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Idea Lab: Minimize Office Chatter

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5 Ways to Minimize Office Chatter with an Open Office

Open-plan workspaces famously abound in Silicon Valley, and according to some estimates, the rest of the United States is following suite, with up to 70 percent of American offices embracing the open office. Open office floor plans are believed to increase teamwork and collaboration by reducing the number of walls and other barriers to communication.

However, they also carry with them the potential for distraction and excessive socialization among employees, and without appropriate accommodations, may be stressful for employees with different personalities. With the right guidelines, a balance between privacy and openness can help achieve a maximally productive space.

1. Offer Seating Variety

One reason coffee shops are so astoundingly successful in attracting a diverse mixture of people is that they offer comfortable, flexible seating and working options. Customers are free to work at a large table with others, to partake in group discussions, or they may chose to sit in at a table in the corner to distance themselves from too much chatter. Depending on the workday’s demands, workspace and seating needs may vary from day to day for the same employee. Additionally, allowing employees to work off laptops to encourage this type of mobility is essential.

2. Private Nooks

Even the most extraverted of employees, at some point, will need a quiet space to get away to in order to spend alone-time with a project or idea. Part of the creative process involves quiet brainstorming time, separated from other voices and outside influences. Also, more introverted employees may feel stressed or pressured in a louder or more populated environment, and their productivity may suffer if forced to work in a higher-volume space. Providing areas where employees can work undisturbed can help improve productivity for all workers.

3. Don’t Lose the Breakroom

The nosiest area of an office is often the breakroom, where employees gather for food, conversation, and coffee. Be sure this area is isolated enough from the rest of the office to avoid frustrating or distracting the employees who are not taking a break. Too much openness can backfire and actually have the opposite effect of the intended productivity increase. Avoid that by assigning a walled-off room for eating and socializing.

4. Encourage Awareness

An open-office floor plan is excellent for collaboration, impromptu meetings, and teamwork. It can also unwittingly foster office gossip and excessive talking, to the detriment of the to-do list. When there are fewer walls to act as sound and visual barriers, it’s helpful to foster awareness in employees. Encouraging them to be aware that a loud conversation may carry audibly to other part of the office, can help minimize possible frustration or annoyance from their coworkers.

5. Movable Furniture

One of the perks of having a more open workspace is that it can be tailored to changing employee needs. Including movable furniture pieces, seating, and accessories can help employees make the office space work for them, instead of having to conform to their environment. This can allow the open feel of the office to remain, while still allowing employees to partition an area off for a quick meeting, or to create an isolated space for intensely focused work.


An open office should balance the best of both worlds: opportunity for on-the-fly collaboration, and sufficient privacy for concentration. To ensure that your open floor plan workspace is having its intended effect, be mindful of different employee’s personalities and needs, and allow flexibility and personalization.



Contact OS Business Interiors to see how you can plan your existing space to minimize chatter in your organization at 888.909.6724 or at