Tips for working in a busy, noisy office?!


Hello! Well, I'm at the end of my teather. Due to having a particularly insane and anal supervisor, we are expected to keep office hours of 10am til 6pm. In theory, this is fine. However, there are 9 people in a fiarly small room, and we have people coming and going all the time, phones ringing etc etc. I love everyone in my office, but find it nearly impossible to write anything or read. I know I'm easily ditsracted, but there's nto much I can do abotu it. I can't listen to music while I work, and I've tried just having the head phones in, but they don't cancel enough of the noise. short of ear plugs (which I'm relucant to use, because I don't want to seem rude) what can I do?! I get nothing done during work hours, and its making me doubly stressed as I have to make up for it at the weekend or in the evenings. I've tried talking to my sup. but she wants us all in during those hours. :-(



Has she given a reason for you having to be in during particular hours. I don't think she can force you to be there can she. If you are unable to work in that situation what benefit is it to anyone. Maybe you could arrange to be in for mornings or afternoons if she feels you have to be there for some reason but that would then give you chance to work elsewhere at other times of the day.
Try to negotiate part-time hours in the office.


That's a tough one. I think pamw is right, your best bet is to try and get out of that situation as regularly as possible, so that you can work productively somewhere else.


In my opinion it's pretty poor management to want everyone in for those hours. You're not working a production line. There are better ways to get results.

Can you suggest silent periods (say, between 10-12 am) when no noise is allowed?


I-pod! With classical/Enya/celtic/thrash metal/etc, what ever takes your fancy!


I sympathise. There are 12 in our little office. People are good but it's still difficult. There is some pressure to be in but I work at home a lot.


i would stop worrying about appearing rude and just do whatever you need to do in order to work! i.e. get those earplugs.

a) what is more important - not appearing rude or getting some work done?
b) the appearance of rudeness can be taken care of with a few simple words of explanation to your officemates.

what about the others, aren't they disturbed by the noise? maybe everyone is just waiting for someone finally to take the initiative and propose "quiet hours" or even better, "noise hours" - from 12.30 to 1.30 noise is allowed, else not! it's all of you in it together - may as well make the best of it.


Is your library near by or similar quite place i.e a cupboard? thats where i go if i have to be around, (the lib not the cupboard! lol) that way if anyone needs me they can simply come get me.

Why does your sup need you near? couldn't you just leave your mobile/home number if he/she needs to contact you for some reason?

What about compromising, say having one day a week off which is solely for writing?

What stage of your PhD are you at? If your towards the end and moving into full time writing then i think your sup must be mad to keep you confined to a busy office!


What about noise isolating headphones? Good ones might be expensive though. Or a pointy stick to wave at your supervisor? Some sort of recurring trivial but contagious / embarrassing illness which keeps you at home?
We have undergraduate labs / common room in our building, which are often empty or quiet (and a better temperature).


Earplugs might work? no music just the rhythm of your own breathe :)


I don't think earplugs are necessarily rude. No matter how considerate people are, if there are that many people in a small space, there are going to be distractions and noise. As long as your not aggressive in your deployment of them and make it clear that you're not using them as a statement of blame about other people's noisiness, I think people would hopefully be sympathetic.

I shared an office for a while with someone who used Skype a lot. Very hard to concentrate.


actualy some supervisors only take their belief as true; my previous supervisor even "spied" on my houring hours and insisted "sitting in office is better for cooperation".. what can you do?? finally I quit; seriously, some people are so obsessive of their own thoughts..


Leading on from what big mac said, could you not keep breaking wind, picking your nose or eating pickled onions with your mouth open then your supervisor would probably ask you not to come into the office!


I personally would have a (polite) fit about the noise levels. You are there to work. If people need to take phone calls, listen to music without earphones, etc, then they should do it somewhere else. They can put their mobile phones on vibrate. Wear earplugs and who cares if it seems rude--again, you are there to WORK, its not a pub or a social club. I would ask people to be quiet, as they were disturbing me. If none of that worked, I would complain to my supervisor, and insist that I need a place to work that is not a constant din of noise.


You do not for instance see pods of professors hanging out, with ringing phones, tea parties, gossip, etc, as they write their next great tome of academic work. Rather, they seem to get hived off to spacious and quiet caverns. If they are not expected to work in a noisy pit, why should a PhD student be expected to be able to do this? Obviously, its a detrimental work environment--and if anyone says its not, ask them to try to be productive within it. Ask your supervisor to swap offices, for, oh say three years or so.