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how to cope with noisy offices

In various software development jobs I've had different office conditions.

The best was when I was in an office shared with only one other software developer.

The worst was sitting immediately in front on a small team doing telesales work.

Currently I'm in an office where the non-software developers outnumber the software devlelopers 5 to 1 doing a totally different type of work that involves a lot of moving around, loud phone calls etc. It also doesn't help being near two constantly used doors and a lift .

Some of the time I listen to music to cut out some of the background noise. I find concentration easier with music rather than having to listent to someone's telephone conversation. At other times my concentration gets shot to pieces by all the noise around me.

Most of my work is for an external client that must be paying hundreds of thousands of pounds for the work. I do wonder why none of these resources can go to getting somewhere quiet for me to work. The work I do will get rolled out to several different countries around the world but I can't get any peace most days.

How do other people cope?

Monday, April 5, 2004

Really good headphones that block out external sound.

I have a pair of Sennheiser HD280Pro's that do the job well.

Monday, April 5, 2004

Find the manager that wants me to be productive and say the problem that I'm having.

Christopher Wells
Monday, April 5, 2004

I have had this problem since i started but recently it became a lot worse when we moved to new premises. I would have people talking over my desk to the person that sat next to me, people shouting across the office. In the end i got absolutely fed up and told them i wanted moved or else the big contract they just took on would take me a good few months longer than it should. At the moment i am now located in the board room and they are pricing getting me a seperate office partition built - if you are the lone developer or one of few then stamping your feet (in a polite but imformative way) does work.

Monday, April 5, 2004


Monday, April 5, 2004


Bruce Perry
Monday, April 5, 2004

The first day at my current job I put on my headphones and played some (classical) music to drown out the unending din.  After a few minutes the grumpy old QA lady in the next cube walked over and asked me to turn the music down.

Winning not possible.

name withheld out of cowardice
Monday, April 5, 2004

I'm in the same boat, headphones are your best bet, just be prepared for hurting ears and a dull headache.

Monday, April 5, 2004

iPod, headphones, loud-pounding music.

Andrew Burton
Monday, April 5, 2004

iPod, headphones, loud-pounding music, and a big gun.

Monday, April 5, 2004

Ack, how about for those of us that can't listen to music while working?

Monday, April 5, 2004

  Or those who just can't stand headphones ?

Ricardo Antunes da Costa
Monday, April 5, 2004

> Or those who just can't stand headphones ?

That too.

Monday, April 5, 2004

Unfortunately, I would venture to say that most people do not really have a choice as to their office environments, so we really do need a way to cope...

Monday, April 5, 2004

I bought myself a pair of closed headphones, which cut out sound more effectively and also ensure that no matter how loud you turn up the music, people around you can't hear it. They're Sennheiser HD202s -- not as good sound quality as "open" ones, but ideal for listening to music without annoying others.

I also tried installing a white noise generator on the PC, for the times when I want to drown out external noise without distracting myself with music.

Of course, these are very techy, short-term solutions, and the noise in my office isn't too bad anyway. If I ever felt that office noise was a serious barrier to productivity, I'd feel compelled to let my boss know.

Monday, April 5, 2004

I'm currently working in a low-walled cube farm; my desk is  near a men's room, the elevators, and a cafeteria/break room where there's a TV on all day every day.

I wear earplugs about 90% of the time I'm at my desk - not perfect, but really helps take the edge off. 

I recently tried (in the store) a pair of those Bose active noise-canceling headphones (their new Model 2), but they didn't seem to be terribly effective against human speech - I've heard (anecdotally) that they're much better at blocking lower frequencies (e.g. airplane engines).  But the Bose wouldn't have been an option for me anyway because headphones are frowned on here: they allegedly discourage the inter-employee communication that the low-walled cubes are supposed to foster (grr, grit teeth; don't even get me started). 

