10 issues which often come to the fore when working in open plan offices - [website] Email Print
Published: 6th of Nov 2018 by: Carolyn Kessler

A common theme which crops up when I’m facilitating a Conflict Resolution workshop, is how challenging it can be to share office space.

Irrespective of the company or what business they’re engaged in, there’s generally some kind of disagreement amongst those who are sharing office space with each other. And it makes perfect sense. Think of the conflict which arises as home, between family members who purportedly love each other!

I have heard of situations where employees who sit across from one another, in line of sight, haven’t spoken for months because of some perceived slight. How exhausting it must be to maintian this level of hostility.

I’ve put together a list 10 issues which raise their heads over and over again – and am pretty sure you can add some of your own:

1. The airconditioning.
This is a biggie! You want it cooler and the other person wants it on warm. The only way round this is to choose a temperature which is fair to both – you may need a disinterested third party in to decide what’s reasonable. Or check if you can shift desks so the one who’s freezing isn’t sitting right under the vent.

2. Eating boiled eggs or fish or curry at your desk.
They might be delicious, but their aroma’s are pungent. Rather eat them in the kitchen/tea area where only you are going to be exposed!

3. Having loud telephone conversations.
You may need to speak up when on the phone in order for the other person to hear you, but understand how frustrating it is for your colleague in the next cubicle. If you have a portable phone, try moving to an area where you won’t be bugging someone else.

4. Personal calls – much like the advice in point 3.
If it’s a private call you really can’t be inflicting this on those around you – move somewhere out of earshot. I worked with a company that mandated that private calls on cell phones must be taken outside, just as smokers have to leave their desks. Interestingly, they noted that the amount of time spent on personal calls dropped dramatically because it doesn’t look too good if you’re constantly standing outside yakking!

5. Loud conversations between colleagues must take place away from your desks.
If you can’t move away, tone it down please.
6. Swearing and slamming items around on your desk because it’s that kind of day!
Nooooo……you’re infecting everyone around you with your bad mood – so not OK!

7. Complaining about a client loudly.
Small problem – your colleague may be on a client call and everything you say is going right down the phone line to their client!

8. Wanting a desk at the window or in the corner.
Understand that desks are usually arranged according to seniority. And this makes sense. If you’re the new kid on the block, accept this and stop fuming!

9. Having a dispute with your colleague.
This MUST take place somewhere private – it’s absolutely unacceptable to subject the rest of the office to this negativity.

10. Ask yourself if your mom/dad/granny would consider your behaviour to be acceptable.
Chances are, they’d be extremely unhappy with anything that smacks of bad manners. Courtesy, consideration and flexibility are the oil which allows open plan offices to work – use each of these qualities liberally.

Staff Trainingruns a number of courses which include a module on how to survive the open plan office. We also run a number of conflict resolution workshops which are thorough, relevant and real. Don’t allow issues to fester in your organisation – ever! The resultant drop in productivity and low morale are directly proportional to the amount of time you stick your head in the sand and avoid tackling thorny issues!

For more info on our courses email us at info@StaffTraining.co.za for more info or give us a call at 0861 996 660



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