A shared office space is not for everyone. Unfortunately, many of us do not have a choice as to where the boss assigns us to sit. You may find yourself in a big comfy office shared by two co-workers or in office cubicles set up in a bull pen style that is open with out partitions.
At times it can be hard to hear yourself think let alone get your work done. Just when you are getting to the most important part of an article or report, you hear a co-worker on the phone going over the escapades of last night’s date. Having multiple people on the phone at the same time can be complete chaos and confusion.
There are a few things you can do to make shared office life a little better. First, it is important to be considerate of your colleagues with your own actions. It is advised that you keep your voice down, personal calls to a minimum and don’t gossip about colleages.
It won’t hurt to have a frank discussion about what you need your co-workers to change. For example, try negotiating schedules with your colleagues. Consider your daily needs and what part of the day you are most productive. If it is in the morning, try suggesting that you have silence between 10 a.m. and noon. Coordinate your lunch breaks so that you are each out of the office at different times. Let your colleagues know that it bothers you to hear personal phone calls all day long, gossip about others in the office, constant complaining, or the smell of popcorn in the afternoon.
Talk to your office mates about visits from colleagues. It will probably make sense to agree that meetings within the shared space should not be longer than 5 minutes. If a chat needs to be longer, take it outside to a different area such as a conference room or break room.
If possible, reserve chunks of time for yourself in a small conference room or library. This will allow you to concentrate uninterrupted on some of those important tasks as needed.
If you sit in an open office without partitions, consider re-arranging the furniture. Position your desk and chair so that you sit away from colleagues. Visual distractions can be as bad as voices.
To tune out other voices, earplugs can work wonders, as can a good set of noise canceling headphones plugged into a iPod loaded with good tunes. You could also consider stashing a white noise machine under your desk or let the lull of gentle waves from a nature soundtrack drown out your co-workers.
Yoga can be another effective coping practice. It teaches you to accept your surroundings, noise and all, while concentrating on your inner work.
When all else fails, a sense of humor can do wonders. Just think of the things you could put in a book about your experiences! You can always get a good chuckle out of your friends when you recount your colleague’s behavior!