I work at a large company with a traditional seating arrangement in the usa. Cubes are in the of the space and surrounding them will be offices for managers or directors and above. In the corners of spaces will be formal conference rooms that one can book. These will be more sound proof and are isolated from where people sit.

There is an empty manager office next to my cube, that consultants (sometimes employees but mostly its visitors to this building) will often drop in and use as an ad hoc conference room and take calls on speakerphone which is very distracting. Is there a way to prevent this? Mind you the manager's offices are not as sound proof nor isolated as the conference rooms hence why it is rare to see an employee take a call on speaker phone instead of using a headset.

my thoughts are there are two name slots that share the office i could take old name badges from people who left the company and put them there so maybe people wont drop in and use that office as a conference room.

Another idea was to put a note on the door asking people to not use it as a conference room. Any other ideas on what is acceptable or not? I am the only person on my team who works out of this geographic location and where my colleagues sit they dont really have this problem due to how the rooms and cubes are arranged.

closed as off-topic by gnat, scaaahu, JasonJ, Mister Positive, Chris E Jun 1 '17 at 13:12

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  • 4
    What is your role in the organization? It seems like you don't necessarily have the authority to tell everyone to not use a room. Have your approached your manager about this? – Thomas Owens May 31 '17 at 19:35
  • 5
    While it's not "the right thing to do" the simplest and most expedient is to take the cord from the phone and "lose" it. If the phone has a power cord, "misplace" that too. Put it somewhere else in the office, in the drawer of an empty desk, away from the office. The amount of trouble you'd get in if caught is minimal, especially since you won't be stealing and your rationale is understandable. One of those "forgiveness is easier than permission" situations. – Chris E May 31 '17 at 19:39
  • They use their cell phone not a plugged in phone. My role is principle software developer. So I could tell tech consultants to use a room but I feel bad doing it, but does distract us. @ChristopherEstep I do like your approach because we do not always arrive at decisions quickly. I kind of expect HR to punt and say we cant advise you. Where if I look at other situations some director or VP most likely got annoyed with people using their empty rooms and told someone to put a note on the door to prevent it (I have seen this in other parts of the building). – ngnewb May 31 '17 at 21:17
  • You are simply not going to be able to keep people out of an unused empty room unless you lock it. Perhaps a better solution is to simply show your face to whomever is talking loudly in the room and close the door and/or put your index finger to your mouth to indicate "shhh". – teego1967 May 31 '17 at 21:20
  • We have put up signs saying interviews in this room today, or other false things that worked but I was looking for a long term solution. Ideally the best long term solution is someone getting hired and getting that room but with the amount of empty rooms this could take a year or more. My other poor solution is when I have some difficult algorithms to work on I will just work from home to mitigate it (or put a piece of paper saying there are interviews occurring in that room). I think the office manager approach is the best I need to figure out who or where that roles resides. – ngnewb May 31 '17 at 21:24

Any other ideas on what is acceptable or not?

Ask the office manager (or whoever controls that office) what should be done about this unused office. It's not your job to decide.

If they agree that it shouldn't be used, perhaps they can lock the door, remove the telephone, put up a sign, or simply tell the consultants not to use it.

  • I have no idea who the "office manager" is. Over 2000 people sit at this site, would that be whoever has the highest title in these areas administrative assistant? There are sections of R&D, marketing, product development, finance etc, but I am not sure what or where the office manager is (would that be security or facilities?) – ngnewb May 31 '17 at 20:39
  • thanks so HR would most likely be a better ask than security right ? Security appears to focus on physical security badges door access parking fire drills etc. – ngnewb Jun 1 '17 at 0:12
  • also that was my first thought to lock it, but the offices dont have locks at our site I think thats because the offices can be shared if you are not high up enough. I avoided the problem by working from home whenever I didn't want to deal with it but I noticed others starting to get bothered around that area as it occurs more and which lead me to think about the best way to deal with it. Office Managment seems like the appropriate route. – ngnewb Jun 1 '17 at 0:24

I have to say - at first read, I don't see that using the office as an ad hoc meeting space is so inappropriate. The company pays for the square footage and people are using it in a productive way.

