The average work day is filled with distractions — whether it is because of last-minute email requests, meetings that run overlong or having to deal with inexplicable computer problems.
But perhaps there is nothing more distracting than talkative co-workers — people who either constantly try to engage you in conversation or whose voices you can’t help hearing from the next cubicle over. Instead of spending your days being frustrated, author Jeff Michaels offers an alternative.
“I’ve been stuck in offices where the environment can suck your soul, but it doesn’t have to if you don’t want it to,” Michaels explains. We asked him for his suggestions on how to make working in loud, crowded offices more pleasant.
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Have a friendly conversation. “The first thing I would do is literally ask them if they know they are annoying people,” says Michaels, the author of the new book “Please Hug Me — I’m an Office Monkey.” Michaels says it’s always best to have a direct conversation before going higher up the ladder to your manager or Human Resources. “Realistically, they might not even be aware that there is a problem.”
Set some boundaries. And we mean that literally. Do you work by the office water cooler or conference room? It can be annoying to have to stop and chit-chat with everyone who comes by. “You can get a couple of plants and literally build your own barrier,” Michaels suggests. “Or maybe get a little tiny sign that says ‘Silence is Golden’ or something more comical.”
Invest in headphones. “I’m a big proponent of noise cancelling headphones,” says Michaels. “Splurge a bit for that pair of $100 Bose headphones.” There are also apps and CDs that solely consist of white noise and stress-reducing music that you can play throughout the day.
Utilize the conference room. Do you have to be at your desk all of the time or are there breakout areas or small conference rooms that you can temporarily take over? “Now with laptops and Wi-Fi, it’s more possible to literally move around,” says Michaels. It’s OK to disappear for a bit.
Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on @LakshmiGandhi.