We all remember the episode of The Office where Jim creates a pencil barrier to keep Dwight's clutter off of his desk. This comical depiction of a shared workspace is good for a laugh but as office spaces become more open it brings to light that personal space is shrinking. You are much less likely to have a quiet area in which to work or call a client, and will find a little too much time is spent interacting with your peers that should be dedicated work time.
Brainstorming productivity around office layouts isn't exactly what accountants or CPA candidates normally focus on. We aren't interior designers and productivity around office layout can seem like high hanging fruit to HR. However, there are some simple suggestions you can make for the office at large and changes you can apply personally to combat shared or small workplaces.
1. Do simple things first
Making your bed is a common practice to decrease stress. It gives you an immediate sense of accomplishment first thing in the morning, creates a clean environment allowing you to focus on other aspects of the room, and is more welcoming to come home to at the end of the day. The same is true for your desk or study area. The best practice you can start to do is to decrease unnecessary "noise" around your workplace. Take the first 5 minutes of your workday every Monday to clean out what you no longer need. Clutter is proven to create stress and what is often taking up space is non-vital materials. Walking up to a desk with a stack of papers an inch high vs. a foot high evokes different feelings. One looks overwhelming while the other is manageable. You have the same workload, either way, so do yourself a favor and don't simulate a work overload.
2. Back to back is better than side to side
Inward facing workspaces are often great if most of your work is done as a team. Desks set up squares or triangles with everyone facing each other help in these situations, but if 90% of what you do is solo work it can be a bit distracting. If you find this to be the case, you should consider approaching HR or even just ask your co-workers what they think about switching to an outward facing layout. Instead of seeing your peer doing their work behind your computer screen you'll have a little less distraction but can still turn around to consult with each other when needed.
3. Put in headphones
This is not rude. It's simple like blinders for your ears. You can practice keeping your eyes focused on your work area, but that doesn't mean you don't hear the office gossip going on behind you. Headphones also send a message that you are off limits from being approached for any conversation that is not imperative. Pop and rap music might be distracting to you as well, so try listening to movie scores to improve focus and motivation. We recommend the Gladiator soundtrack or the artist "Explosions in the Sky".
4. Change the lighting
Have you ever noticed the lighting in old libraries? The light is only above where people are reading and working. Brighter workspaces and slightly dimmer lighting around shared areas encourage productivity. Many offices can simulate this by turning on only half the ceiling lights. Then, providing everyone with a lamp they can turn on or off as needed will simulate the library effect and even lower the overhead of the electricity bill. This doesn't need to be an extreme change to be an effective one.