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I have a coworker at a job which I just started, in an open concept office, who runs Slack and maybe once every three minutes I'm treated to the ping pong sound of notifications. I'm somewhat afraid to confront them this early on about it, but it's really disturbing my workflow. I have noise canceling headphones but they aren't great ones, and the sound can overcome them. Is it professional to ask a coworker to turn off the chat notification sound?

  • Have you spoken with your other coworkers about this? What do they think of it? – sf02 Mar 29 at 14:45
  • Is the sound coming from phone or laptop? If phone maybe you can ask them to keep it on vibrate mode. – Prison Mike Mar 29 at 15:27
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    open office is one of the worst ideas ever conceived by cheap employers so yeah if he's not your boss go ahead and assertively tell him that the sound is too loud for an open area – user86742 Mar 29 at 15:52
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Especially in open plan offices, it's a common courtesy to turn off your sound, or use headphones if you do need/want sound. (edit: AFAIK this is not culture specific, but I may be wrong)

This means that it's not inappropriate to courteously ask if your colleague can turn off their sound. Explain that the sound is distracting to you.

If they have a valid reason not mute their computer, or they strongly prefer not to, then you can work towards a compromise. Maybe they can turn down the volume to a level where it no longer disturbs you. Maybe they start using headphones if they prefer.

If they refuse your request and are unwilling to compromise, that becomes an issue for your floor manager/team lead to deal with. Approach them and explain that the constant sounds are distracting and/or invasive.

  • Its culture specific. You wouldn't listen to music, but in many offices it isn't uncommon to hear slack notifications going off. If its happening once an hour, deal with it. If its happening constantly that's more of an issue. – Gabe Sechan Mar 30 at 9:02
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    It's a courtesy, yes. A common courtesy? Oh, if only we lived in a world where that were true. – user1602 Mar 30 at 11:47
  • @Kyralessa: The commonness might be cultural because I don't really often see anyone doing otherwise :) – Flater Mar 30 at 13:00
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I dont think there is anything wrong with asking them about it nicely... I wouldn't "confront them about it" but instead bring it up casually and with curiosity.. while it is kind of obnoxious to have noises like that in an open plan, there may be a reason for it...

Our team just recently moved into an open plan and, while the team has laptops with no audio, our manager specifically has speakers on his desk to hear the notifications he gets. Apparently his boss expects him to drop everything and respond to Slack messages within a minute or hes in trouble..

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I'm somewhat afraid to confront them this early on about it,

There's nothing to be afraid of here. After all, these interruptions are the biggest reason behind loss of productivity, therefore, loss of money.

Is it professional [...]

Yes, very much.

Maybe they themselves is fine with the sound (though I feel it is equally annoying to everyone, including the receiver), but once he gets to know it's bothering someone else, they should be turning if off (to down to a level that does not bother others).

what should I do?

Just talk to him, ask him:

"Hey listen, would you mind turning that volume down for the notifications? It's really distracting. Thank you."

It should solve the problem.

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I have noise canceling headphones but they aren't great ones, and the sound can overcome them. With that in mind, what should I do?

Look around. Learn what others do in response to the pinging of chat notifications.

If tolerating this sound is just a part of the work culture at your shop, then it's time for you to get better headphones.

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You need to ask him (don't treat this as confrontations) if he can just turn the notification off. Maybe people around him are sitting far away to not hear it?

The later you do that the worse it will get because it will get assumed it didn't bothered you earlier.

Such sound cues are usually discouraged in open space offices (just like microwaving fish or not). And yes they are, not just for the people around you but for the user. Such thing if throwing anyone off their focus.

You need to wage in two things. By turning the ping off he just loose one notify. By keeping it up he is disturbing other people. The gain is much more higher than loss.

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