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I don't find my workplace to be a suitable place to being productive. Of course this is my opinion, other fellows doesn't seem to complain about this.

We're about seven people in the same office, so the number of channels of communication sometimes starts making a lot of noise. Some use earphones to listen to music to create their micro-workplace, but at least for me music is distracting. I feel tense, watching the clock and seeing how the hours pass without doing any productive work.

It seems I cannot focus on my work. I got some work home and all things become very smooth, I feel relaxed and can focus.'

Looking backwards in university I felt the same. Doing work in there seems to get me stucked always, and it's not that I need MY room with MY things... it's just feeling being alone with my work, like "without pressure".

I'm starting to think that maybe this is a deeper problem, but I don't know where to start. Any hints?

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Are you asking for where to start as regards how to talk to your manager or HR about changes in the workplace, or are you asking about where to start to change something personally? There's a Personal Productivity SE where this might be better suited, depending on how you clarify your question. –  jcmeloni Dec 28 '12 at 19:33
    
Buy yourself a pair of earmuffs (think the over-ear protection you wear when shooting guns, not music headphones) and a pair of earplugs to wear underneath them. This can be REALLY effective at blocking or at least minimizing most background noise. –  enderland Dec 28 '12 at 19:35
    
@jcmeloni I don't think this is suited to productivity.SE - this strikes me as more of a, "how do I deal with my personal productivity characteristics in the workplace?" –  enderland Dec 28 '12 at 19:37
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@enderland That's why I asked for clarification...and if it's that generalized, that would be fine. At some point it treads pretty closed to OT or too localized, and that's obviously something that hopefully can be avoided by the OP clarifying the question. :) –  jcmeloni Dec 28 '12 at 19:43
    
This sounds like the symptoms of Adult ADD. You might want to be checked by a doctor for that. –  Chad Dec 28 '12 at 19:49
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3 Answers

You're simple the type of person which is easily distracted by noise. Most people can easily adapt to noisy environment, such as open space, ignoring the noise around and concentrating on work. Some of them are even so good at silencing the environment in mind that they don't react to their name and must be tapped to raise attention.

Some others find noise in office too distracting, but they are able to silent it by listening music. They are not distracted by the music itself, and the loud music makes them not hear the environment.

You're probably in the third category, the people who are feel really poor in office, because they are distracted by both office noise and music... You'll be best working in separate room or at home.

There IS a problem involving you and your environment, because you are working in environment that does not enable you to use your full productivity. But it's not problem with YOU. We are different, and it's nothing wrong with those differences. Other people have other needs, unfortunately the society does not recognize yet all of them, so you must deal with the situation yourself. You should talk to your boss, maybe you could be moved to the office with the people working in silence (no phones etc)? Maybe you should consider changing your work, for example becoming freelancer.

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+1 for freelancing and changing jobs. Any code shop these days that respects its developers will be willing to make these accommodations in the name of productivity, if not - you likely don't want to be working there anyway because chances are there's a ton of other outdated processes and management issues. –  Gallen Dec 28 '12 at 19:36
    
+1 for "becoming freelancer". I'm a freelancer for nearly 3 years. The freedom of choice makes it tough and wonderful at the same time. If you're a skilled person you should really consider freelancing, as there's a lot of work and respect out there. Plus you get to work from wherever you choose (and can afford) to. –  zeFree Dec 30 '12 at 13:33
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Studies I read suggest the exact opposite: most people have a hard time with noisy workplaces. In Peopleware, it is a big issue for productivity. –  pboy Dec 31 '12 at 3:49
    
I've written from my experience, must people can find it hard, but they finally adapt somehow –  Łukasz 웃 L ツ Dec 31 '12 at 12:22
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We played around with different configurations with an open plan office environment, and found that making sure it was treated as an office, not a "common room" helped with some aspects of this.

An agreed "code of conduct" created an environment that was more like a library study room. But - like you have suggested, this didn't work for everyone.

While we addressed every concern that one person raised, they could never be productive in the shared office.

We gradually realised that the issues went deeper than something that they could easily vocalise. They had a psychological "need" as part of their personality make-up to be in their own space, alone to work effectively. This wasn't just a preference, or driven by status, but a real need.

Initially we opened up working from home - with some basic rules around having Skype on to promote interaction and so forth, and attending any meetings in "virtual" or person.

With space tight in our building, we had to fight to get them their own office, but it worked. They were happier, and productivity went up. They still worked from home about 2 days a week, however.

I'd suggest that you should:

raise this with your manager as an issue to see what they suggest. Bare in mind that in our case, no amount of changes to the shared work environment solved the issue for one individual

consider if this is a barrier to your career. If you enjoy other aspects of being around people in the workplace then isolating yourself may not be the answer. Similarly, it will close off certain career paths and options.

decide if you want to change the ways in which you can be productive. If this is an issue that goes deeper than personal preference, then identifying it is the first step to making changes. You might need external support to overcome this, however.

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Different people work better in different environments, and there's never really a "perfect". But it's not unreasonable to find that you are a person who works best with minimal distractions. Particularly if you have a high-thinking, low-interaction job - you'd fit the mold of a pretty large group of people who feel the same.

It's important in any job to feel like you feel the office culture - different types of jobs, different companies and different people will all feel different about this one. Some teams do best with everyone together - and some types of work are facilitated by it. Some types of work absolutely require it. Others are more mutable and can offer a range of options. In all cases, it's important to know the limits - and to know what bounds can be pushed and what won't work with the office environment you are a part of.

It's become fairly common when interviewing to know one's preferences and to make sure you pick an office environment that will suit you, as it's usually easier to change jobs than change office environments (but not always... work at home is definitely a rising trend these days).

The options I see are:

  • find ways to compensate - music isn't the only option, white noise headphones exist to block noise without adding distraction, and you can chat with your team about finding ways to position yourself that reduce visual distractions.
  • change the norm - in every office with work at home options, someone went first and argued for change. It could be you, but understand that you'll have the fun of being a trailblazer - folks that are successful with this are typically good negotiators and they take on the burden of being the more-communicative person so they aren't left out at first, at least until coworkers figure out how to interact with them.
  • change the job - there's other jobs and other teams with different ideas of "typical" - I can almost guarantee it. If you don't think either other option will work, think about whether you need a different job.

Another thing to consider is what balance you'd want. I find that most folks do well with a few days a week of working at home, but most need time in the office, too, to answer questions, talk face to face or use equipment that can't readily be used at home. Something to consider as you ponder how much solitary time you need.

Lastly, realize that there's two factors to office work - your needs in terms of being around others, and the need of others to be around you - particularly your manager, but also any coworkers. Being available and being seen can be as important - in some offices and cultures. Until your office bridges the gap that workers at home are really available vs. the desire not to interrupt someone at home - it can be a rocky transition.

I'd say it's not a personal failing, but a new insight that you want to consider as you continue with your career and thinking about the jobs that will make you happiest and most productive.

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