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I work in an open plan office and due to the location of where I sit, I am constantly being interrupted with non work related trivia when people get bored i.e. chat while people are getting something from the printer etc. It's the "congregating area" for people chatting or discussing a work issue that doesn't involve me but is very loud.

The interruptions are not related to my role nor generally work related (e.g. "Oh I'm so glad it's Friday aren't you?", "Do you know how to put more paper in here as it's flashing" (I'm not an administrator or in IT - people just assume I'm a "printer receptionist" as I sit by it), "Who's the visitor sat over near you", "Oh it looks lovely outside" etc) Or chat within a group that becomes an animated discussion but doesn't involve me, it's just "near" me.

I find the constant interruptions - 20 or more a day - distracting and counter productive. I'm under pressure to work quickly and without mistakes, and often need to work late to finish because of this. The work itself requires concentration and focus.

There's no option to move desk, nor use headphones etc due to the nature of the job (I have to be responsive to actual work requests and phone calls from customers etc).

Is there anything I can do?

closed as off-topic by Jim G., Lilienthal, Dawny33, gnat, Jane S Feb 22 '16 at 11:37

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Is there anything I can do?

Not a lot by the sounds of it. But there is a couple of things.

Put up a 'Quiet please' sign, I did this once and people just assumed it was from management, it was still there and had become a fixture when I left. I found it mildly musing that everyone including clients and managers would lower their voices in that area.

I find it fairly easy to just ignore conversational noise but others don't, so I have had colleagues who use ear plugs (unsure how comfortable that is after a while).

Lastly, politely telling people to be quiet or move along because I can't concentrate works fairly well, but depends a bit on your relationship with other staff. This is my normal strategy when I can't concentrate. Obviously you don't use this on the boss if he/she decides to have a conversation next to your desk. So use common sense. Usually people take this the right way and go talk elsewhere. Rarely someone acts offended.

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If your work permits it wear a pair of headphones. You don't even have to have anything playing in them. People will see these and realise that to talk to you they have to actively interrupt you, and will be less likely to do this for no reason.

Also if you are having a slow day and wouldn't mind an interruption you can remove the headphones. Think of them like a "Do no disturb" sign.

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You have 3 options it seems.

  1. Reply with smarta** replies to those questions. "Do you know how to stop the paper tray light from blinking?" "Yes, I do, but your di** is not a big enough size for the paper tray." - Might want to know how sarcasm is taken or if you value your time at the company/relationships. Just saying.
  2. Ask them to be quiet please or that you are focusing on something super important. If you are on the phone do the typical "shhhh, I am on the phone" gesture/mouthing.
  3. Get a white noise machine and keep it at your desk, eventually either you will tune them out or they will hate the obvious white noise and stop meeting there. If possible, perhaps a small fan or radio to play music (appropriate office type) at a low volume but enough to make a conversation difficult.

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