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I do a lot of work in an open room where we have a strict no-Internet-access network. The room has a large table with several computers where my coworkers hop from computer to computer doing different things. However my job is much different from theirs; I sit at one of these computers all day working on relatively few long-running tasks.

Often we have several hard drives shipped to us, and we need to copy them to a central server. As we have limited hard drive bays per computer, we need several computers on the network doing things that were initiated by one or two users. Also these computers share the load of processing this data.

The problem is that this room is also the main room where discussions take place, or where coworkers periodically go to chat and/or goof off. I use headphones often and that helps, but even headphones aren't enough when a large group of people is right behind you having a good laugh.

I want to move to my office (which is accessed directly from the big room), however since the network is so strictly isolated, it would require putting a new computer in the office and running a separate network cable.

Coworkers have made similar requests in the past which have been rejected. My boss does not think my work environment is unreasonable and is unwilling to allow anyone private network access in their own offices. Am I being unreasonable for wanting this? How do I ask my boss for internal network access in my office?

The boss's reasoning for having an internal network is to protect the data on the network from potential malware/hacker threats. It's also a subject he will not budge on. There will always be an Internet-free network.

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    where we have a strict no-Internet-access network Why? That sounds extremely unreasonable, unless there's a very specific reason, and that reason may be quite important in answering your question. – yannis Aug 7 '12 at 16:47
  • The boss's reasoning for having an internal network is to protect the data on the network from potential malware/hacker threats. It's also a subject he will not budge on. There will always be an Internet-free network. – Phil Aug 7 '12 at 16:49
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    Also... "hopping from computer to computer doing different tasks"... sounds very unusual and unnecessary... why can't everyone just do everything on their own computer? Sounds like you either have no network or it is very badly broken – JoelFan Aug 7 '12 at 16:50
  • @JoelFan Often we have several hard drives shipped to us, and we need to copy them to a central server. As we have limited hard drive bays per computer, we need several computers on the network doing things that were initiated by one or two users. Also these computers share the load of processing this data. – Phil Aug 7 '12 at 16:55
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You mentioned that your problem is that you are unable to get work done in this room that contains a private network due to distractions from discussions between your colleagues. In order to solve your problem, you devised a solution to ask for access to this private network in another room. Others have proposed this solution in the past, but it has been rejected. Rather than asking for the same thing yet again, you should develop a solution-neutral problem statement and use the techniques of principled negotiation to reach a resolution with your boss and team.

The first step is to develop a solution-neutral problem statement. This should discuss exactly what the problem is without presenting any solution or doing anything to constrain the solution. There are a few problems that need to be considered. From your perspective, you need fewer distractions in the room to enable you to get your work done. However, your colleagues also need access to this environment and to hold discussions there. In addition, it sounds like the business has a need to maintain this private network. So you can use these needs to formulate a problem statement that is something like:

As employees, we need areas to access this private network that support both group discussions as well as quiet individual work.

Now that you have a clearly defined problem, you can apply the concepts of principled negotiation to come up with a solution that works for everyone. By phrasing your problem statement properly, you should have already isolated the individuals from the problem. The problem is rarely a person, but some actions (or inactions) or events. The next steps of principled negotiation are to focus on everyone's interests rather than position. For example, you want to do your individual work in a quiet environment, not have access to this network in your office. Your colleagues don't want to have meetings in this room, but have access to the data they are discussing. Finally, with everyone sitting down, you can develop new options that can be objectively measured as to their ability to solve the problem in a way that enables everyone to win.

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    +1 Subjectivity bad, objectivity good. I always forget that. – Phil Aug 7 '12 at 18:21
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    I walked out of an interview when they showed me that my workstation would be in a big bull pen full of people shouting, talking on the phone, drawing on white boards. Oh and the bull pen also served as a hallway, so random people were constantly wandering through. I flat can't work in that sort place so I just told my host 'thanks but no thanks on the spot'. – Jim In Texas Aug 7 '12 at 19:25

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