The open-plan office: from smart solution to criticized work environment

Success of the open-plan office, found in the brain

The open-plan office, recently a much criticized working environment. Besides that productivity would suffer from the hustle and bustle, mental health would also be severely tested. Through all the stimuli and information that is continuously hurled through the open-plan office. The brain becomes overloaded with for example burn-outs as a result. Do we need to abolish the open-office plan right away, or are there other ways that the open-office plan can still lead to success? Although the global web is already quite saturated with criticism of the open-plan office, I would also like to interfere in the discussion with perhaps a slightly different approach. The answer to success in the open-plan office lies deeply hidden in the brain.

Your brain at work
That more and more employees are struggling with mental health problems has a large part to do with the shift in working requirements. By this I do not mean requirements such as education, experience and the ability to put together a PowerPoint presentation, but the demands your work requirements puts on your body and especially the brain. Nowadays, we are mainly working with our brains. Planning, linking parts of information, producing and processing make up a large part of our daily work and require a lot of our brains. At the same time, the brain is continuously tested with all sorts of distractions that are lurking to break your focus of attention.

Prevention is better than cure
Take, for example, our phones that give an average of 15 messages per hour and with each notification they take a little bit of energy from the brain. The open-plan office requires certain qualities of the brain in its own way. The shift in what we desire from our brains in the open-plan office is therefore enough to take a closer look at our brain qualities and create awareness of what the open-plan office does with our brains. Just like with a too high blood pressure or a too high a glucose level, we often only take action when we have written in black and white that something is not right. In the context of prevention is better than cure, a glimpse into the brain may prevent a lot of headaches.

The unique “Open-plan office Brain”
Every brain is unique. Some people are perfectly at their place in the open-plan office whereas others can’t handle the fuss. But where do these people differ exactly? The answer to this is in the middle of the pain point. Not everyone has the brain qualities to be able to thrive in the open-plan office. We have set out a list of the most important brain qualities for the people who excel in the open-plan office.

  • Above all is attention. Focusing and distributing your attention is essential in the open-plan office. It often happens that you are distracted by one of your fellow colleagues. Keeping the attention focused and effectively distribute attention on what is important for the work activities, allows the open-plan office person to be able to continuous perform.
  • Secondly there is mental flexibility. Here quality of work remains stable¬†despite frequent switching between different activities, conversations and other forms of information.
  • And in third place comes being unperturbed. The person that works in an open-plan office who has the brain quality of being unperturbed will perhaps not always be appreciated on the work floor. Ignoring is in fact characteristic of him or her. In fact, a characteristic of the brain! Shutting down for external factors is a piece of cake. Whatever happens in the open-plan office, work is work.

Is there really no chance of success for the employees who do not have these brain qualities? Do not worry, there are several roads leading to Rome.

No open-plan office person, but still successful in the open-plan office?
You often hear that there is only one solution, namely to get rid of the open-plan office. Yet, this is simply impossible for a lot of companies. The available space and finances do not allow it to create an individual workplace for everyone. In my opinion it is possible for everyone to achieve success in the open-plan office. Even if you don’t have the ideal brain for it. If you know which people are less well-off in the open-plan office, and more importantly, why their brains do not come to their full potential, and you know how to make this clear, you may of course find all sorts of ways (detours) to come to success. Below I have already listed some detours for the non open-plan office persons:

  • Attention. Find a place in the office where you have as few stimuli around you as possible. So, make sure you don’t sit next to that oh so sociable colleague or on the route to the coffeemaker and the toilets. Find a place on the wall side and create an oasis of peace on your own desk.
  • Mental Flexibility. Make clear agreements with your colleagues that you can only do one thing at a time. Do not let people disturb you when you are working on something if it has no priority. Finish off the tasks you’re working on, before you start something new.
  • Being unperturbed. If being unperturbed is not one of your strongest qualities, I advise you to not put your energy into mental shutdown. Just physically disconnect from your environment . Put your headphones on, put your phone out of range and put a sign with ‘Do not disturb’ on your desk when an extreme focus is of great importance. Your employer may even be willing to provide for closed spaces when you really need it.

Match Brain and Job: User manual for the brain
In addition, as an employer you can, of course, also look for the talents that excel in the open-plan office based on their brain qualities when selecting new employees. In addition, it is not only for the open-plan office that a specific set of brain qualities are essential to achieve success. Every job sets a different package of requirements for its employees and therefore the brain. So start today by discovering the essential brain qualities of your vacancies and ensure that the best matching talents are in the right place. Both employer and employee benefit from this.

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