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An office with "library rules" (37signals.com)
231 points by rkudeshi on Dec 10, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 175 comments

I'm shocked at how many people here find loud environments to be totally OK, some even preferring those to quiet ones.

If you are working in absolute silence and start to feel uncomfortably, you can always introduce some custom noise, be it a rain sound or ocean shore or noise of any color you like. Feeling chatty? Take Bob to a cooler and chat what you want, he's a chatter, too. On the other hand, it is very problematic (and really rarely effective) to just stand up in the middle of the noisy room and ask everyone, however kindly you manage to do that, to shut up at least for ten minutes, because you absolutely cannot concentrate in this goddamn noise that's been driving you nuts since said Bob came in at 9:05.

The point being, I want to be in control of my sound environment. Preferably without the need of earplugs or bulky headphones or other extreme measures like showing up at 7 a.m. or staying late just to get some shit done when the office is finally empty. I cannot concentrate, cannot even think clearly if there is almost any kind of noise - chatter, music, phone talks nearby, traffic noise from the street when the window is open or almost anything else, including my own voice. I know a lot of folks that, like me, would rather spend a night in the forest than an hour in the open space office.

From some comments I presume that it is probably impossible to convey to some lucky people with their extreme tolerance towards loud sounds how excruciatingly painful constant, unavoidable noise may be, but let me try anyways: it is a real damn torture resulting in days of not zero but of negative productivity. It's been my worst enemy at every place that I've worked at (close second are constant distractions, but I think these two are cousins), to the extent that my only special requirement for any job or workplace now is: please, let me sit in a quiet place.

I'm so fascinated how this varies so much person to person.

For me, my biggest "focus" times are almost always with noise-cancelling headphones on with blaring music that I don't have to think too much about (no vocals, etc). Even when I'm alone in the office, I still need something like that to be at maximum productivity.

However, if I can hear people talking around me, my mind almost immediately gravitates toward their conversation; one of the biggest distractions to my work.

As someone who has worked in music for several years, I find that listening to it makes focusing on any other task, like coding, much more difficult. Even without vocals, I can't help getting distracted by details of the production or composition ("oh that's a great snare sound" or "I would have used a tele for that part"). So I tend to work in complete silence, if possible, and an ironic consequence of devoting myself to music is that I never listen to it anymore.

I had this same problem for years, and it made me sad because I never listened to music.

Then I realized that it wasn't the case for music I know really well. Even jazz or complicated folk (Chris thile) is great if I listen to an album over and over. I get in the zone. Try an album where you know almost every musical element and lyric. Put the album on repeat and see if it works.

+1. I suggest 80s pop (Genesis, Michael Jackson) - extremely effective imo.

I worked a lot of long hours last week to 977's '80s channel.

I don't always listen to '80s pop, but when I do, it's when I am doing the long late night hours. A habit that goes back to college.

"Land of Confusion" coming on the stream was a highlight of one of the nights. The more tired I got, the more the music was working for me,

I have the same problem. Music is too interesting to not be distracting when I'm working on things that require my full attention.

I can filter out people talking (as long as they're not listing numbers when I'm also doing numerical work) but get driven insane by little noises like repeated sniffing, foot-drumming, or even one coworker with a particularly squeaky scroll-wheel whose job seems to be to scroll through log files at high speed all day. The first two of these seem to cut through any music I put on headphones, too.

So for me a "library rules" office would just mean fewer conversations to drown out the little noises that nobody even realises they're making. I'm sure I unknowingly make some variety of noise that someone else hates too.

Many open-plan offices, if you can't switch to private offices, install white/pink/brown noise makers in order to help mask such sounds. They're not too expensive, try getting your employer to install em:


I use sox sometimes:

sox -t sw -r 44100 -c 2 /dev/zero -t alsa pulse synth pinknoise vol -9 dB band -n 800 1200 fade q 5 30:00 10

It's filtered pink noise; last time I checked sox didn't have a brown noise generator.

Edit: what do you know, I just checked the man page again, and sox does now have a synth brownnoise option. You can play with the "band" parameters (or omit it) based on your local noise spectrum.

Edit 2: you can also use the "bass" and "treble" filters instead of "band"; the former are easier to understand IMO. It's been a long time since I read the sox man page; it's crazy how much it can do.

Thanks for the introduction to a curious tool.

I tried your command on OS X but changing alsa to aiff but nothing plays. Any suggestion?

I worked out that command line years ago, and I don't even remember what it all does. And all of my machines are linux, so I can't test out what it is for OS X. But from looking at the soxformat man page, I'm guessing you might try replacing "alsa pulse" with "coreaudio".

You can also look at the output of "sox -h" to see what audio device drivers your sox has.

Thank you! I'd never heard of sox and it looks potentially useful and a lot of fun to play around with.

Yup. People are often surprised that I can hear their conversations.

Someone will say something in the next room, with the door open, and I'll answer. They're all WTF you can hear me?

Meanwhile I'm all WTF do you expect, I have LoS and you're only 40 feet away.

Large offspring syndrome?

Line of sight

I've mentioned before how birdsong/dawn chorus is my white noise of choice, and I was pleased to hear on the BBC Radio 4 program "All in the Mind" (about mind/psychology-related issues) about research linking birdsong with a sense of well-being:


This is probably the most valuable post I've seen on HN in about six months, as it does a good job of communicating, in a way that I can appreciate, how someone else might feel about noise.

I go to the office for the noise - In fact, just before a long weekend, or thanksgiving, when my area of the office starts to get a bit quieter, I go absolute batshit, and either have to leave the office and go somewhere where there are people, or start yelling out at random to people to make some noise. The silence is deafening.

Some of my most productive coding, documenting, or troubleshooting sessions have been done in coffee shops, where there is a lot of background chatter and activity.

I much prefer Open Cube cultures, where you can see and hear people talking. I don't think I would last very long in a "Library Quiet" culture.

This post, as well as others, just again highlights the 'to each his own' truth; some people prefer silence, some prefer noise. As an employer, if they care about noise when it comes to a working environment, this must be a very hard thing to balance / get right.

I'm shocked at how many people here find loud environments to be totally OK, some even preferring those to quiet ones.

And I'm a little bemused how so many people can cope with living in urban environments rather than rural ones. The noise, smells, neighbors right through the wall, traffic, etc. But I suspect the majority of HNers live in urban environments. Noise tolerance, like urban, population density and crowd tolerance, is personal and subjective and it's tricky to rationalize why people do or do not want to "control" it.

