Open Office? Offline!

Don’t you just love the open plan office layouts these day?
Not so sure? Hmm, it is a little distracting when we’re trying to focus and get work done…
‘I know your probably busy but… can you check this <really distracting thing> out???’
Sometimes, you need to say no. Or sometimes you need a face to say no for you…
Enter the ‘F Off…line’ status indicator.

If you work in an open plan office, the people around you really need to know if disruption is OK or not.

Open plan offices are ideal for collaboration with your peers and brings a communal vibe to the workplace. Having a large room with good ergonomic and aesthetic design can bring much needed positive atmosphere into a day in the office. However, there needs to be good etiquette around noise and disruptions.

In many companies, we have used Slack (or other similar instant messaging apps for business) as a way to communicate to each other. It’s quite easy there to set your status to ‘busy’, ‘do not disturb’ or ‘out of the office’. In the real world, it takes a little more effort. With a small and simple DIY gadget, that can be achieved.

I have worked in a lot of start up and small businesses where considering and documenting the etiquette of the open plan workspace was the last thing on anyone’s mind! In place of this, I have found my own personal way to define the right time to collaborate and the right time to leave me to my work.

This design consists of 2 plastic/paper cups, some coloured paper, tippex and electrical/gaff tape. I used a scissors to cut up the paper and window in the cup.

The idea is that if you are open/working/busy/distractable etc, you grab the top cup up, twist it to the appropriate emoji/colour and then place the indicator somewhere visible to potential distractions (aka colleagues!). Steps:

  • Measure the cup and cut out 4 equally sized coloured sheets to wrap around the outside of the bottom cup.
  • Draw a picture or print out emojis to stick on the coloured sheets.
    • You should absolutely customise the kind of status you wish to communicate and how you communicate this according to your workplace and attitude of colleagues!
  • Cut out a window in the top cup large enough to show one quarter of the bottom cup.
  • Glue or tape down the coloured sheets to the bottom cup.
    • In order to make the cup twist easily, you can overlap the paper in the same direction so that twisting the top cup doesn’t catch ( .._=\___=\___=\___=\_ pattern).
  • Let the glue dry (if used).
  • Place the top cup on top of the bottom cup and check out the fit for each colour.
  • Send your close colleagues a message explaining the idea and get their feedback. If they don’t like it, all the more reason to keep it. If they hate it, maybe don’t use it. If they love it, share this blog post please!
    • You won’t need to explain the idea to the entire office. It will be enough to just point and explain when people come up to you while you’re busy. After a while, they will start to notice and understand.
    • Unless management decide that everyone is getting one, it’s not likely that you will get your colleagues to adopt this idea at once. It would be better to let it happen organically or organise a hackathon to do it together.
  • Send me a picture on twitter or instagram @madebycliff ! Seeing your creations will make my day 🙂

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