Depending on the size of the company or the team you work in, most offices have one or all of the common office pests who can make your work environment just a little bit crazy and hard to maintain your sanity.
So what’s the answer? How can you stay sane in a crazy office when you have little escape from people and noise and activity for upwards of 7 hours a day?
Try one of these three strategies to try to keep your focus and remain effective in a crazy environment.
Tune in and tune out the chatter.
As long as you are not a call centre operator, front line staff or customer service professional, headphones are your new best friend. Not only will a little light listening drown out the office noise and distraction that can be so annoying, but it also sends a signal to your co-workers that you need to concentrate and blinker up to focus on the task at hand. Don’t play your music so loud your co-workers can hear it or you add to the office chaos, or at a volume you can’t be interrupted without jumping through the roof in fright. If possible, try using just one ear bud so that if your attention is needed, it is easily achieved. You might also considering clearing this strategy with your team leader or supervisor, stressing that the goal is to be more productive and focused. Once you get the go ahead, pop in some discrete ear buds at a reasonable volume and avoid the craziness that comes with office life.
Walk it out.
If you’re lucky enough to have your own office and the noise outside exceeds levels you can cope with, the most obvious solution is to close the door. Problem solved for you but not for others, however it sends a clear message that the volume has boomed above what is acceptable which might be all it takes.
If you are in an open plan environment and door closing isn’t an option, just get up and remove yourself from the noise instead. Take a trip to the kitchen for a cup of coffee, or the water cooler for something more hydrating. Hand deliver the memo you need to share with a colleague instead of emailing it or step out on the terrace or walk around the block if your presence will not be missed. Fresh air and exercise will not only resolve the noise and haze in your head, but will in fact make you more productive when you return. If your supervisor is agreeable you may in fact negotiate a different break system than the usual 3-4 hours on, 1 hour off, perhaps a 15 minute break every 2 hours instead.
Talk it over.
Sometimes people just don’t get the message and are so busy being social, or noisy, that they don’t notice your subtle and even not so subtle signs that you’d like them to pipe down and focus on their own work. If this is the case you might need to step it up and ask them to keep the craziness to themselves or at least out of your area. Be polite and engaged, show an interest in the discussion and say it with a smile, but explain that your deadline or project requires all your attention and the loud activity around you isn’t helping your cause. Noise, energy and activity can be the signs and byproduct of a collaborative and motivated team, but when the sounds around you feel more like a dentist’s drill than an inspiration, then take whatever steps necessary.
You don’t want to be the party pooper, unless in fact you’re in charge and crowd control is in your job description, nor do you want to alienate the rest of your team. But sometimes a little honesty goes a long way and stops you adding to the chaos by blowing your lid and cutting through the noise in a less than helpful way!