Internee here- I'm all up for a more open plan in an office, but I feel a bit under pressure with my boss sitting beside or behind me. And sometimes peering at my screen to look at what I'm doing.

It makes me uncomfortable while I'm working; and makes me feel guilty or like they would use my actions against me in an appraisal while I don't have work and do something else( i.e: read an e-book or scroll through internet).

Accepting a workplace's culture and structure is a part of working there. So of course I can't change my desk; What do I do to cope with the situation?

  • Have you told your boss this setup makes you uncomfortable, and if so, what did they say? – Erik Jul 26 '17 at 8:51
  • 1
    Accepting a workplace's culture and structure is a part of working there. My concern wouldn't fit well with the boss, the place is full. Plus I can't tell him the real reason of my discomfort is him peering at my screen. – Zaira Zafar Jul 26 '17 at 8:54
  • 1
    This is what browser tabs are there for.... – user44108 Jul 26 '17 at 9:27
  • Scrolling Facebook at work... not a good idea. – user74534 Jul 26 '17 at 10:11
  • @IsakCombrinck that was just an example. I edited the question to remove confusion – Zaira Zafar Jul 26 '17 at 10:15

As a matter of fact, an intern is more than another subject to regular checks on his work. That said, intern or not, open office or not, I think it is fair to sometimes get off the path of actual productive work to read or spend time on the web as long as the work that is assigned to you is done correctly and on time. I personally do it without any shame when I can afford it, but know I have to keep on deadlines.

Now, looking at a longer term perspective, I would suggest that you let your employer know you're done with your assignment and could take a new one. First it shows your motivation, secondly it can lead to you learning even more which is a very important point of an internship, and finally if your employer doesn't answer to your request for more work, it is even more fair that you do other things, which I would suggest to be more of the self-learning side than checking on your friend's Facebook.

If you're worried about being given monkey tasks just to keep you busy or if the unoccupied periods are usually very short (like when you get assigned daily tasks but end up finishing 30 minutes earlier on a regular basis), you could also think proactively on tasks you could be doing and propose that to your employer. You will quickly notice that being useful is more rewarding than being paid for killing time...


Accepting a workplace's culture and structure is a part of working there. So of course I can't change my desk; What do I do to cope with the situation?

Most folks find that uneasiness in an open office setup goes away after a while. Basically, you eventually get used to it.

Depending on the culture/structure there may be a few things you can do.

Sometimes, reorganizing your individual workspace can help. Moving your keyboard and monitor around can sometimes give you a better angle or line of sight and make it feel less like you are being scrutinized. Some folks like to be looking toward a window; others like to be looking away from a window.

Some folks find that customizing your space with personal items makes it feel more comfortable. Pictures, a lamp, etc - these can make it feel more like "your space" and less like "out in the open".

In some shops workers wear headphones or earbuds and listen to music. In more open settings I found that this helped me concentrate on my work more and more easily ignore those around me.

In some shops, getting up and getting some water or coffee/tea provides the short mental break needed to help cope well.

But often, it's just a matter of gradually getting comfortable with the work setting as it exists.

Give it some time, and perhaps try a few of these suggestions.

(Personally, I abhor an open office setting. I think it's a terrible thing to do to knowledge workers who need to be able to concentrate to be effective at their work. Still, it's what many companies do these days, so sometimes you just have to make the most of it.)

  • 1
    I completely agree...I don't mind low cube walls, but when I sit down I don't want to look at my monitors and also see the top of someones head in the distance. – Neo Jul 26 '17 at 12:49
  • 1
    upvoted for open spaces settings : those are effectively productivity killers. And if you use headphones for phonic isolation, then you are judged as "non-communicative"..... – gazzz0x2z Jul 26 '17 at 14:06

A couple of things here. Being open space people peeking at your monitors is not uncommon. Sometimes that even happens just because there is something shiny moving around. Everyone needs to switch off once in a while. If your manager is a normal person, he should understand that people are not robots and do not work for 8 hours straight.

Now what you can try. Without being rude, when he checks your monitors you can look back at him and optionally ask if you can help him. He will either say something or feel uncomfortable for doing so.

On the other hand when you are working on a task you can ask questions and involve him a little bit, just to reinforce that fact that you are active on your work. If he isn't appropriate for discussion, then bring a coworker to talk work stuff. I would advise you to stay away from social network browsing. Check networks on your phone while not on your desk.

I see no problem reading anything work related that will improve your skills or will help you with current or future tasks. He should know that and be comfortable with it.

EDIT: Now that you added you are an intern, you would want to fill your time with learning your infrastructure, processes, tools or whatever you are expected to know about your job. Maybe you are not given a full 8 hours of tasks, just for that reason - to check if you are interested in your job, without having people assigning tasks for you.

  • I used facebook just as an example. I edited it to remove the confusion. – Zaira Zafar Jul 26 '17 at 10:17
  • I never mentioned facebook in my post. – Mariyan Jul 26 '17 at 10:39

As an internee, you can reasonably expect to be monitored during your internship. If you can demonstrate that you're hitting or exceeding the targets for your work, I don't think that some coffee-break browsing could be punished.

As always, the content of your browsing should be appropriate (so more news/research, less cat videos).


First of all you cannot stop him from checking if you are working from time to time (after all it is a part of his job). If you are on facebook or reading an e-book when you are supposed to work he has the right to tell you off.

Personnally, what I would do is talk to him about it and define precise break periods when you can do whatever you want on your computer and work periods when you should be working (if that doesn't already exist in your workplace).

That way, you won't feel guilty going on facebook when you have the time off but you will have to be serious about your work during working time.

On a final note, if you want to make him look at your screen less, you could make it more complicated for him to peer at it. Anti-glare and privacy screens for your computer screen do exist, but you would have to justify to your boss why you use them and why you want to hide your screen from others.

  • Anti-glare screens are not necessarily suspicious in my opinion, you can want some privacy even if you don't have anything to hide. For example, I'm not ashamed of anything in my code (and it's not intended to be secret anyway), but I'd feel really self conscious if someone was looking over my shoulder as I write it. Maybe try this angle with your boss. – Kerkyra Jul 26 '17 at 9:36
  • @Kerkyra If the OP uses that as a leverage to get anti-glare screens, she had better make sure that is the real reason. If I were the boss, I would definitely not be impressed if she asked me to buy her an anti-glare screen saying she wasn't comfortable with people staring at her screen while she was coding, and it later turns out she just wanted privacy while browsing facebook. – Masked Man Jul 26 '17 at 9:56
  • I think asking your manager to give you time off during work hours for free is a bad idea. It's going to make him look lazy – ayrton clark Jul 26 '17 at 9:58
  • @ayrtonclark how would the manager look lazy if the employee asks for breaks? – Erik Jul 26 '17 at 10:06
  • 1
    @ZairaZafar I have read your question. I was responding to a previous comment, not to your question. The previous comment said something like "try telling your boss to get a anti-glare screen because you feel self-conscious at work", and my point was to do that only if that is the real reason to ask for an anti-glare screen, in other words, don't use that as an excuse to get more privacy to browse facebook. Since you are allowed to browse facebook in free time without guilt, my comment obviously doesn't apply to you, so ignore it. – Masked Man Jul 26 '17 at 10:49

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .