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Please advise how I can better cope with work environment(27 Posts)
I'd love your pragmatic tips and own experiences of how to better cope with a non ideal work environment. It seems unrealistic to change the environment (OK, people or their working styles), so wiser for me to learn to cope better.
I've been in my role/company 10+ years. Role requires prolonged concentration, attention to nitty gritty detail, etc and is heavily driven by external deadlines. Due to changes in office layout and personnel, my environment has changed (my viewpoint) from generally calm, quiet and productive to loud, distracting and unproductive. Most current colleagues prefer loud and find it motivating - their roles require concentration, but not over prolonged periods, and they are less deadline driven. This change has reduced my productivity, happiness, motivation and consequently my self esteem. I no longer feel a good fit in this company.
I have already tried:
- noise blocking headphones, wordless music etc
- working from home when I'm not needed face to face (hasn't helped enough)
Colleagues are aware of my preferences and there's been training on how/why different people thrive in different environments. Most colleagues talk (very) loudly across open plan space. Some wear their loudness as a badge of honour. Many continue their work at home in the evenings (no overtime pay, I assume, though viewed as hard working heroes by management). I don't want to, I want my own paid hours to be efficient and productive so I can mentally switch off when I leave the building - my choice, I appreciate we're all different.
I feel everyone has the right to a happy productive work environment, so long as they don't reduce the happiness and productivity of others. Clearly, there are many different interpretations of "happy and productive". So, a compromise will be good.
In the last few weeks I have got close to quitting (I didn't as the satisfaction feeling would likely wear off too fast, then I'd be jobless), and close to fighting it out (again, short term release, long term pain). If I quit, there's unlikely to be equivalent roles within a 1 hour commute, so a change of career might be needed.
Due to the current neighbouring colleagues and the company's management group (some of these are my neighbouring colleagues) I cannot see the environment returning towards my preferences.
So... how do I better cope?
Thanks in advance...
Why don't the working from home or headphones work? Interested not being snippy btw
Fair questions, thank you.
I manage about 2 work from home days per month. I love them, but they aren't enough to significantly increase my average productivity. 2 days is around 10% of the working month.
Headphones are noise cancelling ones, if I play music at the loudest volume that doesn't leak outside the headphones (or drive me mad), I can still hear my colleagues - they're really loud people with clear/carrying voices, and I've got amazingly good hearing.
In answer to the job hunting question, it's also a fair question.
- There's no other employers for my type of role within a 1 hour journey (or even 2 hours). Naturally, not all employers have vacancies.
- I'm looking at roles 3 hours away, but I'm not overly keen. Partly distance. Partly eroded self esteem. Partly the fear of moving to something even less of a good fit.
- I'm trying to work out what sort of career change might help. I'm struggling.
Does your office have meeting rooms or other spaces you could use when not in use? Do you need constant access to a computer? Is your equipment portable? I understand your frustrations and I work in an office with up to 10 others and it can distracting. Mine is one of the quieter ones luckily and I would hate to work in one of the others in particular due to how noisy and distracting people are. My husband often takes his laptop into his offices meeting room when he needs to really concentrate.
How recently have the new people joined?
Buy better noise cancelling headphones
Work from home more if you like it.
Hi MrsL2016. Thank you for your empathy and suggestions, I really appreciate it.
My work is fully portable - I'm very fortunate. It's desk based and I don't need to be by a phone.
At the risk of drip feeding, I use a meeting room a lot of the time. With the door shut, headphones and music on... the problem doesn't disappear. OK, being fairer and more optimistic, it helps quite a bit, but there's still too much noise getting into my ears and head. What might happen is (and no one has actually said this, so I must take care not to make a problem if there isn't one) I look like I'm aloof, people think the door is shut and therefore that noise doesn't get in, so take even less care with volume. The meeting room is far from soundproof.
I've occasionally worked in a meeting room further away, even an out of sight one, but am concerned about a potential impact on working relationships if I do that a lot. Though it'd be great for me finishing tasks and staying sane.
I like the idea of better headphones, thank 3. Do you, or anyone else, have personal recommendations. I'm willing to spend the money. They are expensive, so good to get it right this time, I don't want to buy a 3rd pair.
New employees arrived over the last 6 months to 2 years. So, we're way beyond the settling in period, and (unfortunately for me) now in the "this is the normal working environment".
Is there part of the problem that you can address - do you think you are particularly sensitive to noise? You said you had very good hearing - that struck me as not sonething most people say- people don't really think about their hearing being good or bad unless they are going deaf!
There are things you can do if you think you have a sensitively.
I hadn't thought of that, thank you for the idea. I'll investigate noise sensitivity. It'd be brilliant if I could find a gadget or mental tool to help me focus.
This is going to sound a bit odd but what exactly is the problem? You seem extraordinarily sensitive to normal noise, what is it that it does to you that distracts from your work so much?
there are 100 desks in the room where I work... some days they are all full. We are supposed to take > quick conversations to meeting booths (& talk quietly there).
Maybe my situation is tolerable b/c there's a hum of background noise, anyway. I have worked in full offices that were like morgues & on avg I think I prefer some background noise.
It's like trying to do an exam while people are having loud conversations around me, or while a railway station is making announcements on the loudspeaker every few minutes. It doesn't work for me. I admire people who don't get distracted by these things.
When the conversations are quieter, I can pretty much ignore them. I don't need morgue-ish silence, though I admit I quite like it.
Have a lot of sympathy for your situation OP - it's one of the reason's I went freelance so I didn't have to be in open plan offices every day. Great for some, not for others - especially if you're doing detailed work.
I think if it's got to the stage where you're considering leaving your job, you need to voice your concerns to management. If your job is different from the people around you (because you need to focus) then you can structure the conversation around the fact that it's hampering your productivity.
Again, if it's bad enough that you're thinking of leaving I wouldn't worry too much about colleague relationships. You have to be selfish - it's your job and your livelihood. Maybe think about what would work for you - 1 day a week from home, a move to a quieter area of the office, working in the quietest meeting room every day for 4 hours?
Could you be hyper aware of the noise because you feel alienated from your new colleagues? Or you don't like them very much? Apologies if I'm barking up the wrong tree here...
Headphones - when I work in open plan offices I like over the ear headphones rather than in-ear. Beats by Dr Dre with the noise cancelling option are great (but expensive), I've also tried a friend's Sennheiser headphones when travelling and they're good:
I have misophonia, noise out of my control - especially loud or repetitive noise gives me irrational rage - so can give a bit of advice on the cancelling side...
noise cancelling headphones often don't diminish loud voices enough. I use earplugs, then over ear headphones with music - I while away the hours in my own merry little world.
I use a meeting room a lot of the time. With the door shut, headphones and music on... the problem doesn't disappear.
Then you need to see a GP. Being so bothered by standard background noise when you are in a meeting room with headphones on and playing music is not normal. It's worth getting it looked at op.
Are there any colleagues at all who feel similarly to you? Could you club together and have a quieter corner (if that re-organisation would be approved)? Are the louder colleagues all talking to each other, or having long phone calls? If the latter, it might be worth a discussion about whether long phone calls could be taken into the meeting room?
I am reasonably noise-sensitive and I don't find music or headphones help. That's just two kinds of noise instead of one! I find it easier to tune out the background noise by keeping everything else around me as non-busy as possible - so no visual distractions (clear desk, no personal clutter, files not in use all put away), and by working to a timer so I take breaks away from the noise (something like the pomodoro technique) and ideally use the break to get five minutes fresh air or change of scene.
There's a difference between noise and interruptions, so I'm really only talking about the kind of noise that doesn't require you to respond.
I’m doing a masters at the moment and found that the thing that really helps me concentrate is an app called “Coffivity”. It’s different recordings of busy cafes etc and plays you the hum of background noise that’s really lovely, but no loud conversations or distracting moments. Perhaps that instead of music through good noise cancelling headphones would be worth a go? I think you can play the sound online as well as on the app.
I feel your pain, OP, I am experiencing the same, but it isn't all the time - better on some days depending on who is in the office! I can cope with a general background buzz, but not loud conversations near me. My colleague who sits next to me is much less sensitive to noise, I don't think it is to do with hearing as such.
My solutions are: noise cancelling headphones, yes, but playing "white noise". There are lots of examples on YouTube. I have tried lots and found one I really like. This is enough to block the conversations, whereas normal music you have to be playing extremely loudly to block it out!
I'm not trying to diagnose you with anything but this article might be helpful.
Thank you for all the good suggestions. I'm going to start with the common themes. It's helpful to know that my preferences are not super rare in the bigger world. Hopefully, in a few weeks, I'll be back to my former contented self without having ruffled colleagues' feathers.
I am exactly the same as you op!
In my last job we hot desked so I used to try and sit in a quiet place around the corner from my chatty
non-stop talking colleagues. I also used to engineer my day to finish in other locations so I was working alone.
Could you ask to move to a quiet area of the office or work from home more often?
You have my sympathies. It's the way of the world these days but unless you are an extrovert then open plan offices are the pits.
So much sympathy OP.
I work from home two or three days a week. This has helped me massively as I am hugely sensitive to noise also. Can you work at home more frequently?
Bose noise cancelling headphones are very good and block all but very high pitched sounds such as children shrieking. I noticed there are now some on the market that claim also to block out high pitched noise too. They might have been Sony ones. Worth a google. I would buy the very best you can afford and test them in the shop.
When I am in the office I retreat to a small side room and shut the door. I can still hear them though Don't care if it makes me look unsociable. I am paid to work, not engage in chit chat.
I absolutely understand and hope things improve
Thanks Grinchly and Barbara. It's helpful to know there's a few of us feeling similar. You all survive, possibly flourish, so I shall follow your lead and do the same.
Thinking positive thoughts....
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