No one can act alone to heal the curse of a noisy colleague

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Office life update

One of my favorite Financial Times life stories is about a great man with a loud voice.

Every day, he would arrive at his desk in London, pick up the phone, leaned back in the chair, and drove frantically.

He had a loud voice that couldn’t be ignored, and he sat with a small group of people on an open desk in a corner where it was impossible to escape.

No one else can concentrate. Because he made a racket on his own racket, some people can barely tell what is said on the phone. The modest efforts to see if he would fail were of no avail, so in the end, his colleagues took action.

One day, before he went to work, they unplugged his computer and moved it along with all his things to a corner where he had to face the wall. When he arrived, no one said a word. Surprisingly, neither did he. Instead, he sat down, logged in and started working. “His voice is still very loud,” a computer porter told me later. “But this is an improvement.”

This incident happened a long time ago. All relevant personnel have now left the Financial Times, but the scourge of noisy colleagues has not disappeared. If anything, it feels much worse for pandemic domestic workers to be recalled to the office from a relatively quiet home.

It is easy to think that this is a special problem in the UK. It is said that people have a tendency to be indefatigable and polite, so it may be difficult to deal directly with noisy colleagues.

After working in offices in Australia, the US and the UK for many years, I doubt it.

In fact, most workers in these three countries told the researchers In 2019 The investigation found that office noise caused stress and anxiety, and the culprit was other people talking.

I have encountered countless examples of employees struggling to deal with disobedient colleagues. Some people clip brightly colored industrial headphones to their skulls. Others bought AirPods or mobile desks worth £250. No effect.

There are many Suggest About what to do. Victims are told that they should politely raise their pain to the perpetrator or manager or, in extreme cases, to HR. Either find a quiet place in the office, or knock down the walls of the compartments. These walls will give people a false sense of privacy and encourage people to make loud noises.

However, if these ideas were effective, the problem would have disappeared long ago.It didn’t because, like Email flood Inbox and other workplace problems, office noise is largely a structural problem that individuals cannot solve by themselves.

A lone employee cannot magically create a quiet area, or better yet, a closed office. Nor can they stop the spread of the main criminals in the noise war: cheaper but noisier open-plan offices.A sort of Study in 2018 Of office workers from China to India, Europe and the United States found that only 1% said they could easily block distractions and concentrate, down from 20% in 2015.

Employees continue to be told that open designs that disrupt privacy, reduce productivity, and spread the flu will promote collaboration and creative sparks, but research shows that they do the opposite.

The shift to an open plan caused people to stay away from colleagues and resort to more emails and instant messages, while face-to-face contact fell by about 70%, a 2018 papers Established.

So will things change after the pandemic? Before Covid, poorly planned open offices were bad enough, but when employers scrambled to retain or hire employees, they didn’t make any sense in the so-called huge wave of resignation of uncertain endurance. Lack of quiet space for people to work uninterruptedly, giving the impression that employees are not highly valued.

Fortunately, the open plan curse that has curbed attendance at least for the past 18 months and keeps the staunch supporters who have been coughing for a day in their bed.

I think anyone who is bothered by the noisy neighbors in the office will find similar comfort soon. At the same time, it may not hurt to leave a copy of this column on their chair.

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Twitter: @pilitaclark



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