How to Be Productive When You Work in an Open Office

open-office-adjustmentReaders, do you have any tips for how to work productively in an open office? What advice do you have for someone struggling to adjust to one? Reader K wonders…

I’d love to hear your and readers thoughts about open office plans in the legal environment, such as in the recent article Google Got It Wrong: The Open Office Trend is Destroying Workplaces. In my job at a large non-profit that also has a legal help line, the lawyers, except for legal director, are in cubicles. 2 lawyers spend 1/2 their time doing phone intake. The rest do typical legal research and writing. I have asked about ways of reducing noise/less open space, but am told to just deal with it. My question is whether in the legal industry in general there is an expectation that lawyers should be able to have quiet spaces to work. Looking back on K-12, college, and law school, I always found quiet places to work, and was efficient. My teachers noticed that I was a great writer and really distractable, so they made sure I had a quiet place to work. Now, as a lawyer, I wish there was a quiet space I could escape to do my best work, like I did for 19 years of school. I’d take a pay cut!

Interesting question, reader K. I’ve worked in cubicles (back in my magazine days), a closed-door office environment (back in my BigLaw days), and an open-door office environment (back in my nonprofit days)… so I’ve never worked in a truly open office. While I’m really curious to hear what the readers say, I have a few ideas that may be of help:

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How to Work from Home Effectively

work from home efficientlyWhat are the best ways to work from home effectively?  One of the main takeaways I took from Anne-Marie Slaughter’s piece in The Atlantic* is that businesses should really accept that the concept of “work” is changing from an office-centric, time-macho, “face-time” culture to a more flexible “work from home, sometimes” culture.  So I thought we’d explore some of the best ways to work from home effectively, whether part-time or full-time. (Pictured: Home Office, originally uploaded to Flickr by Sean MacEntee.)

– Have a dedicated space if you work from home regularly — and if you live with others, make sure this space is secluded from the rest of the apartment or house. A good desk (that isn’t piled high with other stuff — I always used to use mine as a makeup vanity/desk until I started seriously working from home), drawers, folders, a file cabinet, a printer… even creature comforts like artwork, framed pictures, and more, help you get into the right mentality.  If you Skype with colleagues, invest in a good setup — ditto for your phone.  My cell phone is my primary phone, and I find the quality (on both ends) to be tremendously better with an ear piece.

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How to Set Up the Best Home Office

New Home Office, originally uploaded to Flickr by TypeFiend.I’ve recently gotten a few requests on how to set up a home office. For example, from reader B:

I work part of the week out of my law firm’s office and part of the week from home. I would love to hear ideas for organizing a home office that isn’t just boring filing cabinets (but I need somewhere to stash files – points for nontraditional filing cabinet ideas).

Great topic, particularly as more and more employers offer tech budgets and other accommodations to make working from home easier. (Pictured: New Home Office, originally uploaded to Flickr by TypeFiend.) Some must-haves:

– A good Internet connection. I always take my Internet connection for granted until I visit friends or family with a slow connection, and I marvel at how they get any work done at home at all.  (I think “a fast enough computer” goes without saying.)

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