Office Is A Hell Hole

Question to Ask the Workplace Doctors about being trapped in a small noisy office:

How can I say to my boss that I can’t stand this office? My problem is that I hate my job because of the office. It is constantly noisy and distracting. There are constant noise from outside where they organise ‘events’, from the hall and from the next offices where people talk on the phone and I can really hear everything. Sometimes it helps to close windows and doors but this is not accepted by all my colleagues (I also share the tiny office with 3 other people). Sometimes I try to dampen the noise with music but I can’t work all time with music. I also tried ear plugs but won’t help.

In addition there is no fresh air coming in the office (windows face the center of the building) and there is very little natural light coming in, so we are constantly and all day with lamps and artificial light. There are days that I leave stressed, depressed and totally angry from work. And of course I am always disappointed because I can hardly finish my planned tasks due to constant distraction.

I want to talk to my boss but I can’t find the courage. I fear that he will see it as an excuse and so I keep postponing it. He is not there and only shows up 2 evenings in the week. So he has not seen so much of what’s like to work there.

Glad to hear any suggestion.
Signed,
Distracted and Depressed

Dear Distracted and Depressed:
I can tell you have tried to solve the noise problem on your own. Apparently you are a problem-solver. You diagnose the problem as you hating your job because of being locked into a small office that is invaded by noise from phone conversations outside your walls. Music and earplugs have not dampened that noise sufficiently. Moreover, you feel confined because you work largely with artificial light. So what to do? You seem to think talking to your boss would help, but you lack courage? There may be no solution. Space is limited and hushing coworkers who must speak loudly enough to be heard on the phone probably is not easy. With this reality in mind, here are several matters for your consideration:
1. Think in and outside the box. That kind of thinking could begin by engaging your coworkers inside your small office to think as they might if they owned the space. You won’t be successful at that if you vent your hate to come to work with frequent sour complaints, but you might approach it as a Sherlock Holmes–asking what is the cause of the problem (obviously the noise from outside your quarters) and asking them to see why the workers are located where they are. Once you four become aides to Sherlock, you will begin to think about the big picture–which is creating a work spaces that make work efficient and as pleasant as possible. That might entail acquiring evidence of the noise–samples of the decibel level of noise–do recordings of it sound akin to noise in a hall between classes of teenagers or of a rock concert? Such a recording might serve as proof to a boss that work is difficult to do amid such distractions.
2. 2. Think beauty as well as quiet. Smart companies engage workers in decorating their offices. That might mean colorful padded partitions, green plants, art object and white noise. It also might mean green space for socializing and time-outs to get out of offices for a walk. A Sherlock approach need not be trying to find a criminal, if your work group cheerfully seeks to answer questions such as: What might we do to make this space a pleasant place in which we want to come to work? What could we do to brighten our work area and surprise the boss?
3. Courage. Have you reflected on why you lack courage? Is it that you have become so passive that you have lost your voice? Do you fear you will be seen as a trouble maker? Are you afraid you will lose your job? Do you see yourself as less important than your boss? Options # 1 & 2, if followed might make raising your courage unnecessary. But never forget that getting the job done and done well is more likely when you and your coworkers are happy people, and a boss wants you to be happy people. His job hinges on that. Someone once said the Meek shall inherit the earth, but they won’t be able to manage it. They are weak, remember. Your voice counts and is stronger when is in tune with others.

Might these thoughts spur you to see this space in which you are trapped as an opportunity—to learn what you might do to make it a place you don’t hate? Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS is my way of suggesting that you can have a can-do attitude when you enlist your coworker inside your box. And I predict if that happens, it will even affect how the noise makers outside your box become more considerate. You likely will never have the quiet of a hospital, but you might be surprised at what you bring about. Will you let us know?
William Gorden