So if I wanted to listen to music here at work, I'd use my stealthy low-profile Etymotic ER4s.  They're expensive, and the earpieces are earplug-style which may not be to everybody's taste, but they are AMAZINGLY effective at blocking a wide spectrum of ambient noise, and they do so without requiring the music to be played at earsplitting volume.  For the ne plus ultra in noise reduction you can apparently get custom-molded plugs to fit your particular ear canals made for them at an audiologist's, but I've been happy enough with the stock soft-rubber ones that I've never bothered.  They work very well to block background noise on trains, planes, etc; and noise-reduction aside, they just sound great.

My one caveat is that they're NOT well suited for sports, or any situation where you're moving around, because the the earpiece wires brushing against your clothes when you move is audible through the earpieces.  (I dream of a cordless version someday, which would do away with this my only quibble.)  But for any situation where you're just sitting and want to listen to your music and nothing else, the Etymotics rock. 

Not an employee/vendor, etc., just a highly satisfied user.

- former car owner in Queens
Monday, April 5, 2004

forgot to add:

- former car owner in Queens
Monday, April 5, 2004

Start a campaign against office cabal. Maybe could help out?
I mean, I'd rather have everyone smoking in the office than the unrelenting noise pollution that most have to sit through each and every day.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, April 5, 2004

I second the Etymotics, or some other set of good-quality isolating earbuds.  I got a pair of ER-6's about a month ago (less than half the price of the ER-4's), and find them wonderful.  Even the ER-6 model is somewhat expensive, but they're a bargain compared to the price of good hearing aids, which is what I'd end up needing if I kept using ordinary earbuds that require me to crank the volume up to drown out coworkers, city bus engine noise, etc.

Monday, April 5, 2004

I have my own office, but even that's not enough. I can close the door, but I don't really want to do that. I've found that the best solution for me, as others have mentioned, is listening to music through earphones. I tend to work much better while listening to music anyway.

Monday, April 5, 2004

I recently read in Peopleware that listening to music or white noise can inhibit one's creativity. I haven't yet had a chance to look into this claim further.

Monday, April 5, 2004

Some people seem to work better listening to music, and some such as myself find it impossible.

I suspect it's a generation thing.

Stephen Jones
Monday, April 5, 2004

What a bunch of mice. You can't do development work in an environment of constant screaming distractions.  Lawyers don't do it. Surgeons don't do it.

All you mice buying headphones, why don't you go and tell your stupid managers to get a brain?

Wells and Fothy are the only two intelligent responses.

Monday, April 5, 2004

I find it depends on the music:

Rock and roll: Creates nervous energy to get things done fast.

New age "space music": Time passes quickly

Mozart, Bach: Promotes thinking

A dot for this one
Monday, April 5, 2004

And if you're trying to convince your management that a noisy work environment is an unproductive one, I've found that the chapter on offices in "Rapid Development" lays out the case in a short, sucinct fashion suitable for educating managers.

Bill Tomlinson
Monday, April 5, 2004

I'm usually a headphones kinda girl;  but I'm toting a faux-hawk at the moment which precludes wearing them.

Monday, April 5, 2004

If the company is run by hypersocials who refuse to believe that there are people who actually dislike loud, noisy places, then leave. There is no hope. It's genetic. They *can't* change.

Else, explain how your having some peace will help the business.

"If you ain't talkin' or typin', you ain't workin'."

"This place is jumpin'!"

"Don't think. Program. Or talk."

"We're just one big team. We all need to interact."

fool for python
Monday, April 5, 2004

"All you mice buying headphones, why don't you go and tell your stupid managers to get a brain?"

I did. I have been making the case for a quiet environment since the day I got here. The answer to all requests, in all cases, has always been NO.

Fernanda Stickpot
Tuesday, April 6, 2004

I worked in one place where it was so noisy that I moved my desk into the data center. Sure, there was the sound of machinery, but not the sporadic bursts of sound that kill concentration.

It worked long enough to find a new job elsewhere.

Friday, April 9, 2004

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