I fall asleep more easily if I have chatter around me (so I listen to podcasts). This is unusual but not something I need to rationalize away. It's just how I tick and other people tick other ways.

Urban noise is like a noisy clock ticking in the other room, or an air-conditioning system blowing air around. 99% of the time you honestly have absolutely no perception of it, but that last 1% of the time you can't understand how it wasn't driving you crazy before.

Moderate quiet combined with just one conversation that you can overhear is far more annoying than just general ambient noise like a street.

This is pretty much me. I have reasonably expensive sound-dampening headphones, on which I play music to ensure that I don't hear conversations. I am seeking to enter the zone where I can do what I'm hired to do and spent years and a (small) fortune educating myself to do. Listening to your blather about The Game is not that- nor is listening to your conversation about your code with someone else.

Yes, I am that distractable. Everything is that interesting to my magpie-like mind. But conversely, when I take your noises away and move into the mental headspace, then I will make magic happen. I am hired to do magic. There are other people like me. Please give us the space to do what we got hired to do.

;; if you want to talk, please schedule meeting, ping me on irc, or use IM.

I'm similar. I wear sound-isolating earbuds (not active noise cancelers) when I need to work when other people are around, though I never reach pure focus, at least not what I can achieve when I have genuine quietude. Often the "quiet floor" at the library is really not quiet enough because people find it ok to have small chit chat and whispers every once in a while.

I haven't yet found music that doesn't distract me, but I am heavily used SimplyNoise, and their new rain simulator SimplyRain. I'm finding the rain with ~50% intensity and rare thunder to be more comfortable than brown or pink noise myself. Other rain simulators haven't worked this well for me in aiding focus.

Would like to hear more of your thoughts.

I find that the "zone" requires a couple things to be entered for me.

- zero to slight physical discomfort. Taking time off to blow nose, stretch from back pain, etc, is not helpful

- clear head. Intrusive thoughts and worries, as one might expect, do not help me focus.

- Total quiet is nice, but not required. So long as its not insistent or random loudnesses (i.e., doesn't grab my attention), I am OK with it.

- Often, a drink ready to hand. No idea why.

- With respect to sound, I prefer over-the-ear headphones, since sticking stuff in my ears is not my thing. I favor upbeat/peaceable music - Iron and Wine is one of my standbys.

- And finally - and worst of all - an interesting problem. I have to actually want to work on the thing to really get going, otherwise it's a effort where I have to essentially mentally set aside my distractions and prepare to "go deep".

You said

   I have to actually want to work on the thing to really get going
Couldn't agree more. If I have to put down what I'd rather work on and force myself to a different project or some uninteresting code, all self-motivation crumbles.

The only issue I have about silence is that horrid dead and awkward feeling in the room. I work best in a quite but active environment.

And I actually liked working in a small (~6 people) busy startup where everyone was in earshot and you were all on the same page at all times.

You're not alone in this. Open-plan is a fucking disaster. I've thought about getting together all the anxiety/panic sufferers out there for a class action against all the companies with open-plan offices (greater than 10 employees; below 10, you use the space you can get) that make it hard or socially unacceptable to escape. The problem is that I'd be black-balling myself by doing it, but it's a good idea and I hope someone does. I know a couple people whose (long-term) panic problems were caused by open-plan offices.

For me, it's open-back visibility. Noise I can shut out. Being visible gives me the creeps. If I am going to be in a place for the amount of time equal to a trans-Atlantic plane ride, then give me a goddamn decent space rather than treating my flight-or-fight response as your own personal toy. Asshole.

I think the ideal is private offices (with doors) with enough space for 3 people comfortably sitting and working, and 8 to cram in standing. Offices are cheap compared to engineers.

Add some conference rooms of various sizes which can be taken over for weeks (the "war room" model), and some other meeting areas.

Plus some lounge open spaces which can be used for working, too (like, say, an actual library type space, where there are people but it is quiet, and also a video area)

Even spending $2500/mo/engineer on facilities doesn't seem unreasonable. That could get you quite a nice office. Even $1k/mo should do it (500 square feet per person in a place like Mountain View outside downtown)

My "ultimate" office setup is 2 person offices with laptops + lots of big displays. Prefer pairing of the two folks in the office, although not required 100% (I think there are diminishing returns after a certain point). A few empty offices with laptop stands, keyboards/mice, and displays. If you want to pair with someone who isn't in your immediate office, pick up your laptop and head into one of the spare offices so as to not disturb the other office occupant.

Lots of shared space for meetings (with high resolution projectors!) and general chit-chat/hangout time, but any actual work-work is designed to happen in the offices. Not that you couldn't take your laptop into the "lounge", but it wouldn't be optimal.

I worked in a pretty terrible open plan environment. Headphones and music were banned but it seemed loud personal conversations were not.

I worked opposite a lady who would have various male admirers who would come over several times a day to chat her up. So these guys would either stand directly behind my chair and try and talk through me or go around to her side and whisper stuff to her and they would sit and giggle.

Of course nobody achieved any actual work there, so projects were always late. Their solution was to add more people to the project and more people = even more noise.

What possible justification was there for not allowing headphones? Did the people in charge think banning headphones would make people collaborate better?

I'm not sure exactly. It was a bank so I guess it was something to do with wanting to appear professional.

There were all kinds of rules and strict dress code, no dyed hair, no personal effects on desks, no mobile phones, no visible tattoos etc.

Not the most fun place to work, so after about a year I actually left for a job with longer hours and a worse salary.

My wild, bystander-who-knows-nothing peanut-gallery guess: some manage-osaur had the internet use logs mined and found out that a lot of people were on Youtube (for music) and decided that people were "spending too much time" "on" Youtube.

Nope, personal use of the internet was banned too. Although that rule didn't seem to apply to anyone over a certain paygrade.

Open plan is fine, even for large offices, so long as everyone knows that quiet is the rule. I've worked in huge rooms with 70+ engineers and it was next to silent. Those that wanted noise put headphones on.

I'm not sure what's up with the anxiety - are you constantly trying to hide that you're on the web all the time and getting nervous as a result?

> Open plan is fine, even for large offices, so long as everyone knows that quiet is the rule.

I don't agree with this.

Bullpens/developer rooms are designed for collaboration and they have been for the last fifteen years. They are for developers to whiteboard or bounce ideas off of each other. If you are in a bullpen the expectation shouldn't be quiet.

