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Feb 13, 2013 by Patrick Icasas in PM Best Practices & News

Guest Post: Remaining Productive in a Fun Office Environment

There are many great things about working in a fun office, most of which relate to, well, having fun. Great ideas, after all, are far more likely to arise in an office full of creative people where jokes and tangents are encouraged rather than in a maze of hushed cubicles. And, hey, that whole work-life balance gets a lot easier when you’re actually happy getting off that elevator every day. But there’s a time and a place for chatting, and there’s a time and a place for putting that nose to the ground and getting things done, and that’s not so easy with so many temptations around. So, for those of you who are lucky enough to work in a fun office environment, here are a few tips for staying productive.

Set a basic framework and ground rules for meetings

When you truly enjoy your company and your office mates, it can be hard to keep meetings on track. Why would you talk about the latest sales goals when you could get an update on your friend’s…ermh…coworker’s weekend skydiving adventure? The real key to having more productive meetings: a little bit of structure.

1. Set an agenda and use a timer. And stick to it. At Google, there’s a giant clock in every meeting, and everyone can see it counting down.
2. Schedule short “burst” meetings in lieu of bigger meetings. Whenever you can, opt for short, fast-paced meetings that feel like an intense sprint, rather than one that nurtures ramblers.
3. Limit the number of invitees. If you only need someone to be there to answer one question, ask them ahead of time and convey their message to the group. This will lower the amount of tangents as well as the amount of time at least one person will waste.
4. Go device-free. Laptops, tablets, phones. Leave them at the door whenever humanly possible. I can’t tell you how much faster meetings go when people are paying full attention.
5. Stick to data. Meetings are not the time to work out how everyone is feeling. As Melissa Mayer recommended during her work at Google, leave the office politics for something a little more behind the scenes, and use meetings concentrate on the data.

Design your space and working habits to fit your needs

Chances are, if you work in a fun office, it’s also open area workspace. While this can be great for collaboration, it’s also rife with distractions. That’s why it’s so important that you take the time upfront to make your own nest, and to work how you’ve determined you work best. A few tips:

1. Analyze your most productive environments. Do you work best in a coffee shop, or sequestered in library stacks? Do whatever you can to recreate whatever is working for you in your most productive environments, whether it’s bringing your own funky mug for coffee or nestling into a pair of headphones to shut the world out.
2. Set limits on how much you’re willing to communicate. Whether you hate email or it’s your very lifeblood, that inbox is always a sultry distraction. This is all the more so if you actually like hearing from the people with whom you work. You’ll get a lot more done if you schedule a regular time to process email in batches, blocking access to email with an app like SelfControl to selectively block websites.
3. Get all of your devices in sync. The more social your environment, the more crucial it is to cut down on the amount of time you spend doing nitty-gritty administrative tasks, like syncing all of your devices. Embracing the cloud is a definite must in today’s workplace, so that when you do sit down to get things done, you’ll spend less time getting everything together and more time making things happen.

Push for ergonomic and customized design

Just because a space is open plan, doesn’t mean there can’t be different spaces designated to satisfy different needs — both psychological and physical.

1. Designate certain spaces for socializing. Whether it’s the break room, a lounge, or an actual water cooler, set aside certain places for gabbing, and encourage employees to take advantage of it. That way, there’ll be social pressure not to be too loud in the designated workplaces.
2. Have private quiet rooms available for booking. This way, when someone really needs to concentrate and they can only do so in complete quiet, they’ll have someplace to go, returning to the more social areas when they’re ready for more exchanges.
3. Adapt to each individual’s needs. A designer, for instance, may need more room for multiple screens, while a sales manager may need a space that’s better equipped for meetings. Don’t cram everyone into the same space just for “equality’s” sake. Workers will do more when they feel they fit in their space.
4. Go ergonomic. Eventually, if everyone sticks to their chairs and that habit of typing for eight hours a day, back problems will be rampant. Choose furniture and desks that promote health and you’ll find concentration and productivity will increase, too. The same goes for interior design, which should promote light, pleasing spaces.
5. Stick with sustainability. Likewise, if you have any say in it, make sure the office is built from and decorated with sustainable, non-toxic materials, which can also take a big toll on health and energy levels. This might sound obvious, but, well, look at what most furniture is made from or treated with, and you’ll see that’s not really the case.

Working in a fun environment is a true privilege, one most people dream of. But you won’t be able to keep working in that fun environment if everyone is having so much fun that a competitor crushes your company. So, put on those noise canceling headphones, and start typing!

Image credit, slworking2, Flickr

patrick-icasas
Patrick Icasas

Patrick Icasas is a former marketing project manager with 7 years of marketing and PR agency experience, managing creative projects for brands such as Nokia, Verizon Wireless, and Adobe. He now spends his time helping people make the most out of their project management software and entertaining his 5 year old daughter.

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