The only two solutions I've found are to (a) legitimately book a conference room, or (b) work from home. Except the latter reminds me how futile it is to spend such a short life working for someone else during all the beautiful hours of the day.
The trick is you need to look unremarkable, yet also uninterruptible. I think the best strategy (short of finding an employer that values productivity) is to team up with someone else who values getting work done, and book a conference room with them. That way it looks like you're "having a meeting" and no-one will ask vapid questions.
Better still, dial your cell phone with the room's conference phone, so it looks like it's "on" to anyone peering through the door's window, and sit with your back to the door. People are less likely to try to take over the conference room if it looks like it's complicated to get you to vacate.
As I type this in my open plan office at 1:39 PM, there's a vacuum cleaner 20 feet away, three different conversations going on around me, the stairwell door at my back opening every minute, people walking in front, behind, and to the side of me, and the janitorial service emptying garbage cans. Every few days we'll get noisemakers, screaming, and clapping and cake for birthdays or work anniversaries.
When working from home, I get a good nine solid hours in with great focus and the occasional break to take pets out. From my, admittedly non-scientific reckoning, I get about three times as much done in one work day at home. I go into the office mostly just to be seen, to participate in social rituals, for physical meetings, and to be "available" for questions and drive-bys. It's not that I don't like my co-workers, it's that my office is noisy and distracting. And it's one of the quietest floors in the company.
When I worked for IBM and had a private, quiet office, it took some getting used to being alone. When I moved to full-time remote work, it was a really good balance for me: I could exercise during phone conferences, have a healthy and properly-proportioned lunch with my wife, and get a balanced amount of distraction and "away" time by taking the dogs out.
I was worried I would end up not getting enough work done or worst yet appearing as if I was not getting enough work done. But being able to work remotely from a quiet place actually meant I got more work done in a shorter time period, and it also afforded me proper breaks from my work. Like heading out for 1-2 hours and doing Pilates, or going for a long walk in the park.
For me breaking my workday up into like 2/3 3-4 hour sessions, with exercise and other activities as breaks actually improved my work, and I was way happier than sitting in an office for 9 hours straight.
For co-workers, they are also remote so we schedule meetings and chats. If something comes up we ask when we could interrupt via chat and the person responds when they can.
If the end of the day comes and a person hasn't responded we shoot an e-mail to get on the radar for the next day with the understanding that it should be handled asap the next day before entering a heads-down mode.
If extremely urgent then we pick up the phone.
I like working in offices, however working remote has been surprisingly pleasant (although I'm definitely more of an introvert).
As soon as I'm working, I find people talking around me, getting up, or even simply being in my field of view, very distracting.
Not an enjoyable situation when you're working with quite a bit of legacy code with both complex logic and a few somewhat complex algorithms.
I try to get in the office earlier than everyone on my team, and I try to at least have a look at tasks that require concentration at that time of the day.
I find the notion that employers are worried that you might slack off working from home absurd, as I believe I'm not some special unique snowflake but part of a large subset of people that function like that.
Also - I invested in a “do not disturb” light that I flip on while on a call or while I need to focus on something. It seems to be pretty effective as most requests that would have been walk ups are now turning into emails.
Years ago, when telecommuting was the bright future, I thought working from home would be great. I don't anymore. I'm more productive when I'm with the people I work with. We can discuss stuff, help each other, etc. More team cohesion, more cooperation, more knowledge sharing, more working in the same direction.
Now I work remotely, in a different geo, and people still want to "talk to me", insist that I open the messenger app etc, call me on whatsapp (which our company prohibits BTW). No way around it. It is all the same people who asked questions when they were engineers, only now they moved higher up.
I am adding this useless personal anecdata only in hope we accumulate a big enough list so that HR and others realize that enough people consider important to be alone to get stuff done.
Some lore in our company tells about overachievers who would get up at 5am to be productive until the bulk of teams arrives at work. It was some 20-30 years ago, these days, one gets up at 5am to catch the train for this 2+-hour commute. Being alone is all we can have.
I don't want to go far, I just want to get my stuff done.
Conversely: I have a family, and find that a day of open-plan leaves me consistently too frazzled to hand much in the way of meaningful interaction with my partner and child.
I don’t really know how to square these too, other than to suggest that different environments make sense for different people, and wonder how we can implement this without it getting caught up in status-game space (“why should X have the office...”)
I like productive chat but also having dedicated alone time is important.
Too much if either is not good
Devops and architect stuff is a whole lot easier to do with open office since you don't have a million things in your head at once.
Co-workers think it's weird but they are office workers and sales so talking all day is 80% of their job.
Coworkers can be incredibly distracting in close quarters.
Our office has many places you can be alone, and we take advantage whenever needed. The open office warehouse echo still blows, but we manage
When I’m working on a model I just put my headphones and I know people will disturb me only if they really need to. Which is fine, I’m here to help in the first place.
Can’t concentrate at home because Slack (virtual open office plan).
Always open office.
Worked great, and nobody seemed offended. I may think that even the directors love it when they saw it.
(Over-ear headphones are a little more reliable than earbuds, but have comfort issues for some people)