With that said you cannot (or should not) have bullpens without open offices that developers can choose to walk in and shut the door. Offices should be some distance away from the bullpen and be unlabeled-first-come-first-serve (they should be designed for quiet focus). You should also be able to work from home whenever it best suits you.

Also, after reading some of the other comments, a bullpen is not a way to stuff the developers, call center team, and the sales team into one cheap room! If any company does this it's a sign of poor management.

I'm a headphones-focus person and I can't stand people talking around me when I focus. However, unless it is excessive (someone doing a conference call on speaker every day) then it's just how offices have been since... well forever. However, in every place that I've worked there has been offices that you can use to focus (or a liberal work from home policy). I typically spend most of my time in a closed door office getting all of the hard think-work done and then the remainder in the bullpen doing CRUD work.

A company that has a bullpen and enforces a quiet rule feels like a company that simply does not know how to build a proper development environment (Oh, developers are supposed to be in, like, big rooms or something, but our developers don't like noise... okay how about we make it a 'quiet only' big room... or something)

I've never heard of a bullpen before, it sounds like a pretty horrific work environment.

A civilised, open plan engineering office should indeed be quiet. Not silent, but fairly quiet.

We did exactly the opposite to your method by the sounds of things - meeting rooms for 4 to 5 people, and one or two much larger rooms, were available around the edges of the floor to go and bounce ideas around or discuss things. The rest of the floor was quiet space but informal conversation was fine. It worked very well for us.

I have the desire to avoid people hanging out immediately behind me, too, in the sense that it can keep me from losing myself in my work. In my case (and maybe in GP's case), the issue is not that they can see what I'm doing, but that it increases the expectation that I'm about to be interrupted, which destroys my ability to get into flow. A camera behind me connected to the intranet site wouldn't bother me in the same way.

I'm not sure what's up with the anxiety - are you constantly trying to hide that you're on the web all the time and getting nervous as a result?

I am somewhat of a misanthrope. I don't trust most people. I don't expect them to trust me. They shouldn't trust me if they don't know me, especially if the stakes are high. Much of the answer to the ubiquitous question, "Why Does Work Suck?" is that the stakes are just too high to trust anyone. The activity of work isn't so bad. The social bullshit and paranoia are intolerable.

I wouldn't let 20+ strangers in my house, 5 days per week. I resent that I have to let so many people-- even though there's nothing wrong with them as people, it's more that I don't know them and I have no choice-- into my career. It's not a problem with the people as people. The people themselves are fine. (They're in the same miserable, cramped boat that I am in.) I just resent being visible and the constant second-by-second impression management makes it hard to get anything done. I spend 90% of my emotional energy on appearing productive and that leaves little for actually being productive, and it sucks.

> I am somewhat of a misanthrope.

you use that word. I don't think it means what you think it means - or that it has the implications that you think it has; I am a misanthrope, but that does not influence my reaction to the floor plan of the office I work in. actually, I'd most likely go insane in a cubicle farm. there are ways around to signal that you don't want to be disturbed in an open space.

given that you write:

> I don't trust most people. I don't expect them to trust me.

followed by:

> The social bullshit and paranoia are intolerable.

I do assume that you're referring to your own paranoia, here...

> [snip the rest of the workplace description]

... which leads me to think your problem is not the office planning, or your social issues (with or without medications): I think it's your current job. my entirely serious suggestion is to either change it, or ask to work remotely, if you still think that you'd enjoy it more (and if they don't allow remote work, I'd seriously consider changing jobs anyway).

I was exaggerating the anger and grumpiness.

That said, open-plan signals to me that the company doesn't actually value productivity so much as image and availability. This is something that I have learned with age not to take personally, but I still dislike it.

That's just what it signals to you. To others it signals a healthy environment. If you have a problem with it I seriously suggest you take it up with your management, but I very much doubt that their thought process was anywhere close to the one you describe. If it was they'd be shooting themselves in the foot deliberately.

I would look into medication for that. I'm not actually kidding either.

Meds help, and I'm exaggerating my anger because I rather like the anarchist web presence that I've developed, but I shouldn't have to put medication, that I otherwise wouldn't need, into my body to overcome your failure to design a decent office environment.

I realize that 99% of white-collar work for the most talented is compensating for other peoples' fuckups, but I don't have to like it.

I think it's unfair to say it's an inability to design a decent office environment.

It may not be your perfect office environment, but that doesn't mean that other people (me) don't work much better when in an open space with some casual (quiet) impromptu collaboration possible. I would find being stuck away in individual or small offices quite isolating and stifling.

You ought to talk to your employer about making other working arrangements if you feel so strongly about it, assuming you haven't already and I'm not just being patronising here.

I don't actually have panic attacks in open plan offices anymore. I used to, but I'm pretty well stabilized and I don't need medication most days. But a lot of people have this problem a lot worse than I ever did and they shouldn't be marginalized just because they can't handle horrible office environments.

I don't let it get to me. It's not personal, and I know cognitively that no one's really watching me. (I spend more "web time" in open-plan offices because I can't get into flow.) It's just creepy. It probably reduces productivity by 80%, but surprisingly that doesn't seem to matter, because modern work environments seem to cripple everyone about equally.

What open plan says to me is that my employer cares more about my personal availability than productivity. Which is not worth taking personally, but it is a depressing statement.

>I think it's unfair to say it's an inability to design a decent office environment.

No, it is perfectly fair and accurate. You can still collaborate just fine without an open office. Read peopleware, noisy open offices are detrimental to productivity, even for the people who claim to like them and "need" them.

Non-noisy open-offices on the other hand are very useful.

Again, just because you don't like open doesn't mean nobody does, or that in non-US countries an open office necessarily means lots of noise.

Again, it isn't a question of like, it is a question of productivity. Open offices lower productivity, even for those people who like them. When I mention "read peopleware" I mean "read peopleware", not "repeat the same statement that was already addressed".

Open-plan isn't as much of a disaster as it is just simply not useful for all types of work. No matter how much people complain about open-plan, it is useful to be nearby people you are working on a project with. If you erect walls around every employee and give them doors, not only does it cost astronomically more, it is not useful for a quick question.

That said, it does seem like the pendulum is moving back toward privacy in offices, though what that will look like is anybody's guess.

I for one am a fan of the office design concept known as Activity Based Working, where the work areas provided are the one's that are most conducive to your particular company's need. Not all companies, and not all tasks are best served by either having all open or all closed workspaces. Instead, offering a variety of places for employees to use seems most prudent - but again, only offering things your employees need. So if you don't need an executive boardroom, don't add one to you plan as it will just go unused.

    quick question
There need to be library rules about this office behavior, too. The road to hell is paved with "quick questions".

