We’re seeing a growing paradox between the environments that are “supposed” to help us work more productively and the reality of those environments. In 2018 and 2019 studies, 60% of C-suite executives responded that employees will have higher productivity working from the office while 45% of knowledge workers believe that open offices and the noise levels drive down their productivity. Instead of viewing this as a standstill, let’s look to strategies for pleasing both parties, employees and leadership, that utilizes the available resources.

Create huddle rooms

If noise is a complaint in the open office, create smaller huddle rooms that are conducive to deep concentration and collaborative tasks. Furthermore, as remote workers and global colleagues become a bigger part of daily work, these huddle rooms will be even more important for communicating effectively across the company. In fact, research predicts a 35% rise in huddle rooms annually until 2023, due in large part to the rise of cloud video collaboration services such as Zoom and 180-degree video technology that enables full team participation and engagement.

Offer fluid privacy

Employees that are being disrupted by colleague interruptions and office noise should be offered personal privacy and concentration tools. These can include protective barriers, frosted glass around desks, indoor plants or noise-canceling headsets to block out office conversations. Often, these aren’t expensive solutions and can make a sizeable impact on employee productivity and overall happiness in the workspace. Talk to your employees about what would work for them and don’t be afraid to hear their feedback on the workspace.

Establish office policies

If you’re willing to let employees work from home one day a week when they need to focus on challenging projects, then that should become a formal office policy. You might have newer employees that don’t realize they have that option available and could become resentful to the company culture. Similarly, dictate standard policies on flexible hours and taking personal time during the workday. It is never beneficial to have cloudiness around these topics and you and your employees will all appreciate clearly defined expectations.

Lead by example

Do not constantly walk over to employees’ desks and interrupt them for a matter you’re working on if you know this is a source of frustration. Instead, be considerate of colleagues’ time and suggest meeting in a huddle room or another office space. Similarly, if you prefer office communication is done over an instant communication tool rather than email, make sure that’s how you are communicating. If remote work isn’t allowed, enforce company leadership to be present in the office every day. These are obvious recommendations that all too often are forgotten. As a leader you’re looked upon to set an example for productive work. Follow your own advice and create clear examples for the rest of the office.

A reoccurring theme in these tips are maintaining an open dialogue with employees. As a business leader, you’re faced with many problems that need your attention and can be inclined to leave office matters to others. However, when you consider that office policy impacts employee productivity, happiness and retention, you realize that this is a matter that needs the highest attention. It should not be overlooked when there are concrete solutions that can make a world of difference to your employees and the company’s bottom line.