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Open Office Noise Levels, Birthdays, and the Ultimate No-No

by Mary Isner / May 23, 2019

It’s time for a few more friendly reminders from Miss Open Office Manners. In this installment, I discuss noise and birthday parties in the open office, and the ultimate open office no-no. Read on to find out what that is.

Can We Please Have Quiet on the Set?

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: I love the collaborative aspect of working in an open office, but how do I deal with the noise?

-- Shhhhhh

Dear Shhhhhh: I agree. A layout that allows for more collaboration is one of my favorite features of the open office. But yes, one of the negatives can be the extra volume that comes from not having walls. Here are a few simple pointers:

  • Make use of headphones. Headphones are a great way to muffle sounds and let others around you know you do not want to be disturbed.
  • Seek out quiet areas such as getaway booths when you need to really focus.
  • Be willing to nicely approach your coworkers when the volume level is consistently too high for you to get your work done. Sometimes people do not realize how loud they are being and they may just need a gentle nudge to keep it down.


The Open Office Party Crew

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: I just started a new job in an open office. I am an introvert and prefer to keep to myself. On my first day, one of my new coworkers approached me and asked me to contribute money for lunch to celebrate another coworker’s birthday later that week. I am so not interested in this silliness. Is it rude for me not to contribute?

-- Is This an Open Office Shakedown?

Dear Shakedown: I wouldn’t say it’s rude and you certainly shouldn’t feel obligated to contribute. Plus, I can see how this could add up monetarily, especially if you work in a large office. At my friend’s office, one of her coworkers wanted $20 from everyone for ONE lunch from a popular fast food chicken restaurant. Now, that is an open office shakedown!

However, there is something to be said for being a part of the office camaraderie. Perhaps you could suggest a different approach: everyone who is interested in participating makes an annual donation that is pooled together to celebrate all of the birthdays on a monthly basis. This would require less time away from your desk in party mode each month, plus you wouldn’t feel like an ogre OR like you are always reaching for your wallet. Win-win?


The Ultimate Open Office No-No

Dear Miss Open Office Manners: Just for fun, what is the worst open office “horror story” that you have heard?

-- Curious

Dear Curious: Let me preface this by saying, “I, Miss Open Office Manners, like open offices.” In my opinion, there are so many benefits to an open office and they far outweigh the negatives. But, you asked, and I will deliver. My friend (the same friend whose coworker wanted $20 from her for the fast food lunch…see above) works at a large law firm that has an open office design. She has two colleagues who talk back and forth all day from their work stations, and their conversations would make a sailor blush. To say that they are profane is an understatement. She has to sit at her workstation and listen to this all day long. How she does it, I will never know. So, not that the readers of Miss Open Office Manners need this reminder, but, for goodness sake, if your conversations could be seen as offensive, keep them out of the open office!

I hope you have found this week’s tips both helpful and enjoyable. Here’s wishing everyone a productive and polite open office work environment! Never forget to mind your manners...and keep it down over there!

Tags: Open Office Design

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Mary Isner

Mary Isner

Mary has a master’s degree in public administration and has worked as a facility planning analyst for Fentress since 2003. In her free time, she enjoys baking, decorating, and spending time with her family.