Oh yeah. The problem is, that the questioner normally does not know, what his/her quick question means in terms of time lost for the maker (be it a writer, coder, anyone who makes things).

And in my experience educating them does not help, as long, as the managers are resistant. I had a lot experiences, were the managers came again and again with this sort of behavior and whatever I did to educate (or show) people, that I am in a "do not disturb"-moment was fruitless. Headphones == tap on shoulder. Hood of jacket == tap on shoulder + strange look.

If the culture, set by managers does not value makers, you are doomed. And educating managers, who live and breath a meeting, question work-style is really not easy. If a manger has never been a maker, you are lost. You won't change their minds.

Really, me? I have given up... as sad as it is.

An idea might be to work from home, if you need to focus. State why you're working from home before doing it, so people know not to disturb you via IM, phone or whatever.

Well, that might work - if companies allow working from home. In Germany a lot of companies don't allow this, as this would mean loosing control, how long a worker is actually working.

A lot of corporate culture here is not so much result-focused, but sitting on your back, doing your time.

And in a lot of cases, this might work. If I were the typical product manager, this would work. But having found the bliss of automating things via scripting, I feel more and more like a maker and can more and more understand, not to disturb the makers and what it costs to be the disturber. But here most product managers are more managers, then makers - so the live and breath a manager-schedule, being able to cope with interruptions quite easily. So no problem for them, but a problem for our developers (and to some extent guys like me)...

... but as it is mostly my problem (and has been in previous gigs as well), it is something that I have to deal with obviously, as I am part of a minority here.

Move a bit further north. I'm in Denmark, and here's a great culture when it comes to getting things done.

Thanks for the tip. But living in our own home here results in being tied to this region (at least for a while).

The situation is not so bad, that it kills me right now, but I will keep looking - and using my time, learning some new things while "doing my time in front of a monitor" ;-)

I can buy that there's a lot of benefit in there being low barriers to communicating with your coworkers ... but I don't think talking in meat-space in your open-plan office is the best way to fill that niche. My teammates and I are always in irc (and campfire or whatever would meet the same need). Conversations can be archived for later reference, people on different continents can participate, you can drop links to gists of code or log lines, and you can have a handy place for bots to tell you when the build is broken, or when a deploy is happening, or whatever. Things that need to be private can actually be private conversations, without conspicuously grabbing someone and walking to a glass-walled conference room. Plus, when you're not actively part of a conversation, you can easily ignore it and actually work.

Being able to get a quick answer to a question is important. Being able to ask my question in a way that only distracts the person to whom it is addressed, and in a way that allows them to defer answering until they're at a natural stopping point makes us all more productive. As does being able to save the answer so I never have to bug anyone for that question again, or even share it when other people encounter the same issue.

Right, I don't think being interrupted constantly is an awesome thing either, and agree that there are some great technology solutions to cut down on these sorts of interruptions. But I still believe that proximity is a useful feature of open plan layouts.

Having an "open plan" for a smaller team - say under 10 - is probably a good way to go. That way each team can develop rules like this 'Library Rules' idea, or a more interruptive one if thats the way they feel they get more work done.

>it is useful to be nearby people you are working on a project with

I can think of a few reasons why I disagree with this. - Your peak productivity can only be reached if you are not disturbed every five minutes from the work you are doing on your computer. We all know that focus is important, and indeed it is hard to focus in a noisy environment. I remember that the guys at GitHub have some kind of "no live talk" rule : if you need to speak to someone, do it on the internal chat room, even if he's litterally 1 meter away from you. It has several advantages : you can choose when you want to read messages and when you want to reply to them. If you're in the middle of a hardcore debugging session, you are free to continue. It also has the big advantage that chat can be recorded and reviewed and searched at a later date : live speech can't — or at least not easily. - On the other hand, if you're in the phase of a project where you need a lot of interaction with other people and where it would be to cumbersome to do it via chat, like when you're trying to design your architecture, or when trying to agree on rules, specs, etc... Then just set up a meeting : that's what they are for.

Here's something concrete you could charge the employers with: hearing loss. I've heard that it's only safe to listen on headphones 1 or so hours a day, not 8 - 10. It's like second-hand smoke, only, it's not cancer, and probably no-one's going to do the study. But I too have thought that it's lawsuit material.

It is especially shocking since a very compelling case was made (with actual evidence and everything!) for quiet and against open plan layouts back in 1987.


Americans don't value silence the way other cultures do (I'm an American btw). I'm not sure if it has to do with the ratio of introverts to extroverts, or if it's simply that we're an individualistic culture, but often I strain to hear in a restaurant these days. Anecdotally, I've noticed that the higher end restaurants tend to be quieter. Not sure if this is because of clientele or the higher quality construction of such places blocking more sound.

While I was in Japan, I noticed that it was quite possible (and many did) to take a nap in McDonald's. Conversations indoors tended to be very reserved.

As a country, I think we're getting louder. I've brought a Decibel Meter with me before and seen it hit north of 70dB. This constant level of noise everywhere we go can't be good for our hearing.

It doesn't take much sound dampening to significantly lower the sound in a public place, due to the positive feedback loop. Take a restaurant with tile floors and cheap ceilings -- not only does that make it louder, but people have to then talk louder to be heard. And that in turn makes the volume even louder yet. And table cloths really make a big difference also.

Another thing that can affect volume is the density of tables in a restaurant -- same feedback loop in place. If you can't hear the conversation at the table next to you, then you can speak in a lower voice also.

Some of that is intentional. I've heard lore about people eating faster and getting out sooner if the restaurant is louder.

Also heard lore about casinos using extremely bright and dizzying carpet designs to get you to avert your eyes from the floor, and onto the gambling equipment.

"the carpets are deliberately designed to obscure and camouflage gambling chips that have fallen onto the floor. The casinos sweep up a huge number of these every night. So the carpets are just another source of revenue."


Would there be money in machine vision to recognize fixed-layout outliers on regular patterns (i.e., fallen chips on the carpet) and scouring casino floors for a night?

Not if you read the second update to that page.

I can definitely believe there is some truth to the casino carpet one. Las Vegas carpets are the only thing that has ever made me suspect I might have photosensitive epilepsy. I don't, but those carpets more than anything else in that city give me crippling headaches.

But everything else in the casino is bright and dizzying, too....

