaborative” work environment in an open-office can be great for some. For others it can be a real struggle and can produce an attitude of contempt towards coworkers. You should always maintain a conscious awareness of others before jumping to conclusions about them. What may be “crossing personal boundaries” for you might be “being friendly” to another. We all come from a variety of backgrounds, and different cultures have different distances for talking to each other. Considering others and getting to know them will go a long way.