How to Survive Colocation (And an Open Office)

I am a major proponent of colocation for project and internal teams....and to best honest, complete strangers. The open environment allows for cross-fertilization of ideas, exchange or information, and alignment of purpose. However, I sometimes find working in an open environment slightly unproductive. Recently, in order to conduct a colocation planning workshop, I reminded myself of some of the more successful tactics I've used to mitigate visual distractions and interruptions.

Headphones Are a Twofer

I use headphones for two reasons:

  1. To drown out disruptive noise. I often go with instrumental music (like my Dario Marinelli Pandora station), so that I don't end up distracting myself with lyrics. 
  2.  As a "do not disturb" sign. Both earbuds in means, "come back later". One earbud means, "Interrupt me if you need to". 

Conference Rooms and Phone Booths 

Yes, colocation enables casual exchanges that can lead to better design solutions. However, it can be difficult to have meaningful conversations with so many people around. I try to make use of adjacent conference room for private phone calls and conversations. Once its a little warmer, my teammates can also look forward to a few laps around the building while we talk. (Watch out FitBit friends!) Using conference rooms also eliminates the disruption from others trying to focus. And in a pinch or on a deadline, I book a conference room for the morning as a temporary office.

Schedule Your Week

Many teams end up building such an intense meeting schedule that they don't have time to get any work done in colocation. I actually use Michael Hyatt's ideal week concept to block out the following activities in my calendar:
  • Weekly Preparation on Monday and Weekly Review on Friday: This is me time. No disruptions allowed for 90 minutes! I prepare for or follow up on meetings, process any paperwork, review goals and lookahead schedules, and clean up my action items list. Feels good to be organized 
  • Internal Meeting Mondays: I already had most department and internal meetings on Mondays, so I moved the outlier (VDC department meeting!) to 'batch process'. 
  • No Meeting Fridays: That's right. I don't schedule any meetings on Fridays. I'm able to focus on getting work done, but also have time to enjoy sharing ideas with my teammates! 
I know that everyone doesn't have the luxury to block out time like this - especially no meeting Fridays! However, you might be surprised if you talk to your project team and colleagues. I've found that people are very respectful of my no meeting Fridays. And you may be able to inspire a team-wide no meeting day or at least identify smaller blocks of time for productivity and focus. 

 I've recently re-instituted some of these and am enjoying a little more productivity. And I think my 'neighbors' are enjoying that I'm a little more relaxed!

What are your thoughts on productivity, colocation, and the open office? How do you stay productive, but maintain connectivity to the group? Leave your thoughts in the comments or tweet them at me!

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1 comment:

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