Finding Quiet in the Open Office

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

The WNYC 9th Floor's open office space. Sometimes it's hard to find a place for a quiet conversation. (Jody Avirgan/WNYC)

Do you work in an open space office?  Where do you go when you need a little privacy or quiet?  And are there new rules that go along with the new floor plan?  Call us at 212-433-9692 to share your hacks and strategies for combining collaboration and reflection and still getting along with co-workers.

Comments [9]


I'd like to know what type of arrangement people prefer. I changed my team's cube farm to an open environment so we can all get natural light and to reduce the competition to have a window cube. The way it was set up before was so depressing - high walls and darkness for everyone but a few people. Also, we have a lot of daily interaction as a team so the low walls help. At the same time, there are a few loud talkers that are disruptive when collaboration is done and it's time for production, the openness can be difficult for some people.

Has anyone come up with a good alternative?

Aug. 09 2014 09:23 PM

I am also a person who listens to podcasts for most of the day in my open work space, so thank you WYNC.
However, my headphones are not to crowd out the noise, they are to give me some company!
You can hear a pin drop in our open office plan, people are so quiet. Its an incredibly stifling feeling. When a phone rings, or someone actually is talking to a colleague, people seem annoyed. I can't explain how uninspiring and dead this type of space feels.

While we are all doing pretty heavy reading and a lot of policy related analysis, I don't find this type of deafening silence work friendly at all. Having an open space, where there are dozens of people yet absolute silence is so awful for me.

When I had my own single office, it didn't feel this solitary...

Aug. 05 2014 09:30 PM
Jackie from NJ

I am always amazed to read that open offices are still being used. I think i basically became a freelancer to avoid working in another open office or "open offices lite"--short-heght cubicles stuck in open offices. Maybe these work for some types of work/businesses, but for reading/writing-heavy work, it is a disaster to be in an open office and be expected to produce. You hear everyone's conversations, phone calls, and interactions; you come home each night knowing whose spouse leaves the toilet seat up, why someone wore red socks rather than black, and so on, all TMI. If you are not able to either work with constant noise, wear headphones, or come in early or leave late to make up for the nonproductive time at the office, you are doomed. I have come to believe that the same architects who design women's bathrooms at stadiums (that is, to have about one-quarter of the needed stalls) are the same ones who designed open offices.

Aug. 05 2014 01:27 PM
KC Rice from Manhattan

Instead of a segment on how to "survive" an open office, someday I'd like to hear discussion comparing open offices to the models where people are isolated in private offices, which often result in poor communication, lack of awareness of what's going on, feelings that someone else has a "better" office, the fostering of office politics, etc. In my experience (since 1982) an open office in a well-run company can make the environment more collegial and productive. A "How to Survive" point of view encourages callers complaining about the smell of popcorn.

Aug. 05 2014 11:27 AM
jane from nyc

The "know-it-alls" are so loud sometimes I wonder if those people have a hearing problem especially in the morning or would you say that it's "selective yelling"

Aug. 05 2014 11:16 AM

I work for one of the city agencies and the city is so cheap that the open floor plan gives me a migrane every day that I spend at the office. I listen to WNYC to drown out the noise but it makes me feel antisocial. Anyone has any other suggestions because if I don't listen to the radio the city job makes my life miserable.

Aug. 05 2014 11:06 AM
David Goessling from High Bridge, NJ

In the late 70s I worked on a NASA publication in an old-school government office: supervisor in the front, editorial drones at 6 giant metal desks facing her. No computers. Two phones: one on her desk, one in the back. Ask permission to use them. Like being in school.
That's how I feel now in an open office plan with low cubes. There's no collaboration. There are "huddle desks" and "mushroom farms" of little hassock-like things that no one ever uses. No privacy. The know-it-alls talking too loud. For privacy and to get real work done we either seek out empty cubes or go to the company cafeteria.
It depends on the psychology of he individuals, and the work to be done. Some people (20%?) are introverts and not productive in these environments.

Aug. 05 2014 11:05 AM
Amina from NYC

This discussion would be a lot more interesting if we looked at WHY open-space offices are all the rage and evidence as to whether or not they work (especially considering the introvert-extrovert spectrum). Instead, this is merely the taking of a poll.

Aug. 05 2014 11:03 AM
Beatrice from Brooklyn

My daily method to drown out the office chatter is to plug in my earbuds and listen to WNYC all day. Thanks for the help!

Aug. 05 2014 10:54 AM

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