Find focus in a workplace without walls

An open office can enhance communication, collaboration and innovation and help create a cohesive company culture. It can also make it hard for people to focus and be productive.

If your open office is driving you crazy and damaging your productivity, columnist and workplace expert Anita Bruzzese has advice to help you draw lines and train your focus in the absence of physical boundaries.

•  Block out the noise. Sep­­a­­rate yourself from the chatter by tuning it out. Use noise-canceling headphones, earplugs or listen to music. Completing the task at hand is more important than listening to your co-workers’ conversations.

•  Seek out space and silence. Whether it’s sitting in a quieter area in the office or taking your work outside, create space and silence for yourself. Start by dedicating a block of time each day to silence. This is your time to refocus yourself on your daily goals.

•  Don’t invite interruptions. Keeping coveted commodities on your desk invites interruptions. This includes treats, sweets and whatever else may attract co-workers to flock to your workspace and make it their hangout.

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•  Obscure your surroundings. Use tricks and tools to block out visual distractions. This may mean cleverly placing plants or decorations on your desk. Get creative and make your own boundaries.

•  Set and establish processes. If you’re responsible for receiving items from your co-workers make sure you establish a process and help them understand it. This will lessen the potential for uninformed questions and distractions. Use labels to clearly display where items need to be placed. For example, label a box “Expense Reports” to keep the steps clear—and quiet.

•  Be short. To dissuade a lingering co-worker or a dissociative distractor work on quick conversation closers. Say something like “are we done?” or “you good to go?” Emphasizing words such as “done” and “go” should get your message across.

— Adapted from “How to Keep From Being Dis­­tracted in an Open Office,” Anita Bruzzese, The Fast Track.