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Anonymous reports: <<In my current job I find myself in a rather noisy
part of the office, sandwiched between a common area, a high-traffic
corridor, and the mail-sorting area. I'm finding it increasingly
difficult to concentrate on my work, and I'm feeling stressed by the
mechanical noises and casual conversations going on around me.>>
This sounds like something you need to discuss with your manager. If
you can make a strong case for how stressful the environment is, they
may be able to find you another office. I know that I can't work in
very noisy environments--can't concentrate nearly as well as when I
have a relatively quiet workplace.
<<So far my complaints to my manager and the manager of HR have fallen
on deaf ears>>
Perhaps the key word there is "complaints"? Managers hate people who
raise problems, but have a great fondness for people who propose
solutions. I'd recommend doing some snooping to see if you can find an
open office or even a quieter cubby--talk informally to the facilities
manager, or whoever allocates workspace, to find out what barriers
there might be to getting yourself assigned to a new space.
One thing I learned working for the government is that it's much easier
to get what you want if you know who really holds the power to make
decisions. In the government, that's rarely the person who holds
nominal title to this role--often it's their secretary or the one clerk
in their department who actually knows how to work the photocopier. No,
really! Get that person on your side (request help, enlist their
sympathy, don't complain) and you can often move mountains. Move the
mountain, then point out to your manager the blank space where all that
rock used to be and request that you occupy that space.
If that doesn't work (it doesn't always), consider investing in some
"noise-cancelling headphones". You can find these in various techy
magazines or through a Google search. Haven't tried any of them, but
have heard (warning: anecdotal evidence) that they work surprisingly
well. I believe Sennheiser is one company that makes them. Low-tech
solutions such as earplugs can also work well.
<<How have others (especially lone writers like me) succeeded in
negotiating for a quiet workspace?>>
When I was working for my former employer, I was first assigned to an
office nicknamed (for obvious reasons) "the acquarium", in a
high-traffic area. I made my point without actually complaining about
the office simply by having my manager meet me there during the course
of our usual work to discuss various projects at appropriate times
(i.e., the noisiest times). They got annoyed by the noise and the lack
of privacy, and were thus quite open to my suggestion for a change.
Worth a try?
<<When applying for a new job, how do writers assess the suitability of
their future working environment?>>
I ask them to show me where I'll be working (ideally the actual
office). If you've done well enough at the interview, you can sometimes
get a chance to meet the other team members. I've been lucky in getting
this chance in past interviews, but you have to ask for it: Talk
privately and off the record to several of the team members. You'd be
amazed at what you can learn.
--Geoff Hart ghart -at- videotron -dot- ca
(try geoffhart -at- mac -dot- com if you don't get a reply)