Feature Story, Member Connections Newsletter

NAPW Feature Story: Work It! Coexisting in an Open-Office Space



You know the feeling – there’s noise all over, you can’t think straight, the boss wants that report now. As the walls came crumbling down in offices nationwide, it’s been harder and harder for employees to get the job done. Or has it?

Originally designed to create a unique way for professional women and men to be more collaborative, the open-plan office is being questioned for its effectiveness. A study by Gensler, a global design/architecture firm that surveyed more than 2,000 workers in America as part of its 2013 U.S. Workplace Survey, has been widely cited recently because of its findings that collaboration-friendly office spaces may actually hinder an employee’s ability to focus. On the upside, Diane Hoskins, one of Gensler’s co-chief executive officers, pointed out that there are steps employers and employees can take to improve productivity. “What we learned is that focus and collaboration aren’t in conflict; they are complements,” she said. 

So let’s work it together!

Here are a few ways coworkers can coexist in an open-office environment.


Respect your coworkers and their workspace. Common sense goes a long way in fostering peaceful coexistence in a communal space. That means keeping noise level down and being mindful of boundaries. If you must meet with colleagues, move the meeting to a private space.

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Everyone reacts differently to an open-office environment. For some, informal interaction with coworkers by simply calling to them across the desk or strolling to their workspace for a meeting is great. The key is to be aware of your coworkers’ work styles and personalities. Talk to your employer about designating different spaces in the office to accommodate everyone’s needs during a work day.

Define Your Space

Take a tip from Star Jones, National Spokesperson for the National Association of Professional Women. A recent blog article she wrote about achieving work/life balance, points out how NAPW employees make their office space their own, “Whether they have their own office, a cubicle or a shared workspace, our employees surround themselves with photographs of loved ones, flowers from their gardens, vacation mementos that make them smile along with words that inspire them.”

We want to hear from you! Tell us what you do to help stay focused during the work day. Do you work in an open-office space or in a traditional office setting? What about your space do you like or dislike? 

Please leave your comments below and be sure to take our poll. When you’re done, keep the conversation going on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest!


Megan Bozzuto


  1. Nikki Johnson
    October 2, 2013 at 3:54 pm

    Shared office space would drive me insane, I’m pulling my hair out in my cubicle, I long for the day I move into an old-fashion office with a door or better yet my home office!!! Seeking that dream work from home job.

  2. SK Williams
    October 2, 2013 at 4:19 pm

    Two things struck me after reading your article. First – Star Jones is the spokesperson for the NAPW? As a professional woman who works in the corporate world every day, I have some reservations about taking a tip from someone, who while a professional to be sure, has probably never worked in corporate America – that is within a highly structured organization that requires sitting at a desk for eight hours a day with a specific task. I could be wrong here, but Star is a “celebrity” if you will who sits on a panel with other women for a one hour long TV talk show. In my mind, that just doesn’t qualify her as a true spokesperson for the group. Find me a CEO of a company who has built her business from the ground up and become highly successful – now that is a person to whom I would listen.
    Secondly, from the poll at the end of the article, a clear majority of respondents would much prefer a traditional office where one can actually close the door for some privacy. I am one of them. The “open” concept, in my mind, does not complement productivity. Working at my office in a “cube farm” is difficult enough with thin partitions allowing every whisper, cough, sneeze, conversation and even keyboard strokes that can be heard in a constant barrage of “noise.”
    I have seen offices with the open concept and I have actually turned jobs down because they are not only not productive, they are incredibly distracting, allow for NO privacy of any kind, and creates an environment oftentimes of hostility when co-workers do not respect their colleagues work spaces. At least with the ‘cube’ a person does have some modicum of privacy and while we may have to listen to them blowing their noses or coughing, we don’t have to see it as well.

    • NAPW
      October 2, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      Hello SK,

      Thanks for your comment. NAPW does not limit membership to women who work in a corporate setting. It is inclusive of professional women from all types of career backgrounds. We see a business executive as someone who provides goods, trade or services to consumers in a corporate or leadership capacity. Star Jones started out as an Assistant District Attorney and rose to the ranks of Senior Homicide Prosecutor for the Brooklyn District Attorney before she was 30 years old with a 98% conviction rate—and quite impressively, she still holds the record as the most successful prosecutor in New York State to this day. She is also an entrepreneur, best-selling author, television journalist, talk show host, philanthropist and fashion designer. Star’s also run her own production company, Girlfriend Entertainment Productions, Inc., for over 20 years, turning a profit each and every year through consumer branding, television production, public speaking and philanthropic endeavors.

      Now, in addition to juggling everything else in her personal and professional life, Star has come on board as our Chief Development Officer and spends many hours at NAPW behind a desk, in addition to meeting with our corporate partners and local chapters across the country.