Touristing through Texas, I visited the Caverns of Sonora. You're taken through the caverns in a group, and at the nadir the guide turns the lights off so you can hear what it's like in the dark cavern. My otherwise-quiet tour group (all Americans bar me) went absolutely nuts with the chatter when the lights went off. It seemed less about 'talk to alleviate nervousness' and more 'teacher's not watching, let's yammer!'. Lights went on and the chatter reduced again. It was very, very weird.

Driving through tunnels just North of San Francisco, everyone honks their horns.

Not angrily, or at traffic, just because.

Higher-end places in America do design their spaces to be somewhat smaller, intimate, and mute sound. Diners and management also respect auditory space a little more when you're spending big bucks on a meal.

These places also don't blast rock music over PA systems while people are trying to eat. I've been in some joints where it's literally an arms war between the diners and whoever has their hand on the volume control. Management wants the place to seem lively and hip, but by the end of the evening people are literally shouting themselves hoarse.

Playing music louder and dimming the lights to reduce visibility is a technique used to make a place seem busier than it actually is.

I once visited a restaurant that appeared to be using this technique when we were the only people in the entire place (~7500 square foot space). I literally had to lean across the table to shout at a coworker because he couldn't hear what I was saying otherwise.

To some extent, I'd guess that the "high end restaurants" effect has to do with lower customer density.

Do we think there is a class difference in the amount of noise people make?

What you seek in restaurants I look for in bars. Those with a more mature crowd lack the obnoxiously loud club music* of college bars. Often these bars have a broader selection as well, though you pay for it in dollars.

In the summer, I spent a few weeks in Taiwan. The quietude and calmness even in a group setting made it a lot easier to focus on a group engineering project. Mostly though, I miss the food.

*I don't mean hip hop; I like real hip hop.

I agree with you on this. I live in France but travels often to the US and I can definitely tell that americans are louder.

I'm amazed that this post has proven to be controversial. Let me relate my perspective as a profoundly deaf person working in an open-plan office space.

When I bring up the fact that the environment is too noisy, the number one suggestion people make is "why don't you turn off your hearing aids?" This is not practical for a number of reasons.

With my hearing aids off, I will not hear you. Which you might argue is kind of the point, but the moment you want to engage me in conversation, you'll wish that I somehow "just knew" when to make an exception, and respond, rather than (unintentionally, I assure you) treat you rudely by ignoring you. I've been ignored before, and I know other (hearing) people who have been ignored. I know how it feels and wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Then there's the isolation. This may sound familiar to you: there was a link on HN pointing to David Peter's "Being Deaf" (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4001727). If you haven't done so, be sure to check it out. The big takeaway is the feeling of isolation he feels in the workplace. That isolation is real. I have to fight it too. Turning off my hearing aids makes this worse, not better.

Turning off the aids is unsafe too. With my aids off, I will not hear a fire alarm. I speak from experience -- I had someone come to fetch me because I didn't have my hearing aids in when the alarm went off.

Some of you may have read Mike Mackenzie's "My journey to a cochlear implant" (http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4883252) The big takeaway here is how much effort is needed by someone who is deaf in order to 'signal process' their way through a conversation. Even with my aids on, I have to make a strong effort just to get through conversations.

Hearing isn't a skill I could get better at if I just practice. The signal I hear is garbled; if I can't ungarble it, then my choices are to get you to repeat what you said clearly (not loudly), or give up.

So. If I should ever get the opportunity to work with any of you noisy, chatty, extremely talented people, I hope you won't mind so much if I ask you to follow ‘library rules’.

Is it too much to ask everyone to get used to it? I used to think that "this is just the way I am" and "I can't change" until I was forced to be adaptable, so here are some of my personal experiences:

I used to not be able to sleep if there was any light at all. Even regular curtains were not good enough, they had to be the ones that blocked out all light from outside. I sometimes would wake up just because someone turned on the light in the hallway, because it leaked under my door. I also had to turn my computer off, because the whirring of the fans would keep me wide awake.

And then I entered college.

People here are up 24 hours a day. Even I, during some weeks, am nocturnal due to homework. I never had a roommate, but I would wake up due to my neighbors roommates. I HAD to adapt, or else I wouldn't be able to survive. With this mentality, I was able to adjust myself so that I could sleep wherever, whenever. (reminds me of the "Everything is my fault" article from yesterday")

I feel like this situation is similar. If you find yourself not to be able to concentrate in a certain environment, find something you must do and do it in that environment. Train yourself so that you can concentrate any time and any where. Give less excuses for yourself to procrastinate, and feel awesome at the same time for being so productive.

Sure, we all have to adapt when we don't have control over our environment but the situation in the article is a bit different than your own as the author and the authors peers all agree to a mutually beneficial behavior in an environment they fully control.

Presumably, they now have a better working environment when adhering to the rules collectively rather than each of them individually trying to adapt. The noise level in the office is akin to a tragedy of the commons and this is their solution.

It's a question of degree. I can work in a noisy open office space, but I'm more productive if I can control the noise and have my back to the wall.

Your sleep quality is probably effected by the amount of light and other such disturbances.

At this moment, I have earplugs in with headphones over them. All because our tech support guy does not have an "indoor voice." It's very hard to be creative sometimes with nonsense going on around you.

I spend most of my day in the library at my school (it's the only place I can study between classes.) Even though it's a "library," the administrators don't enforce any of the noise rules, and it's (ironically) one of the noisiest places on the campus.

There's one group who comes in every single morning and literally shout to communicate with each other. I've complained about them multiple times but nothing has been done. So what I've started doing is bringing two pairs of headphones: My Sennheiser in-ear buds and my Sony over-ear noise cancelling headphones. With both of them on and some Miles Davis playing softly in the background I can effectively block out all other noise.

I'd follow this one up in a more formal way with the Librarians. There should be a range of environments to support different learning modes.

In the city I live in, we have three Universities, and all of them have a 'zoned' approach. An outer work area where anything goes, some rooms where talking is allowed, and an inner quiet zone that is strictly enforced. People seem to find their equilibrium points.

The three institutions vary in standing and clientèle. The Russell Group University has the largest silent zone and small peripheral anything goes zones. The situation is reserved for the 'community' University, with a small silent zone. The technical university has about equal quiet and noisy anything goes zones with a sort of 'sensible talking' buffer zone in the middle.

My university library also has different "zones", with plenty of posters to remind you what zone you're in and what communication methods are appropriate.

But no enforcement in the quiet zones? Then that is a simple failure of service level agreement and should be pursued through the normal complaint procedures. If an organisation says they do something, then they should do it!

