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Boundless Enthusiasm For The Boundary-less Office?

Lately there has been a resurgence in the “open office.” Now, when I say “resurgence” I refer to the fact that offices of yore (late 1800s-early 1900s) were open-floor plans with office folk generally gathered around one big table with perhaps a separate desk for the boss.

Today’s open office floor plans seem to be working well for two reasons. The first is economic – corner offices take up valuable square footage that could be used to accommodate more workers and more workers means more productivity.

The second reason is the nature of work today. Start-ups, many companies in digital, tech and knowledge-based service industries, as well as PR firms, do well amidst the thrum of active collaboration. Generation Y-ers and beyond also thrive in a hive. According to workplace strategist Margaret Serrato, “we space” is the new “me space.”

This all sounds really motivating and active and productive, and I don’t like to rain on anyone’s office parade, but after all the fun brainstorming and “Imagineering,” who’s gonna write up all this great stuff? And can you really sit at your laptop and pound out purposeful prose with the whole gang?

I can’t. I like to retreat after a collaboration-fest and filter out the useful bits undistracted as I plan for our PR clients. With pundits predicting that by 2020, half of any corporate space will be converted to wide open space, here are some of my own survival tips. Feel free to add more.

• Timing is everything. Plan your day to incorporate both group and individual work. You want to be part of the action, but make it clear that you are then devoting a certain amount of time to uninterrupted solo work.

• Headphones. Many people swear by making a playlist to accommodate each of the types of work one encounters during the day. Symphonic strains for tedious detail work? Melodic mainstream pop for creative plans? Whatever suits you.

• Get Zen with it. In a particularly noisy workspace where you simply have to disengage to get deadline work done, “find your happy place.” Breathe deeply, drink your favorite calming beverage or read something soothing to help transition.

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