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Periklis Gkolias
Periklis Gkolias

Posted on • Originally published at on

How to Survive a Noisy Office Environment

It is the most accepted fact after the great taste of ice-cream. Software engineers absolutely hate open plans or open offices.

They are noisy and tight, distracting, nerve breaking and the last thing they do is to help you enter a state of flow. Unless you are lucky and your colleagues know the pain and behave accordingly.

Unfortunately, the open office is an inevitable resource of our day to day work and it will be for the next few years, even though there are tons of voices against. There are some benefits of open plans though, but I think the cons are way more intense.

Below there are some tips to help you survive

Buy a good set of earphones.

I have touched the subject, in a previous article but I can’t stress it enough. When life gives you lemons, make some lemon juice. And when you get noise, try to get some mental isolation with your earphones. Just like this dog:

The truth

Let your neighbors know what is your working routine.

Who are you talking to, the most? For both work and non-work purposes. It is usually the surrounding developers and your technical leader. If YOU are the tech lead though, kudos for your promotion first, and second, you also you have one less fella to worry about. :) But also, you are encouraged to promote such good practices, among your teammates.

So, let's say, for example, you are working with a Pomodoro-like technique. Let them know, that unless it is something super-urgent that you want to be distracted again in, at most, X minutes. Usually, people will respect that. And if they can't wait, then a message on the company’s chat application will usually do the work.

Take more short breaks

If you are working with a pomodoro-like technique, this is part of your productivity system. But if not, make sure you do more of this. Breaks help you rest more and if you are more rested it is less possible to give in to silly distractions.

Thank you

Shift your hours

Come first at the office or leave last. Not to appear nice to your manager but because, 2 hours of deep work(highly recommended book) can have a better outcome than 8 hours of semi-working, semi-focused.

If none of the above works, stay home.

Even though not everyone is the same, working from home, in general, can make you more productive.


There are a lot of people who work from home when they actually want to get the job done. If your employer is flexible around the location, feel free to take a day from home once in a while.

Last but not least, respect the others.

It is not always that Ben from the next office is doing something bad and rude or Jen is yelling for no reason. There is a chance, you might just be the j*rk here.

So please ensure the following are applied(at the very least, it is not an exhaustive list):

  • If you want to tell something to a “neighbor”, make sure as less as possible people can hear it, and thus get distracted(even if it is not a secret).
  • Your phone should be silenced, along with your computer’s speakers.
  • Even if you have headphones connected to your computer, make sure the volume that is coming out of them, is not loud enough to annoy the guy next to you(and damage your ears, obviously).
  • If you have a desk phone, you probably can’t have it silenced, but having it ring in low volume can only cause positive feedback.
  • If you want to shred 200 pieces of paper, do it early in the morning and not at 12:00 where everyone is in and working.
  • Take your personal matters out of the office area. Personal phone calls should be made in the alley or the outside area, lunch in the kitchen etc
  • Respect your time commitments and don't be late(at least for no important reason)

And I could continue for days..the golden rule here is, as Metallica would say Do unto others as they've done to you

The end

Thank for taking the time to read this article. I am really hoping to hear your best tips for a matter that we all care about. Till then, happy openoffic-ing.

Originally published at

Top comments (4)

cotcotcoder profile image
  • Active noise-cancelling headphone is a must
  • Sound (like can be better than music (for a long listening time)
  • disable computer sound, enable desktop notifications for in-browser app (like slack)
  • Do yoga (at home) because it can help you to stay calm :)
  • People are noisy even at morning or at evening, best time to work is during lunch times

(NB: I think open-plans are the worst place to work. Teamwork grows with trust (not with imposed proximity), and creativity grows in silence. I hope this industrial idea will disapear :) )

perigk profile image
Periklis Gkolias

Any yoga hints? :)
Lunch is also not that safe, I believe. Especially in multicultured companies were people are used to different lunch hours(I think).

cotcotcoder profile image

Of course, lunch time is not perfect, but at morning some people are more noisy because they (may) think they're disturbing less people than in usual working hours. :(

For meditation an expert is here :)

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