Last year after spending four years working from home, I took a corporate job working in an open office. I read much about the transition being hard, because I went from the upmost privacy to being able to see and hear the people working around me.
People make or break the experience
I spent time on client sites where I neither liked the culture or respected the people. This post isn’t about naming names rather I want to emphasize the importance of getting to know the people who sit around you.
I count myself as fortunate that I like the people who sit around me, and I’m sure that helps me deal with being back in an open office after years at home.
Early to bed, early to the open office
I’ve always like to start work early and being in an open office hasn’t changed that. I’m at work for an hour or two before most of my coworkers hit the office. Getting in early gives me a chance to do my work that needs deep concentration. Thankfully, I became a morning writer years ago so I make the arrangement work.
Face to face is for closers
Whether it’s a fix to an IT problem or an answer, feedback, and comments on a document, a remote worker is bound to get ghosted (or at least feel that way). It comes down to a lot of reasons actually. Whether it’s poor project management. Poor time management. Or just plain disorganization, too often it takes longer to solve problems and get questions answered by remote workers. Now when I need to have a question answered or have a problem solved, I can do it face to face. It takes me back to my first technical writing job when my manager chided me in a review because I rarely used the phone to ask programmers and other subject matter experts questions. I just showed up at their cubicle doors. My response to her was “It’s easy to ignore my phone call. It’s easy to not return my email. It’s a heck of a lot harder to dodge me when all 6’2” of me is standing in front of you.
Earbuds are your friend
While I do like my coworkers, I still put earbuds in when I need to work. I’ve renewed my interest in podcasts including Macworld Podcast, TED Talks Daily, This Week in Startups (unless the host strays into politics), and Upgrade are some of my current favorites. I also listen to music to help drown out the background noise that occurs in an open office space. One other thing I’ve had to learn because I sit on the end of a row, is to know the appropriate time to drop my earbuds like when my manager or a key coworker is coming by.
Personal phone calls to the side
One mistake I made was feeling like I had to procrastinate on making phone calls like to make Doctor appointments because there are people around me most of the day. I had to learn to make the calls at the tail end of the morning before a majority of my coworkers roll into the office or to slide off to an empty conference room to make the call.