Cultivating Creativity in an Open Office
To a creative person, an open office can be a challenging environment. Yes, it makes collaborating and participating in discussions easier, but it also means more interruptions and distractions.
It’s hard to focus and find time to just think when everyone else wants to talk about what happened on Game of Thrones. And with more businesses embracing the open office to get the most out of their real estate and promote employee collaboration, this is becoming a real problem for creatives.
Whether you like it or not, the open office is here to stay.
But it’s actually a good thing. Other than the typical synergistic, spontaneous collaboration, blah blah blah “CEO speak” that you hear about with an open office, there are actually some real opportunities to leverage more creativity from your team. With some effort, you can create a culture that embraces the open office and turns it to your advantage.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of the open office is the ease of collaboration. Sharing ideas, problem solving with others, and brainstorming are all easier when you’re sitting right next to your peers.
But the sharing doesn't have to stop there. Sharing things can be just as important. Every creative person has resources that they use for inspiration. They might be books, magazines, toys, movies – really anything. The open office can create a community where those things are shared and borrowed by the whole group.
These shared items can be brought in from home, or they can be items purchased specifically for use by the group. What matters is that they are shared and the team is able to feed off of one another's sources for creativity.
Display Your Work
In the digital workplace, it’s getting harder and harder to see other people's work. We email and Slack our files to coworkers or outside vendors, making it difficult for anyone directly around us to have visibility into what we’re working on. This is a problem for a creative team that should be feeding off of one another’s abilities.
To remedy this, create ways for work to be displayed. At EventBoard, we print our work and hang it up. This gives us a sense of pride and also motivates us to do great work since it will be seen out in the open. Don’t want to print something? Try displaying it on a TV or a projector. The more work that’s visible, the more likely you’ll find healthy competition and inspiration among the team.
Do Not Disturb
Sometimes we just need to get things done. With an open office, it is important to establish some common courtesy rules. These rules should create "safe zones" for anyone that needs an escape from this morning's heated debate over the Star Wars anthology or anything else.
These safe zones can be anything that works for your group, but here are a few ideas:
- Headphones-on rule: Anyone who has their headphones on shouldn't be pulled into verbal conversation. If you need them, use a more passive method of communication. Send them an email or message on Slack so they can reply when they're available.
- Quiet work zones: Whether it's a whole room or just a desk that's out of the way, make areas where employees can easily retreat when they need to focus on their work.
- Embrace telecommuting: Most employees feel they can work faster when they’re remote. Create a policy within your culture that gives creatives this freedom whenever they feel the office is too distracting.
- Quiet hours: Consider blocking out times during the day or week that are free of chit-chat or meetings.
There are many ways to use the open office to strengthen creativity. These are just a few that we’ve found helpful here at EventBoard. With a few small steps like this, there’s no need to choose collaboration over efficiency.
Open offices are sure to remain a common model for the future of work. Creating a culture where creatives can easily influence one another while still being able to get things done is a challenge that must be met in today’s work environment.
Don’t be closed off to the future – open it up.
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