Sharing an Office

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Internet Time Wasters

Not Enough Privacy

If anyone has any ideas on how to share an office I'd really appreciate it. Up until recently, I've had my own office but now have to share (there are no other options). I find it harder to concentrate and buckle down with someone else there (even though we don't waste time chatting, etc.). Just the fact that she's there is off-putting to me. I'm the same with housework in school holidays when the kids are around! Help!
Jeni in West Australia

Headphones Help

I've been sharing an office with another woman for three years now. My solution to getting work done while she is there is to put a walkman over my ears. I can still hear her, but it's at a distance, and the headphones tell her when I'm not to be disturbed. Of course, this requires that you be able to work with music playing!

As for getting along with your office-mate, it's important to choose your battles. The fact that she takes supplies like paper-clips from my desk is annoying, but a small thing to me. A bigger issue was the fact that she left half-full coffee mugs on my desk, which, since I didn't know they were there, tended to spill all over my papers. I told her again and again not to do this, and kept saying it until she did stop. Since it was the only thing I was nagging her about, she gave it higher priority than if I had complained about everything.

Lastly, I want to point out that having an office-mate can be beneficial to your work. Having someone to bounce ideas off of helps you develop those ideas more fully before you tell your boss about them. Just be sure that you are not interrupting her work time when you tell her your ideas.
Lisa B

Work Your Schedules

Read your query about keeping productivity up while sharing space. I have a few suggestions that have worked for me. You may or not be able to use them.

  1. I don't know if you can do this, but coming in earlier than your office mate and getting critical things (requiring focus) done early can go a long way toward getting things done. This requires a bit of organization, i.e., preparing the night before so that you start with a list of things that demand quiet.
  2. Staggering lunchtimes also provides you some "quiet time," to catch up on the things you were unable to get to in the early a.m., or things that may come up mid-morning that demand immediate attention.
  3. If you are scheduling meetings during the day, whenever possible schedule them around your new work schedule: no "lunch meetings," no early morning meetings that eat up the times you have your space to yourself. Block your calendar off during your quiet times.
  4. At the end of the day, make a list for the a.m.
  5. Whenever possible, block off a day to work at home if you find yourself needing a big block of quiet time.
  6. Make a pact with your office mate that no meetings will be scheduled in your office, and that personal phone calls will be made either from another phone outside the office, or when either of you is alone. This will cut down on disruptions from phone calls.
  7. I hope that neither of you uses a speaker phone for calls. This is very disruptive to those around you. Headset phones are very sensitive and sometimes don't require the same speaking volume for talking, so it will be quieter.
  8. Try to use email as much as possible for communications, to cut down on noise.


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Voice of Experience

I have had to share many-a-space with many-a-people... office and at home.

  1. The Great Wall: If there is a way to barricade yourself, do it. This could be how you arrange your desk, computer, lamp or file cabinets... plants make a friendly yet effective divider.
  2. Wear Headphones: You don't even have to be listening to music! I always plug into my computer and put headphones on, with NO music playing. It's amazing how "most" people will respect this and walk away when they see the headphones on. If you can listen to music, that may help you focus better. I always listen to instrumental music, and sometimes meditation music. That way I don't end up singing while my office mate glares at me from the corner of the room.
  3. Talk: Make an agreement with your office mate. I let my office mate know what sort of environment I need to work in. Then she let me know what she needed. We made an effort to respect that agreement. Currently, I share a room with 10 people in a rather open environment. Our cubes are not to the ceiling, but about four feet tall. Therefore, we have to respect each other's needs. Again, headphones help a lot as well as arrangement of the computer and plants!
  4. Organize and Clean Up: I also find not having a lot of stuff on my desk and working area keeps me focused on the task at hand. Everything is filed away and I have only what I need within reach. I work on a computer all day, so this makes it easy for me. I find being organized in general helps me focus on the things I really need to do.

Kathleen K.

Be Aware of 'Visuals'

Get some dividers. You can usually pick these up cheap at an auction sale, etc. I'm thinking about the ones covered in fabric with metal 'feet' that support them. They are a bit heavy to move but they deaden the sound. In effect, you're creating two offices in one.

You might be a very visual person and seeing the movements of someone else in 'your' office could be what is distracting you. That's where the room dividers come in. Some people can work in a noisy environment, but as soon as they see others walking past or moving, they can't concentrate.

I shared an office with a good friend and every time she walked in the room, it was a trigger for us to talk. Room dividers sure would have helped.

Rearranged Results

I once had the same problem when "thrown" into an office with someone else after having my own my entire working career. It's not just the extra person there, but the extra traffic, phone calls etc. that the other person generates. I finally broke down and asked if she would mind if we rearranged the office. I put my desk on the back wall facing the back of the office so she was to my back. I explained to her it was not her I was trying to get away from, just the extra noise etc. so I could concentrate on my work more. Not only did she agree to it, but had been trying to think of a way to ask me about the same thing. Since we had the same idea, we put the file cabinets in-between us in the middle of the room to create a sort of divider. This also gave us more privacy when on the phone or when we had others there for whatever the reason.

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