I work in a room shared with other 2 coworkers. It's approximately 10 x 5 meters. We have 4 desks.

A o[]x - B o[]o Me

I'll update with a paint picture later

The phone is located on Adam's desk. X is a shared desk. Sometimes I need to use it, sometimes Belle, and sometimes a worker from another branch come and use this desk (computer).


There's a lot of calls interrupting our work. A lot is just a 5 seconds call.

Is Adam/Belle/Me/Cindy/Daisy/Ed/Fred/... there?

Someone is looking for Adam/Belle/Me. Please go to X.

Note: Sometimes we have Cindy/Daisy/Ed/Fred come to our office to discuss work, so it is reasonable to call our room to check whether they've come here.

The problem is, when the phone is ringing, we can't know for whom the call is. Because the phone is on Adam's desk, normally it's his "job" to take the phone and inform us who the call is addressed to, but lately he's been keeping the phone ringing for at least three rings before picking it up. This sends a message to us that he's tired of doing that.

What Belle and me doing right now is picking up the phone if Adam didn't seem want to pick it up, of course with an internal sigh, because it means we have to interrupt our job, walk ourselves to the phone, sometimes just to give Adam the phone call.

The placement of the phone and assignment of the desks is not in particular order. The phone is placed there because it's the closest to the output wall (I don't know what it's called). We picked the desks when we moved to the room, and is now "unchangeable" (each of us has to move a lot of things if we change desk).

How to handle this situation? My goal is to keep our productivity high despite the interruptions.

I'm not sure what are my options. Right now, I can only think about these:

  1. Thanking Adam for what he's done so far, and ask him to keep picking up phones.
  2. Asking for individual phones. This has been denied before, because of budget issue. I'm not using phone a lot, anyway. Most of calls are addressed to Adam and Belle.
  3. Moving the phone to the shared desk. This creates more problem (at least to Belle and me) because now we (including Adam) need to walk to pick the phone. This seems the most fair, but I think this is not efficient.

Is there any other option?

Note: I've tried asking Adam before (in a casual manner), but he dismissed it with "Oh, I didn't hear it", as in "I was too concentrated in my task". This is not true because he was talking with us 1 minute before.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – enderland Nov 3 '17 at 22:08
  • "I'll update with a paint picture later" how much later are we talking, here? – Alex M Apr 19 at 16:45

Alice, you shouldn't have to answer the phone every single time - lets all take it in turns and help you out.

Since the phone is essentially shared between the three of you, why not take it in turns? Someone answers the phone for a week and then passes to someone else.

That way, Alice won't feel burdened with answering the phone every single time.

If you move the phone to a shared desk, you can also move it to your/Bob/Alice's desk once a week or so.


I'd ask Alice if it's an issue that needs addressing before anything else. Then make the decision between the three of you. Probably a couple of minutes straight discussion would solve it.

My own resolution would be to get a longer phone cord and just have the phone on the desk of the last person who used it. If I then field a call for Alice or Bob, I'd pass the whole phone to them and wouldn't get it back until someone rang for me.

  • 1
    Leaving the phone with the last person to use it actually deals really well with the potential problem of an uneven distribution of calls feeling unfair (if I only get a small fraction of the calls, I certainly wouldn't want to be answering the phone a third of the time). However, there may be some issues with the cord. – Dukeling Nov 3 '17 at 11:49
  • 2
    @Dukeling cord issues seem minor to me, I can't think of any other way there would be fair distribution and efficiency. – Kilisi Nov 3 '17 at 12:32

First of all, some technical solutions come to mind. For example, seems a lot of this calls could also be handled by e-mail or instant messaging. Also, individual phones/ soft phones on your computers or a mobile phone device could help. Depending on what you do, maybe a Ticketing system? Or maybe just a cultural change, like requesting appointments and keeping to them instead of ad-hoc calls.

As you said it has been denied before because of budget restrictions - this would make me very nervous. in almost all cases, your lost time would be worth more than the cost of the additional phones. So there seems to be an awareness problem with management.

What I would propose is to record the number of incidents and the estimated time it took off your work for a period of some weeks. If you feel you need 15 minutes to get your mind back on the task at hand, after each call, then include that time.

Then you can go to management again and ask them who shall be responsible for this task. If you tree a a favored solution, suggest that and make sure the cost/benefit is visible and favorable against the current situation.


I'm guessing the phone is a cabled business phone. Why not change that up for a cordless phone, and then set up a rota?

Alice has it on her desk one day, Bob the next, and you have it on day 3. Set up a rota to swap it every day, or before/after lunch or whatever. Plus if the phone rings and you've got it but it's for Alice, she can just come and grab the phone and drop it back on your desk once she's done with the call. Then, you all share custody of the phone and everyone is happy.

  • I'll see if I can convince the management to buy a cordless phone. Heck, I'll even propose to change all phones to cordless for shared rooms. Thanks for the suggestion. – Vylix Nov 3 '17 at 12:08

Life is short, don't waste it looking for complex solutions to simple problems.

Get the phone moved to the centre. Rearrange the desks around it so that all the 4 people can reach it with minimal (and nearly equal) effort.

| Alice  |         |  Bob   |
+--------+  +---+  +--------+
            | P |  
+--------+  +---+  +--------+  
| Cindy  |         | Daisy  |
  • OP didn't particularly like option #3 here. – Snow Nov 3 '17 at 10:18
  • @Snow It doesn't matter whether he "likes" it or not, it is the most reasonable solution. I also suggested to rearrange the furniture around the phone. That should be done in such a way as to reduce the reasons for the dislike, or in other words, rearrange the tables so that all 4 can reach the phone without walking. – Masked Man Nov 3 '17 at 10:23
  • "Rearrange furniture" is major overkill for this trivial issue. – Mister Positive Nov 3 '17 at 11:39
  • @Snow And there you have it sir. Removed my down vote due to the plan being shown. – Mister Positive Nov 3 '17 at 17:47

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