The Secret to Making Open Offices Bearable Is So Cheap

Cubicles were supposed to represent everything terrible about growing up and getting a job, but millennials today might long for the privacy of walls at work. Open offices are supposed to "encourage collaboration"; instead, they're mostly a recipe for distraction. Seventy percent of American workplaces have embraced this free-for-all floor plan. If you're having trouble getting any work done, a simple solution may be the golden ticket to productivity again.


Careers website The Muse did some testing of its own on ways to communicate your need for privacy in an open office. The most successful method was delightfully low-tech. All you need is a piece of red construction paper (or whatever you can swipe from the supply closet). Tape or Velcro the paper somewhere that's visible, like a computer monitor or the back of your chair. That's your signal that you're in focus mode and are not up for cross-pollination or drop-in conversations or any of the other features-not-bugs of an open office. Take it down when that changes.

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Of course, the system does require office-wide buy-in. It may take a few days, and some people are never quite going to get it. But it's a good way to start enforcing boundaries in an open-air setting. Other variations include a red/yellow/green traffic-light scheme, which just goes to show how customizable this method is (click that link for free printable templates). Once everyone's on the same page, you might find you're able to get your work done at work again.