Open plan office design is touted as a great way to encourage collaboration and a sharing of ideas, and it can definitely do this, but it’s mostly about cost saving - it’s a lot cheaper and easier to have everyone in one room with fewer walls and divisions than a traditional office layout.


It can introduce some pretty major problems into the work environment, the biggest one being a reduction in productivity, because it’s hard for people to concentrate and stay focused when they don’t have a quiet place to squirrel themselves away in. This can be particularly problematic for introverts and highly sensitive people, because there’s no hiding in an open plan office!


The noise can be insidious too, you don’t realise how much it’s affecting you until you finally surpass your tolerance level. You know the feeling, the one where you find yourself staring into the pixelated depths of your computer screen, your mind is wiped blank and you’re unable to formulate a single intelligent thought let alone complete a task.


Open plan offices also seem to encourage and even breed the most infuriating types of workers, you’ll probably recognise these five offenders:


The Desk Eater

The quieter and more discrete they try to be the louder and more sound barrier shattering their chewing and slurping seems to get.


The Commentator

Takes it upon themselves to provide incessant banal commentary and chit-chat about anything and everything other than actual work; also fond of making personal calls that make everyone around them feel really awkward.


The Keyboard Puncher

Super motivated and keen to get everything done as quickly as possible, enthusiastically smashes their hands against their keyboard to demonstrate to everyone just how productive they are.


The Music Aficionado

Firmly believes repetitive pop music cranked up to high volume helps everyone stay motivated and productive, can’t work without a constant reverberating bassline coursing through their veins.


The Germ

A walking microcosm of disease that refuses to stay home and get better; thinks that coming into work while sick equates to martyrdom which should be celebrated, and ignorantly believes that if they don’t intend for anyone else to get sick then their germs miraculously won’t spread.


If you’re at breaking point with trying to cope in an open plan office, then it’s time to try some of these methods to help you cope:

  • Get a pair of noise cancelling headphones or earphones if you want to be discrete, and listen to your own tunes or white noise as a distraction

  • Move to a desk that’s located near the edge of the room. It’s normally the quietest area, as long as it’s not near an entrance or another room where you’ll get a lot of foot traffic

  • Take regular mini-breaks to a quieter part of the office, like a meeting room or even a stairwell if you get desperate; or go outside and get some fresh air

  • Practice some meditative exercises, the Stop, Breathe & Think app by K.D Lang is fantastic and has lots of short, calming mediation exercises. You can get it on Google Play and iTunes

  • If your workplace is flexible ask to work from home even if it’s just a couple of times a week

  • Sit near a window – a view of the outside world will make you feel less trapped


Employees are the heart of a business, so if your employer tells you to simply harden up and refuses to acknowledge and resolve the issues your working environment is causing, then maybe it’s time to look for greener pastures. If you’re looking for a new sales, marketing, accounting, finance or supply chain role, please get in touch with us today - we can help you find a great role in the right company –


Written by Alisa Moore, Research & Community Manager at Gaulter Russell Numero.