And yet, with clear indication that certain areas are quiet zones, people and organizations should be able to rely on the common decency of people. People will in 99% of cases respect any 'no smoking' signs without enforcement from a 'shusher', so why not the 'be quiet' signs?

I'm legitimately confused what you even mean by this comment. When did I say it wasn't enforced? Did you reply to the wrong comment?

The confusion is mine, I assumed that your comment was a second reply by Puer.

I've tried doing that but somehow cancelling all noise around me really bothers me. I'm used to hearing normal background noise and removing it weirds me out.

did you tell him that his voice is distracting? I didn't find out that my conference calls annoyed my coworkers until our annual anonymous survey. Wish I'd known sooner so I could have adjusted by behavior.

I think it seems like a rude question? I have coworkers that keep asking me trivial development questions and I don't really know how to say, "I'm going to need your first reaction to a problem to be Googling it".

No. He is tech support and must talk. He literally doesn't have an "indoor voice", so there is nothing he can do about it.

My local library observes "coffee shop rules." People sit with their laptops and take phone calls from wherever they receive them. Even the librarians are loud. It's fucking bullshit.

Libraries are struggling to maintain perceived relevance.

I'd like to slap people who say they aren't relevant or useful, but I don't have that much slap in me. As physical books become more of an out-of-date phenomenon (thanks to the Kindles and nooks and tablets and Wikipedias and such,) people are going to see the necessity of libraries as silly.

It's why you see "libraries should be hackerspaces!" make the rounds in blogs (and at least one library in the northeast is doing this.) I went to a new library up the road recently that had as much floorspace dedicated to audiobooks, DVDs, and CDs as it did to physical books.

I've recently read someone say that libraries provide one thing that no other building does: a place where anyone can work or study with zero pressure to spend money. That addresses your comment about "coffee shop rules."

While I still want to slap people who think libraries are irrelevant, they absolutely can't stay as just a place to check out books. Owning an internet-capable device is a lot more affordable than owning a recent encyclopedia, so computer courses are a natural thing for libraries to provide. I definitely like hackerspaces in adjacent floorspace. Chicago libraries allow residents to check out museum passes (though, access to this has dwindled quite a bit.) I believe some libraries allow patrons to check out iPads; I'd love to see an extensive ereader loaning program, though it'd require publishing companies to be less of a sack of assholes about ebook ToS.

I noticed my local library got rid of about fifty percent of its few remaining books a couple of weeks ago. The extra space means the body of the building is now devoted to activities relating to schools, I think.

As somebody who once did work experience here: http://tinyurl.com/d28gxz4, I was a bit puzzled to be in an almost bookless library.

I suspect "coffee shop rules" are the future of libraries.

My local library has a coffee shop in it.

Luckily there are lots of books, I haven't seen them removing any.

Luckily there are lots of books, I haven't seen them removing any.

Why is this lucky? Are the books being used?

Actually yes! It's a pretty nice place.

Oh, never mind. I have seen some libraries that have very low usage rates of books compared to computers and I would not mourn a scaling down of their books on hand as long as they kept a strong catalog.

My university has a rule: the higher the floor, the quieter it gets. The 3rd floor is so quiet, if your laptop fan turns on, people give you death stares.

The last time I was in a coffee shop in Minneapolis, everyone using a laptop glared at me for talking, presumably because they were working (it was 10:00 AM on a work day). Go figure.

Imagine working for a company that makes a conferencing product that likes to eat it's own dog food. Imagine lazy coworkers who sit next to each others cubicles yet dial into said conference call product and proceed to have their meetings from the comfort of their seats. Annoying doesn't come close to it.

Apologies for being dense, but I don't fully understand your metaphor.

Is 37s also annoying because they do something similar? Or, are they solving an annoying problem which you're describing?

I think he's just complaining about his workplace.

I read that as simple exasperation with a very unlibrary-like environment, myself.

In my office we will have hundreds of people dialing in to the same call on speaker phone.

Twilio? :-)

It's a nice sentiment, but I must quibble with one assertion: "Everyone knows how to behave in a library."

I can say from experience in many libraries that not everyone understands library rules. There's an old stereotype about black people not shutting up in a movie theater. There's a lot of truth to it, but it's not just black people, and it's not just in movie theaters.

And then there are the libraries, growing in number over time, that have simply abandoned the ideal of silence. Most libraries still ban loud talking, cell phone use, music, etc. but now some of them tolerate it and some even encourage it. Some of these noisy libraries designate a quiet area, but it tends to feel like an anachronistic throwback, designed to mollify the people who aren't coming to the library just to hang out.

I think in the future the phrase "library rules" will not mean what you might think, if it still means anything at all.

"There's an old stereotype about black people not shutting up in a movie theater. There's a lot of truth to it, but it's not just black people, and it's not just in movie theaters."

That seems like a strangely incendiary way of saying there's a lot of people who don't know when to be quiet....

I wish you did not repeat racist stereotypes thinking that that would help to make your point. It doesn't. It just makes you sound racist.

'Library Rules' also include things like "you're only allowed to be on the computers for 15 minutes" and "Storytime is at 2pm". Libraries have changed over the years.

I have not yet visited a library that tolerates loud Skyping.

This is essentially a one-line blog post and is basically just spam. Even as a developer I've had to spend significant portions of my day on the phone, which you can't really do in a library-quiet voice. Many offices don't have adequate amounts of dedicated rooms for this, and it is not very practical to abandon your desk for a significant portion of the day to do work.

>This is essentially a one-line blog post and is basically just spam.

I've often thought about what makes 37Signals blog, Signal vs. Noise, so popular and attractive. What's interesting about their blog is that they never post about managing projects or how to organize your contacts. You know, the problems/solutions related to their popular products. This is an important lesson.

(Visit http://37signals.com/svn/popular -> Ctrl-F "project management" -> 0 results)

All too often, startups dedicate time/money to a blog with post after post about the problem that their software solves or a very closely related subtopic. What 37Signals does is blog to their audience. Who is their audience? The Fortune 5 Million, or the millions of small, profitable businesses out there.

When these millions of companies and businesses need project management software, they're going to look to the guys that have been teaching them all along how to run a hip, cool business that operates counterintuitive to more "traditional" business rules (see Rework). The majority of people who punch in their credit card number for a Basecamp subscription don't know what Ruby on Rails is. Believe it or not, they know of 37Signals from posts like this.