From a visitor's point of view:

  • an office is easier for people meeting you to find
  • a visitor may not have a sense of when and how formal meeting rooms are used
  • a visitor may have a patterns of needing to take calls and ad hoc meetings that don't gel well with the rest of the schedule for the office - so having a guaranteed free room to dash into makes a great deal of sense

My impression is that if you let the visitor into the building, the visitor has the right to expect to be able to find a place to get his job done, even when it doesn't fit the typical pattern of the office. In many places I've worked, local managers, consultants and visiting execs will do what you describe, because they all need rooms with doors that close.

I wouldn't try to swim upstream in this particular river. I'd aim to angle around the current to avoid the stuff you hate (being distracted while working by a non-sound proofed conversation) while avoiding stuff that isn't really your call unless you happen to be the site manager (ie, where visitors are allowed to set up space).

As ever, the "don't do this, it bugs me" doesn't usually inspire people. People are inspired to change their patterns when they stand to benefit. My strategies would be:

  • Disable the speaker phone button on the landline phone. The classy way is to replace the speaker phone with a phone that doesn't have speaker phone capabilities. Big offices may have both models lying around - often non-speaker phones are used in cubes, so you may just be able to swap them out.

  • Failing that, stick a note on the phone and on the inside of the office door that says "room not soundproofed, please be aware during confidential conversations" That sounds more like "hey, you probably don't want to loudly converse about trade secrets in here" and less like "you're bugging me!!!"

  • Find a better, alternate location for your loud guests. Don't start the conversation with the office manager that is "these folks are annoying, can we lock them out of the spare office?", start with - "what's the best place for these folks to sit where their conversations will remain private?". That may mean that the room gets more soundproofing. :)

  • Really do relocate something useful in there. Maybe you do a team standup in there every morning. Or you situate the coffee pot in there so folks are in and out all day long. Make the room a team resource and then it's harder to use for contractors. If this doesn't help, 6 weeks after you start, go to the office manager and say "hey, this room serves a useful purpose... is there another good place to put visitors?"

  • so this site is gigantic (2000+ employees and many more temps) we have hoteling offices and ad hoc rooms, but they are 75-200 yards away, and open spaces and rooms designed for ad hoc meetings. Some individuals in R&D work better without an excess of ambient noise, check out this article by one of the founders of this site regarding how programmers appreciate less loud conditions blog.codinghorror.com/this-is-your-anti-productivity-pod . Also there is no phone in there, people will just use their cell phone on speaker phone. – ngnewb May 31 '17 at 20:43
  • I have seen other empty offices put nasty notes on their empty managers offices, "DO NOT use this room etc, or something a bit nicer". Also with a site this large, if my guests wanted an ad hoc room i could point them to ~ 30+ rooms all over the place. Its Also rooms are very territorial, and so are cubes, for example, lets say you are a sales or finance person in this site and not a member of a team based in this geographic location. Teams may push back in giving up one of their 7 empty cubes because those belong to them and when they expand they want people sitting close. – ngnewb May 31 '17 at 20:49
  • So we cant just change an empty managers office for a useful purpose because that is a placeholder for a new hire who is a director or above (Even if that group may have 4 empty managers offices). It would be nice to put a pair programming station there, or a VR space there for the work we do due to the abundance of vacant rooms for directors and above but they are not ours to change. Especially because the rest of my team does not sit in this location. – ngnewb May 31 '17 at 20:52

I'd suggest leaving an anonymous note on the desk in a large font (size 48 maybe).

"Please use conference rooms for speakerphone".

Only people entering the room will see this and in an empty office, one piece of paper on a desk is really visible for someone entering the room but likely not for passers by so you are likely to get the attention of offenders but not random management.

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