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- What can I do about a very loud coworker? 10 answers
I started a new job 3 months ago. My team (of 6; I'm not a manager) sits on the leftmost side of the office in a block of cubicles. I'm the rightmost in my block and the only one on my team with the cube's open side exposed to a narrow "hallway" between cube blocks.
The next block over is another team of 6, and their manager, who are all extremely loud. We'll call them Team Noise.
Look, I have been in the workforce for nearly 10 years and have always worked in open office environments and "cube farms". I don't even notice regular office noise like typing sounds, paper sounds, clicking sounds, coffee maker, air conditioner/heating duct noise, construction outside, even conversations near me are fine. I am not especially sensitive to noise. I can easily tune out conversations held at a normal conversational volume.
But this is different. While my own team only makes the regular amount of office noise I just described, I don't even know how to fully describe the volume coming from Team Noise.
So let me just say that...they shout and laugh for 4-5 hours a day at such a volume that I can hear it through my headphones - with my Bluetooth headphone volume turned all the way up and my phone's volume turned all the way up and metal (music) playing. Metal because it's the only thing that even remotely drowns out the noise. (I like other genres too, as well as podcasts and audiobooks. But most types of music aren't loud enough to drown out Team Noise. And Team Noise is so loud that I can't hear podcasts or audiobooks over them.)
I also get headaches after listening to music at this volume and I know it will contribute to hearing loss in the long term.
I only started listening to music at work to drown them out. At my previous jobs, I either didn't listen to music while working or I only put one ear in, to add some background noise in an otherwise normally quiet office.
But in this office, I basically can't work for 4-5 hours a day. Like I said earlier, I can easily tune out conversations held at a normal conversational volume. These conversations are so very loud, especially when combined with raucous laughter, that I can't tune them out - especially when they all start laughing in a sudden burst, it makes me jump every time, and this happens several times a day outside of the 4-5 hours too. I will add that these conversations are NOT work related at all, but even if they were, the volume is still too high - that is the issue here, not the content of the conversations.
For context, none of Team Noise is new to office environments - all 6 guys are easily 40+ in age. (For context, I'm 30.)
I tried noise-cancelling headphones. I thought they wouldn't work because they work on droning noises like fans or air conditioners, not on sudden, piercing noises. I was right. They didn't work. I returned them.
I tried wired headphones, which do not seem to be any louder than my Bluetooth headphones, so no luck there.
I have over-ear closed headphones for monitoring that I brought into work one day, but even those didn't do the trick.
I have spoken about this with my boss, who does seem reasonable so far. He pre-emptively told me to listen to music while working during our first 1x1 because of Team Noise. I was impressed with his forthrightness at naming the problem.
More recently, I told him I can't get the music loud enough to drown them out, and I am getting headaches trying. He seemed alarmed when I told him that. I knew he would be open to hearing possible solutions so I came prepared.
I suggested working from the cafeteria - it's on our floor, but outside our office space - it's a large room with big heavy closing doors. The doors are propped open at lunch time but closed the rest of the time. We are allowed to be in there outside of lunch time - I've seen other people working in there, or sometimes people go in there if they need to make a private phone call (e.g. scheduling doctor appointment), and people go in and out using the water and ice machines, getting coffee, using the vending machines, microwaves, etc. Ironically, the cafeteria is quieter than the office! (Although this is mostly because most of the people on our floor, including Team Noise, eat lunch at their desks so almost no one is in the caf, even at lunch)
My boss's eyes lit up for a second when I suggested working out of the cafeteria, but then he said, "Well...I want people to be able to find you in case they need to talk to you." That's a valid point. In the same conversation, we also discussed working from home. He said he wished the company allowed working from home because it would make it easier to attract and retain talent, but he said, "Unfortunately, we just aren't that kind of company - nor will we ever be." He sighed. His hands seem to be tied by the higher ups. To be fair, I wasn't seeking a WFH position and I don't want to work from home under ordinary conditions, so I didn't ask about it at the interview. I asked so many questions at my interview, guess I forgot to ask "are there any extremely loud people in the office?"
I also suggested booking a small conference room that no one uses, and just working in there all day. My boss had the same issue of people won't be able to find me.
Based on the above situation and what I already tried, do you have any suggestions for actions I can take to try to remedy this?
I hate to leave after just 3 months, especially because the job is otherwise decent, but I've been looking for another job because of this issue.
Since this website tends to assume people are software engineers, let it be known that I am not! I work in marketing. My team, Team Noise, our managers, and the rest of our immediate office area are all marketing people.