      Indeed, Star has reached celebrity status, and it is because of the hard work and effort she has put forth towards her career. We feel Star couldn’t be a better example of a woman who has successfully built her personal brand and professional career from the ground up and that she has the accolades and qualifications to represent our organization.


      • GF Apple
        November 11, 2013 at 6:51 pm

        Thank you for setting the record straight for SK Williams regarding the accomplishments of Star Jones. I now appreciate my association with NAPW even more.

  3. Tiffany Ruiz
    October 2, 2013 at 4:24 pm

    I work in a traditional office space in a high walled cubicle. I like being able to collaborate or discuss issues with co-workers without having to schedule meetings; however, this can be distracting at times when there are other conversations, including personal discussions, going on around you. When I really need to focus, I plug in my headphones and turn on music to create my own space.

  4. Angela Koponen
    October 2, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    I have a great office at my university, beautifully decorated, and with a door. It’s would be ideal for nearly anyone except for the location next to the furnace/air conditioning units in a closet next to me. There is an all day hum of the machines. For some it might just be white noise, for me it’s just annoying. That aside, I’ve always maintained a fantastic home office. Being a night owl, I find that I am most productive at home between 10 pm and 4 am, no matter what office I have at work. I can also accomplish in 30 focused hours what I can’t in 40+ with interruptions from typical office life. I am the perfect telecommuter and see Skype calls as an ideal on-going “face-to-face” tool. I’ll take large, important project home to complete in my ideal time. The results are much better. I’ll balance that with more socializing at the office or more external lunch meetings. working from clear outcomes and deadlines with the freedom to set my own pace and schedule allows me to be far more productive than I could ever be if I had to work to someone else’s idea of what I should be doing all day.

  5. Mary E. Martin
    October 2, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    I have worked in and seen some great cubicle office layouts where the noise is kept to a minimum and everyone knows a lower noise level is much better for a working environment. However, nothing beats being in an office and the ability to close the door to have confidential conversations either with a person in front of you or on the phone, without having to move to go to a conference room.

  6. Karen Candee ASID
    October 2, 2013 at 7:24 pm

    As an interior designer I have frequently worked with corporations who have downsized their employees workspace from private offices to open plan work stations. The key I found (to avoid disgruntled employees) is a “buy in” with the design process. People are more willing to trade off a private office if they get a comfortable chair, a nice quiet corner or a seat near a window. It also helps to have those young employees fresh out of college seated on the aisles. They love the interaction.

  7. Danielle Williams
    October 2, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    I am a Sales Manager for a global provider of flexible workspace solutions. I rent out co-working stations, cubicle and both private offices and team rooms. My experience has been that the desire to work in each type of office varies greatly by the nature if your job. I have a good number of clients that truly love the co-working solution because they get to work in a collaborative environment. These are generally people in creative businesses, or people who don’t spend a ton of time in the office. Many companies secure this option for their mobile workforce to rotate through or because they are a solo practitioner that appreciates the company of others. Clients that deal with proprietary information in the course of the day or those that either associate a private office with their status or productivity tend to lean towards private offices or team rooms for just their group. Either way, shared office options are a trend on the rise in Los Angeles.

  8. AJ Reth
    October 3, 2013 at 1:42 am

    Our company recently built a new building with an open office design. For the first month I had a desk space to myself, as I am situated in such a way that desks could not be placed behind me and there was no one next to me. However, that has changed recently. I am I a position that I am constantly asked for things all day on top of my regular duties. So, I had a hard enough time getting my stuff done during regular business hours, so I would stay after a couple of hours to catch up. Now, with the open office it’s even worse, especially with someone sharing a space with me now. I have zero privacy, so if I am working on something confidential, anyone can walk by and see it, and I certainly can’t do anything personal. The company has provided “phone booths,” but they are only on the first floor in the other building, and I am on the 3rd floor of a different building. So, if I need to make a personal call, I have to take an extra 10 minutes just for travel. The building is beautiful and there are certainly aspects I enjoy, but the most important aspect, being able to do my job, is impossible. Oh, and our management staff has it even worse. Even though they can close their doors, the walls between the offices are thin and all sound travels through, and the front wall is all glass. It is like they are on display at a zoo for everyone to stare at. And they get just as many distractions since they can be seen and people do not respect the shut door. So, no, I do not like the open environment.

  9. F.M.
    October 3, 2013 at 12:24 pm

    I work in construction as a trade coordinator. I sit behind a computer for around 50+ hours a week, in a closed office without a door. This is definitely an improvement from a shared office or a cubicle, both of which I have experience in. However, the current trend in my field is to re-locate all of a project’s team members (architects, engineers, coordinators, etc.) onto the construction site to work in one large room with “workspaces.” I am working on one of these right now, and I have found my productivity has gone down to 50%, and sometimes less. All day long there are distractions…and throwing in the earbuds is counteractive to collaboration.

Reply your comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*