Find Focus: Support solitude in an open office environment

It’s becoming harder and harder to focus at work. We’re doing new things to help.

Distractions from email notifications, buzzing smartphones, and pop-up alerts—just to name a few—constantly bombard office workers. They interrupt tasks and leave people paralyzed by the amount of information demanding their attention.

In response, people often get to the office early, or stay late, or set out on a vigilant hunt for a quiet corner. They want to tackle specific work—the kind that requires focus and concentration—and they want their environment to support them.

Workspaces designed for focus work traditionally stress managing external visual and auditory distractions, which is not aligned with the current trend of open shared spaces for collaboration.


So, what can employers do to help?

Support both collaboration and focus with a holistic workspace design approach.

  • Offer employees a variety of workspace options, choice over where, how, and when to best work, and control over workspace features and furnishings.
  • Make the workplace legible and clutter-free so employees won’t waste effort navigating the workplace. Lastly, include “recharge” spaces; focus work takes intense effort, and it requires breaks.
  • Protect people from both visual and audio distractions helping them to focus and enhance their ability to perform better.
  • Utilize flexible product solutions to maximize space and support rapidly changing organizational needs.

Distractions will exist, but our work environments must support focus work instead of creating more barriers to achieving flow. People’s needs will vary throughout the day – starting with answering emails, making some phone calls, preparing for a meeting, brainstorming with others, and writing a proposal. Effective spaces support both collaboration and focus work.

Perhaps because sound is not visible, we tend to underestimate its importance…We dismiss acoustic distraction at the expense of worker effectiveness.

Public Buildings Service