If you're a business owner, growth hacker (sorry...) or blogger looking for more page hits you should have a simple text file that contains the fears, desires, wants, needs and emotions of your audience in both personal and professional contexts. Write so that your audience knows you understand their feelings and emotions. They'll keep coming back for more. And if you're done a fair job of aiming your audience scope, a majority of your blog visitors will be interested in what you're offering.

What's interesting about their blog is that they never post about managing projects or how to organize your contacts. You know, the problems/solutions related to their popular products.

Although I agree with most of the other things you said, this particular paragraph is not true. Over the last couple of months (starting with http://37signals.com/svn/posts/3194-backstage-an-inside-look... I think) they've published several Basecamp projects showing how they use it. It's not only a write-up either, you can go into the actual BC project and see it's entire history.

To be fair, the author kept the post short. I didn't find any fluff in it.

Perhaps as the guy on the team that's constantly interfacing with managers or clients, you don't find any value in a quiet atmosphere. How do the rest of the folks on your team feel?

Of course, cultural practices reinforce each other. If your team practices both Everyone Is Client-Facing, and Phone-First, then there's likely a lot of chatter anywhere you go in your office and people ironically resort to headphones to find quiet.

In many teams, there are only a few that require the use of their voice above a low volume, and even then it's for limited intervals only. Without a simple well-understood rule, such folks can dominate environments and unnecessary interpersonal friction can develop.

I code around 16 hours a day and only have to do one call a day. I'd love a library office. Hell, sometimes I have to take my laptop outside to get some big commit done that will take 6 hours of concentration or so, if my various headphones can't block out the constant talking.

I code around 16 hours a day

You're doing it wrong.


More hours does not equal higher productivity. Working for six hours on a single commit (as the poster indicates) means the commit is far, far too large. Unless he means 'feature', then it's okay.

I don't see how you can make that deduction. You must be some kind of commit-nazi. Working hours do not correlate with the size of the commit. There might have been a number of hours just thinking about the implementation, designing the solution, fix, whatever, before writing a single line. The actual commit can then be e.g. 10 lines of code. There are many, many reasons why a single commit can take several hours of work. And it's perfectly fine and normal. Don't be judgmental like that.

That doesn't change the fact that talking on the phone is (probably) distracting to the people sitting around you.

Sometimes a concise blog post is refreshing. If you really want more content, though, check the comments.

I personally would find this oppressive and unpleasant. That's not to say that my concentration is better served by working at a rock concert, but "library rules" are robotic, not particularly humanity-affirming.

The offices in which I've gotten the most work done had a low to midlevel din of casual conversations and banter, like a place that lets humans be the social animals they are, while still encouraging some kind of collective respect for the idea of getting work done. It's a hard balance to adhere to consistently, but I'd rather struggle with the vacillation than work in a library.

In fact, this is the very reason I gave up working at home after two years: it's too quiet. You can hear a pin drop. A library to me has the ambiance of a funeral home, and encourages similarly dark thoughts. Needless to say, I got a lot more done in an office with an officemate, where we were both banging away at our keyboards and casually chit-chatting all day.

With one coworker I believe its perfect, because any of the two can end the conversation.

When its 6, though, you get caught up in conversation from the other folks, just when you're trying to get into flow.

There's a happy median.

Don't throw darts at employees who don't engage in dart throwing. Don't be excessively loud. Don't drum on other people's desks.

On the flipside: don't get angry when people aren't enforcing library rules around you. Use headphones as a signal that you don't wish to be disturbed (and to block out noise, obviously.)

Et cetera.

Well, I'm easily disturbed... If people start discussing something and laughing, I always end up too curious not to take my headphones off and participate...

It's perverse to put people in a collaborative open plan office and make them be quiet. Quiet, focused employees do not need to be there; they can work from home or a closed office. And they should absolutely be empowered to do so.

This smells like a "hurry in and shut up" situation. While it's better to have quiet crammed mandatory office hours than loud ones, it's even better to keep people who need solitude out of the bullpen entirely.

Sometimes I've wished for this, but I think it would ultimately stifle collaboration. Instead it would be nice if more open floor plan offices had study carrels -- places you could go when you need quite to focus.

I think they are called 'offices'.

If the door is open, come on in. If the door is shut, and something is on fire, knock. If the door is shut, and something is not on fire, seek alternative means (email, ask someone else, etc).

Honestly, if people can work remotely, why can't they work from the office in a room with an actual door? I am not sold on open floor plans, but if that is what you end up with, I would at least prefer a quiet one.

Almost every place I've been... developers with doors is just a no-no. Call me cynical, but I think it's really a status symbol for management (at least, in most of the places I've seen inside of).

If people really can do productive coding work with 4 people within 10 feet of them all having separate phone conversations, great, let them stay in the open bullpen-style areas. For others who need some modicum of quiet and non-visual stimulation, give an office with a door that closes things out.

But if you did that, there'd be very little visual status between a CFO and a developer.

Those who insist on developers being in open bullpen areas would do well to try to do their own work out in the same area for a month. They'd see just how hard it is, and how much unproductive stuff actually goes on in many situations.

Where I work, the channel manager was given one of the two offices, and she makes sales calls all day, while leaving the door open.

"Those who insist on developers being in open bullpen areas would do well to try to do their own work out in the same area for a month. "

Alas, the managers in one College I worked in were doing manager schedule stuff, so when they did the 'work out on the front desk' thing one day a week, they did fine...

one day per week isn't enough (as we both know). long term projects require long term concentration. From what I've seen, most good 'management' stuff is communication and collaborative, but somehow that earns a 100% door, but the people who need the quiet concentration are forced to sit next to people who eat at their desk and talk on the phone.

I'm not even meaning just developers here - I've known accountants/financial people who complained about ability to concentrate when sharing a cubicle with others.

Offices simply need to have a decent number of private office spaces that people can move in to when they need 'alone' time, open collaboration areas, and larger closed off meeting areas for small group meetings. People beyond software devs would benefit from this too, but it doesn't seem to be a high priority for office planners and managers. :/

One thing I think MSFT really got right: engineers (including devops-type engineers) get a real office, with real walls and a door. It might be the size of a broom closet, but it's private.

Note: this is based on what I was told when I interviewed for an ops role there in 2011. No idea how universal/up-to-date it is.

Still overwhelmingly true with a few buildings that are exceptions.

It depends on what group and/or building you're in. Many of the engineers I worked with at Bing were doubled up (or more) because there simply wasn't enough room to give everyone their own office.

The collaboration argument comes up so much I think it's fair to label it a red herring.

