Overcoming office distractions

Q: I read the article ‘How to handle a work place distraction” posted by Pattie Hunt Sinacole and I found good suggestions. I’m in a similar situation. My manager just moved to a larger cubicle right across mine. Instead of setting his computer facing to the wall, he’s facing my cubicle and I feel “under surveillance 24/7” and uncomfortable. In addition, a lot of people come over his office and talk loudly. I talked to him politely that I could not concentrate on my work due to different kind of distractions and asked for at least a screen filter so I feel a little privacy but he does not agree. Should I approach HR to address this issue? He approved to build an additional wall for my co-worker to help her to concentrate on her work when she complained that many people come over the printer across her cubicle (but not directly like mine).

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A: Distractions in the workplace are common and can be annoying at a minimum but disruptive in some instances. With the use of more cubicles and open concept office environments, there are fewer private offices. Office noise is now a more common complaint. Here are some suggestions:

1. This sounds like a new situation. Can you wait a bit to see if the situation improves or you become less distracted by it? Many of us would be distracted by this initially but you might develop a tolerance for it over time.
2. Depending upon your relationship with your manager, you could wait it out and then approach him in several months. If you explain that you tried to adapt but are still not as productive as you once were, this might be a more effective approach. Sometimes timing is everything.
3. Would your manager (and your IT department) be ok if you purchased your own screen filter?
4. Are there other cubicles that might be available?

With all the changes in companies today, you might be irritated by a physical set up that could change with little or no effort from you or your manager. The company or your department could move. A co-worker could be transferred. In other words, the situation may solve itself over time.

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You could certainly approach HR but I am not certain that this would be the most effective way of solving this problem. Your manager may feel a bit betrayed in that he may feel that the two of you have already discussed this issue and there are no readily available solutions.

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