Office noise: put up or shut up

In my office, bants come thick and fast, but when other departments blare out video clips, I can’t help thinking wistfully of a headphones-only zone.

Share
Related Topics

In an open-plan office, etiquette (as well as teenage dreams of rock superstardom) withers on the vine. People eat highly scented soups and stir fries at their desks; one person’s filing system is the teetering pile of paper looming threateningly over their neighbour; coughs, sneezes and sniffles are shared and shared alike. If your workspace is really cramped, you might end up accidentally playing footsie with, or giving an unintentional kicking to, the person sitting at the desk opposite yours.

Accidental olfactory and physical abuse aside, noise has to be one of the biggest causes of dissent. It certainly is in i’s offices, as friendly debate and vital work chat between colleagues is what helps bring out a newspaper. So too, though, is quiet, the quiet time required by people stringing thoughts together into a coherent form for their readers to follow. Which is where headphones come in (Handel is my piped-in noise-blocker of choice). When push comes to shove, most of us can write stories in a maelstrom of shouting editors and ringing phones, but a bit of peace helps.

My husband used to complain about an office he once worked in. It was silent, because everyone was plugged into their ’phones. He found it sterile and unfriendly, a banter-free existence. In my office, bants come thick and fast, but when other departments blare out video clips from their computers to share with their deskmates, I can’t help thinking wistfully of a headphones-only zone.

But then I am a noise Nazi – I nagged a colleague I sat next to so much about the crunching, grinding sounds she made when constantly biting her nails that she gave up  the habit.

So, what is the best etiquette for office noise? To live and let live or to plug in and shut up? I don’t know, but I do know what not to do. When sound, however bloody annoying, blasts out from another desk, don’t shout at the top of your voice for the culprit to GET SOME BLOODY HEADPHONES. It’s noisy, it’s rude, and it makes you (OK, I’m talking about me) sound like someone with no sense of etiquette at all. Sorry about that, Lucy.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Ashdown Group: PHP Web Developer / Website Coordinator (PHP, JavaScript)

£25000 - £28000 per annum + 25 days holidays & pension: Ashdown Group: PHP Web...

Recruitment Genius: Estates Projects & Resources Manager

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Based in London, Manchester, Br...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: moderate, iconic royals are a shoe-in for a pedantic kicking

Guy Keleny
 

Letter from the Whitehall Editor: Cameron is running scared from the “empty chair”

Oliver Wright
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us