My work colleague says everything he is doing out loud and it is incredibly distracting. He will count his emails and then debrief about them, talk about a meeting that he missed, discuss the easterly swell as he prepares for weekend activities, ponder riots, chat about morning tea, take long phone calls, sigh and chews his nails. Even his ringtone drives me nuts. It is a quacking duck that makes me jump every time I hear it. It is quite literally driving me insane.
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Mrs JD, Boat Harbour
Dear Mrs JD,
That does sound very frustrating. You obviously have an open plan office which is great in theory but a surefire way to end up manifesting into significant downtime as you all negotiate and work around each other’s workplace styles. Some people are quiet workers. They sit there, totally absorbed in what they are doing, hardly noticing as the minutes tick down to 5pm freedom. Others are like caged animals. I don’t want to be seen as sexist here, but in the offices I have worked in, it is most often the men who seem unable to sit for long periods of time. They pace, they rock in their chairs, they tap their pens to The Velvet Underground’s Sister Ray (which goes on forever), they stare out the window like seven-year-olds waiting for little lunch and on it goes until very soon their noise is all you can hear. You become attuned to it. Frustrated by it. Incensed. Stir crazy. It gets to the point where you give them errands just to get them away from your general vicinity.
I think this has become a lot worse since a semi return to normal following the COVID-19 lockdown. Many of us got to enjoy the space and serenity of our homes, so coming back to the workplace was quite literally an abuse of the senses. Our bodies and minds were attuned to chill mixes on Spotify, sipping herbal tea, doing some sneaky meditation, taking a quick breather in the sunshine and falling asleep on the outdoor lounge. Heck, let’s be open and transparent here – sneaking in a 2pm drink or two, justifying it with that great adage to write drunk and edit sober (since we didn’t have to worry about drinking and driving — we were already home in our pyjamas anyway).
Is there another space where you can relocate? When we were all working from home, I often went and sat in my car (though I did have to explain to the neighbours a few times that I was of sound mind). It was like a vacuum of serenity – warm, comfortable and wonderfully silent. Worth a try if you get really desperate.