Interruptions in the open office

Hi everyone! Since this is my first post i will keep it simple.

How you and your team manage the interruptions that comes with a open office space?

Do you have rules? Or just let it be and deal with the consequences?


Earphones. Literally couldn't work without them! Between our developers we just kid of look at each other, and if you see someone in the zone you leave them alone. If we have a question, we'll use Skype and wait for a reply rather than interrupt them.

Clacky keyboards are starting to become in vogue in our space. Earphones are an absolute must unless we want to constantly have a tug of ware between folks' different preferences.

Yeah, I'm the one who use a loud keyboard. I realise that I piss off my team. But it helps me to be more productive at work, I just don't care.

Rage goes here

I've always wanted one of them :O ... I will buy it for home office

I'm guilty of that, using my mechanical keyboard instead of the bit of plastic we get from IT...

Maybe our problem is that we still think everything is pretty urgent!

Some of my coworkers make a lot of noise and we have no space to isolate ourself.

Headphones and hiding. For example, I am currently sitting on a sofa on the mezzanine above our open plan office, and I can see other people in the kitchen and hall with their laptops. It's a solution to a problem that didn't need to exist in the first place, really...

Unfortunately here, there's not place to hide :(... My headphones are with me wherever I go, however, some of my coworkers tend to think that they need to scream or make a lot of noise to be heard.

I second having a hiding place. Use a conference room if you have any of those. Advocate for a space with the people who manage that. Headphones alone do not a happy brain make.

When advocating, you can cite the need for a quiet place to make phone calls or something - then just use the space to escape for an hour or two if you get it.

This can be really tough. We have a Google Home that plays someone's music all day so headphones are a must if you get stuck with that one guy that loves Celtic rock or something else that you don't prefer.

I have a really hard time concentrating with strong smells, so when someone gets a stinky lunch, I purchased a candle that sits under my nose :)

Also, all of the developers are on an island in the middle of this open office so when a coworker has jittery legs or is tapping his/her foot or is drumming on his/her desk to the celtic rock music blaring out of the Google Home, my monitors shake and feel every vibration.

I'm probably overly sensitive because I have trouble concentrating to begin with, but safe to say, I'm not sold on the open office concept 😂

Yikes, the Google Home is constantly playing someone else's music all day? That seems unfair, especially in an open office.

I also have trouble concentrating, but I feel like I would the guy with jittery legs, and desktop drumming

Wow! A new level of distraction has been unlocked! :X

Is it such a huge problem for you guys? On my open space we talk loud, we swear to the code, if someone is wearing headphones we tap him on the shoulder if needed. If he can answer, good, if not he says "5 min, doing something critical, I'll ping you". Someone is more sensitive to interruptions someone's not. And if i need deep focusing i just go to one of the meeting rooms (that means bother me only if super urgent)

I charge by the hour, reduced productivity is a bonus. 😉

Interuptions in our open office space were a big problem a while back. We have essentially two different teams in the developer team's office:

The biggest problem was not how loud the keyboards were -- people screened that off with headphones -- but rather other staff from the organization who needed to talk to one of the teams. The discussions bothered the other team. The two development teams work together so we didn't want to split them up (we thought about it but decided against it) but they also bothered each other because they worked on different projects.

So to solve it we brainstormed ideas to improve our development methodology, especially regarding the interruptions. Two things came out:

  • Hodor and
  • Meditation time


(It should be called "do not disturb hours" or something but there was a joke flying around because of a misunderstanding about Hodor so that name stuck)

Every day between 10 and 12 in the morning the development team (db+web) closes the door and nobody can disturb them. Preferably they also close email, chat etc. This is holy time for the development team to make sure that they get time every day to work on their projects.

People will either have to come back after lunch, submit a ticket to an internal ticketing system, or talk to the department head if there is anything they need (there's a big sign on the door with instructions).

No meetings can be scheduled during these two hours. Disturbance in the room needs to be kept to a minimum.

The only exception to this are emergency situations but under those
circumstances managing the situation inside the development room is

Mediation time

Hodor (Do not disturb hours) are kicked off each day with meditation time. Developers take 15 minutes to meditate, each in their own way and are guided by an experienced team member.

People can freely participate in meditation, browse the web, do some work, think, whatever. They just have to keep quiet and gain focus.


This combination of mediation and do not disturb hours really helped us gain control over the interruptions. Meditation helped set the mood and then people work for 2 hours (other employees in the organization respect these two hours, even so much that when X-mas gifts were handed out I (unit head) was asked if I would keep the gifts in my office while the developers were working).

My wife had a similar problem even if she was in her own office. She was constantly interrupted at work even if she had headphones while in the zone. So I suggested that she buy a really silly/threatening teddybear that she could put on her desk when she needed focus, as a sign of "I don't want to be disturbed now" (e.g. holding a sign that says do not disturb). She hasn't had to use it since she bought it so I don't know if it works well or not, but that's another idea for reducing interruptions.

Headphones for background noise/noisy colleagues. If it gets too loud, simply ask the noisiest to pipe down or take their conversation off the floor plate, usually quiets things down.

Actual interruptions from people from other teams: try to dissuade drive-bys through asking them to schedule a meet, drop an email etc. Put them off enough times they’ll resort to proper channels.

I work remote so recently dumping Skype for text chat and taking to a Slack channel instead has really helped. Can chat real time but also not if you choose. Slack also allows me more access to team chat/banter that I didn’t get from Skype.

Headphones, heavy music, and for own sanity, pomodoro timer Chrome extension.

Thanks! And, Can you share some playlist to consider?

Personally my current playlists are:

Judas Priest Firepower
Mr Robot soundtrack
GTA V score soundtrack
Battlefield Hardline score soundtrack
Doom VG soundtrack
Wolfenstein 2 soundtrack
The Man from UNCLE theme

Most these are on loop until I feel the need to swap it around.

Mr Robot is probably most soundscape-y and even comes with some background keyboard noise, surely to make one motivated to hack and bash out some seriously clever code ;)

unfortunately headphones don't work around here, although they block out the noise :p probably going to put very passive aggressive post its on my desk sometime soon :p

This little ones goes with me everywhere I go ... sometimes the screams are just louder!... I will consider a sign of danger xD

We just had our cubes taken away and given just a desk in the open. One good thing is there are plenty of rooms we can use when we need privacy and quiet.

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