If you need to collaborate, take your conversation to a meeting room to hash it out. The general working area should be as quiet as possible.

I prefer a loud workplace to a quiet one.

A single noise grabs your attention in a quiet workplace.

In a loud one, it all just becomes background noise and is easy to ignore.

Silence is not the same as quiet. Our office isn't silent. It's softly quiet.

How did you go about starting a culture of library rules though? Did it naturally start like that or was there a defining moment where it was addressed?

I think it's fair to say an environment that is so quiet you can hear a pin drop (i.e. ideal movie theater quiet) is not going to be welcome by most, for the reason you cited. But the same effect can occur in a noisy place as well, if a single individual is sporadically more noisy than the background noise.

So it's more about achieving some constant noise level, above which no sporadic noises rise. IMHO, the "library/whisper quiet" rule achieves this.

The problem for me is that it NEVER just becomes background noise that I can ignore. It is just constant, never-ending distraction that significantly reduces my productivity.

Wherever I've worked, no matter how quiet it's been, keyboards still make noise.

And the best keyboards are also the noisiest, :p.

Is it just me or are the 37S blog posts getting shorter and shorter? Can we expect to be reading haikus from them in 6 months?

Out of curiosity, does this bother you? I'm sometimes glad when authors take the time to be concise and put their ideas out there in the shortest way possible while still being interesting.

No, I am just noting the change. Actually, it seems like when they changed to the 'new' blog template, which is less condensed on the page, their posts decreased in length.

Silence for working

Quiet as a library

At thirty seven

Meh! To each their own. I turned down a job at Nintendo's branch office in Tokyo because it was too quiet.

Quiet = boring to me. On the other hand most of my experience comes from games and the teams that were the most fun were the ones where we were all in the same room and could look over each others shoulders and collaborate on design.

We weren't loud but we also weren't quiet.

The problem may be down to their poor conversations.

We have both wide ranging general knowledge and focused technical conversations in my office involving groups of people and I would be sad to lose that.

Talk about something that can deliver value or engage people and then the conversations are worthwhile.

" Sarah Houghton 10 Dec 12

The ironic thing is that as a librarian, I can tell you that for the last decade (at least) most libraries don’t enforce “library silence.” We encourage people to talk, to collaborate, to discuss. As long as you’re not annoying the hell out of the people around you, we encourage a low level of conversation and noise. "

At my old company, before we moved into a bigger, modern space where all developers fit in the same huge room, we were all split into 3 or 4 different spaces. At first I was in this room with another 8-10 developers. We would have conversations through the day. Sometimes technical but offtopic, sometimes about our infrastructure (someone helping someone else fix a bug) and sometimes just plain offtopic/fun. For some reason I moved to a different room with different developers around me. Soon, I learned that that whole "talk normally while people beside you are working" thing wasn't the norm there, so I stopped, and it was quite a "library rules" place to work, to describe it using the article's words. Now, I was sad to lose all those conversations, but I became a heck of a lot more productive.

How about this, a library with grownup, sensible rules. I've worked in library rules offices before and it often seems to discourage random chats and conversational runoffs that can help push code forward.

Loud offices = not a great work environment, learn to understand when silence is needed, give people the space they need to work.

Sounds like an awful place to work. While i'm all for productivity, I have never seen it correlated with office volume, either positively or negatively. For as long as phones sit on desks, this policy sounds ridiculous.

one of the best things about my office is that there are no phones on desks.

I wonder, how do people do pair programming in quiet offices? Those two things, both regarded by many as desirable and positive, seem to be at odds with each other.

Perhaps using small rooms rather than in an open area?

Not a sensible idea due to the fact that a library is about reading books, an office is about doing work. Office work requires communication - on phone, in person. The nature of high-pressure business environments means lots of passionate conversations, debates, having a laugh to ease tension... I cannot think of anything worse than blocking the natural office environment with artificial rules designed for a completely different purpose.

As can be seen there are people who like noise and those who like quietness. Actually this problem can be resolved as long as a company has enough sound-proofing rooms: for type 1, just lock yourself in a big room with those who like noise, if there isn't enough people, there are a lot of noisy local/Internet radio stations to play with. For type 2, the solution is the same, stay in the room for quietness.

Ugh. I'm working in an office now that's library-like. It's totally oppressive. I'm afraid to open my mouth, because anything I say will be heard by absolutely everyone else. As a result, no one asks any questions, no one discusses problems, and I can go a whole day without any human interaction. It's really torturous.

I would LOVE to work in an office like that. Mine is so noisy, it drives me insane and I cannot concentrate on my work.

I would like to disagree. I have found that an office that is too quite is an office where people probably don't communicate much, and is not a healthy environment. And it's the office where people sit by each other's desks all the time is where work gets done. Of course there are extremes to everything, though.

> And it's the office where people sit by each other's desks all the time is where work gets done.

Then I wonder how projects like Linux kernel, KDE, Python, etc manage to get any work done.

In software development, I think the most important communication needed is to do everything in the open. This means things like a ticketing system so that everyone knows what everyone else is working on, a continuous integration system that permits deployment only if all tests pass, a wiki system to share various insights, etc.

Currently, I work in an open plan. Information hoarding is the norm here, despite chatters going on all days long. Open communication is a concept that has nothing to do with open plan.

I agree, you can have openness without a lot of talking, and you can have a lot of talking without openness. The two might be correlated, but not as strongly as one might thing. Information sharing and openness are what you want to promote, and it's the culture, not the seating plan, that either promotes or stifles it.

I listen to headphones almost the entire day, but when I want to have a conversation with someone, I sure as hell don't want to have to go to some meeting room to have it. It just seems like asking your employees not to communicate...

get a pair of noise canceling headphones and get to work. I like quiet space to work in as well and I see need for work places where people can communicate in the most comfortable way. I suppose there should be quiet working rooms for people that do really need the silence. I use AudioTechnical ATH-ANC23 and they are fantastic: portable, enegry efficient and work well without battery power to get to a quieter space within noisy working environment.

We tried aromatherapy and soothing water sounds - they helped immensely. Our productivity went up. Particularly effective were gingerbread aroma and brook sounds.

I like how the part of the page that's original content is shorter than the rest which is gaudy advertisement and brand promotion.

Has anyone ever had any success with a "Don't interrupt me if I have a red hat on/raise a flag/etc as I need to concentrate"?

An office with "jail rules"

I'd like to have a look at such office. That's strange that such an idea is not popular, I have yet to see a person that doesn't enjoy working in library.

How about an office with "cubicles." Problem solved.

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