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  1. #1
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    Default An introvert's dilemma: a shared office

    I'm wondering if I can ask for thoughts from you (especially other introvert NFs) on a specific problem?

    At work, I share an office with 3 others. They're amazing, wonderful people. However, I find that I have a hard time concentrating when they're around. There are interruptions, fun moments between work, or questions that need an answer from me. These aren't unreasonable interruptions, but the effect on me is utter derailment of what I'm doing. At the end of the day, I find myself frustrated at my lack of completion. Then, to make up for it, I bring work home to do over nights and weekends (when I have the quiet to work). This isn't good either.

    I think part of the problem is that the type of work they do comes in small, short bursts (administrative-type stuff), while I must work intensely (writing, editing, proofreading) for long periods of time.

    It's very possible that I'll get my own office in the future. In the meantime, though, what to do? I don't want to hurt anyone (nobody's doing anything wrong -- I'm just so sensitive). At the same time, I'm having a hard time getting the focus I need to get the work done.

    I'd be so grateful for any tips, commiseration, or advice that you have for me!

  2. #2
    likes this gromit's Avatar
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    Try to set some boundaries. Can you concentrate with music on? Maybe get those big headphones that are very visible and put them on? Then people will know not to interrupt you unless it's important. I think if you say "I need to focus right now" for a certain portion of each day, people wouldn't be offended or hurt. Especially if you had a time set aside (in your mind) that you COULD talk to them.

    I sort of feel the opposite. I have a cube but wish I shared an office.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Alchemiss's Avatar
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    Headphones are your friend. Even if you're only pretending to listen!

    My other suggestion is to lower your standards. If you are expected to field questions from your officemates, consider that "productive".

    You can also ask them to save questions until "office hours" so you can field them in a block instead of stopping and starting all the time.

  4. #4
    Senior Member pyramid's Avatar
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    People dig the word "focus." Tell them how you best focus if you can work dilligently on one thing and that frequent interruptions keep you from getting things done efficiently. Just try to be honest because of course you want to help them by participating and answering questions when they need it, but maybe they are exploiting your helpfulness and little and not giving you enough workspace (if they are all extroverts they might just overlook that in a "team" sort of mentality). Showing you have pride in your work and want to do it well will help others understand you mean it when you request space

    I don't know if headphones are appropriate where you work, but good idea
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    Junior Member Malkaro's Avatar
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    Just tell them you can`t focus when they keep interrupting you.
    I`m sure they will understand if they are as you describe them.
    "It might seem like you've got me where you want me and my game is up, but luck is a funny thing. I hope you know how to laugh, because things are about to get really funny."

  6. #6
    Vaguely Precise Seymour's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alchemiss View Post
    Headphones are your friend. Even if you're only pretending to listen!

    My other suggestion is to lower your standards. If you are expected to field questions from your officemates, consider that "productive".

    You can also ask them to save questions until "office hours" so you can field them in a block instead of stopping and starting all the time.
    I work in an open office setting and we use headphones to signal "I'm focusing." Like Alchemiss, I sometimes I wear them even when not listening to anything as a signal to others.

    Encourage people to use email for non-urgent questions (that means you need to be assiduous about responding to it). I also find it helps to make people wait for you to get to a stopping point before answering/responding; that lowers the level of instant positive feedback for interrupting you. We also encourage people to make any extended phone calls in meeting or phone rooms so they don't disturb people nearby. We sometimes even use IM between people in the same office, so we don't intrude on people's neighbors.

    It is particularly tough to share space with interrupt-driven people (like managers) when your job requires uninterrupted focus. I had to have a talk with some of my coworkers early on in which I spelled out that I like them, was happy to joke around but if they were constantly interrupting then I couldn't get my job done. Worst case, you could ask to swap into a quieter office.

    Also, I know for programming you can find plenty of articles on how important uninterrupted flow is for developers. I wouldn't be surprised if there was similar studies backing up the need for uninterrupted time for writing and editing. There are also some suggestions for writers here.

    Good luck... I certainly sympathize.

  7. #7
    Member MrRandom88's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by illuscat View Post
    I'm wondering if I can ask for thoughts from you (especially other introvert NFs) on a specific problem?

    At work, I share an office with 3 others. They're amazing, wonderful people. However, I find that I have a hard time concentrating when they're around. There are interruptions, fun moments between work, or questions that need an answer from me. These aren't unreasonable interruptions, but the effect on me is utter derailment of what I'm doing. At the end of the day, I find myself frustrated at my lack of completion. Then, to make up for it, I bring work home to do over nights and weekends (when I have the quiet to work). This isn't good either.

    I think part of the problem is that the type of work they do comes in small, short bursts (administrative-type stuff), while I must work intensely (writing, editing, proofreading) for long periods of time.

    It's very possible that I'll get my own office in the future. In the meantime, though, what to do? I don't want to hurt anyone (nobody's doing anything wrong -- I'm just so sensitive). At the same time, I'm having a hard time getting the focus I need to get the work done.

    I'd be so grateful for any tips, commiseration, or advice that you have for me!
    I have 3 other roomates in my apartment and you better believe I am glad that we each have our own rooms (and that i remain in my room when i need to concentrate.)

  8. #8
    Senior Member Tiltyred's Avatar
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    Headphones don't even work where I am. So I sympathize. I've gotten assertive to the point I'm shaking in my boots inside about telling people I can't talk right now. Something like, "I'd love to hear about that another time. I can't talk right now."

  9. #9
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    Wow! Thank you for all your responses! I love the ideas you gave, from headphones (if I can pull it off) to the realization that my office mates are most certainly extroverts to the idea of setting aside official question time to the shaking in my boots that just might have to happen as I say, "I'm sorry, but I just can't talk right now."

    Whew-- Thank you!

  10. #10
    Senior Member vince's Avatar
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    I work in an open office for 3 years now and despite my initial fears about it I wouldn't want it any other way anymore. We have a huge, completely open office where there's about 10 people, and a lot of passage of other people. Kind of the central place of the company. It's very good to practize my social skills and it helps me feel less odd. Nowadays it's usually me who interupts other workers On top of that I'm the only IT-er in the firm, so I get interrupted all the time. But like I said, I'm happy with it.

    I do understand illuscat. it must be hard if you have to write and edit stuff. My job consists of the short administrative bursts you mention. Occasionaly I have to fix harder technical issues and then I lock myself in in the server room or put my phone of the hook

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