Right now I'm working in a cubicle that's kitty corner to a call center with 10 telemarketers in it. I find it hard to think (which imo, is pretty important to my position) but in order to convince my boss to give me quieter working conditions, I'd need to give him some numbers to what kind of 'percentage increase' he would get out of me if I had an office, or a cubicle farther from the TMs.

Are there any know studies or metrics that I can give my boss to help convince him (or more specifically, expedite the process, as he's stated something along the lines of "we'd like to get you setup in an office where you can just code all day without being interrupted")?

edit> the water cooler and all of the appliances (fridge/microwave/coffee maker etc.) are also directly behind me and it creeps me out when people walk behind me and I can't see them.

50 accepted

1) Forget about the boss - he'll never be convinced

2) Get some noise-canceling headphones

3) Get a small mirror so you can see behind you

4) Look for another job


pointing him in the direction of or even quoting from peopleware might be of some use.

For a more practical/empirical solution, if there is somewhere available you can go now and work alone (or more alone) make the suggestion you start working there and offer to prove the hypothesis yourself. If it works for a couple of weeks and you can show an improvement I'm sure he'll see the benefit to him, if not, you're probably never going to get it through to him anyway.


As suggested in some of the other answers here, if the above doesn't work, get some headphones and get used to your working conditions. Or bite the bullet and get another job.


From experience, most noise-cancelling headphones unfortunately don't work that well.

Google the concept of "programmer flow" - the very first result that comes up is Understanding the Psychology of Programming, which immediately - even in the Google preview - makes mention of the fact that once a programmer's "flow" (state of mind, whatever you want to call it) is interrupted, it can take a long time go get going at full steam again.

Provide articles like this, and whatever else you may find, to your boss - BUT do NOT hit him in the face with the evidence first. Ask nicely, tell him you are concerned that you're not being as productive as you can be given the circumstances - make sure he feels you care.

If he asks you to do some research, then show him the articles - but be very hesitant to provide him with evidence unless you have clear reason or request to do so. Many bosses don't like being proven wrong.


Unfortunately, trying to convince him probably won't help, either because he won't care, or if he does, the person who can actually do something won't. See Peopleware and The Furniture Police to know why.

The current place where I am sitting, there is a guy on the phone all day long and a sound technician with a $20000 subwoofer that can make my screen move when it's very loud. My boss knows it kills my productivity by at least 90% yet he can't do anything other than watching me slowly getting nearer and nearer to the exit door.

What you could try if your boss won't/can't do anything:

  • Wear headphones and ear plugs. It's unconfortable and kills teamwork, but if you are alone you will get used to it. Good earplugs are the Hearos super soft beige 32NR ones. From my experience, they have the best supression/incomfort ratio. Else, the Howard Leight Max orange NR33 are very good too, but less comfortable. Both may be sold under generic brand names if you are outside the US.
  • Squat a quiet place such as an unused desk, a meeting rooms, the cafeteria, etc. You must have a laptop with wireless access though. There are good tricks to let others know you are here, such as leaving your computer on a fake unlocked screen and leaving your stuff at your desk.
  • Try to convince your boss to work from home once or twice a week. You will need a VPN access for that.
  • Resign... and don't listen to their false promises. If they couldn't do something when you told them, they won't do it now that your loyalty is flaky.

You have all the proof you need that the people you're working for don't give a damn about you. Leave. You may benefit the next person they hire with your exit interview... but I wouldn't bet on it.

Back in the late eighties, I went for an interview with a company in the UK, near Reading. Imagine the scene - I'm standing on a walkway, on my right is a production line in full swing, with a music radio channel blaring out to keep the worker bees happy. In front of a me a line-following robot is trundling along the walkway, with a beeper going and a flashing light to warn people. On my right a bunch of software engineers are manfully trying to get some work done, in conditions where it's hard to even carry on a conversation. Right next to me, the head of HR is telling me how much his company cares about its staff.

Yeah, right.

This company paid by far the highest wages in the area. I later found out it had by far the shortest burn-out-and-leave time: 18-24 months. I wasn't even slightly surprised.

Your bosses need to understand that what they are doing isn't just bad for you, it's bad for the company. But I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for them to grasp this. Just get out.


Your choices:

  1. Adapt. Headphones do work. My office mate can't hear me when he's wearing them -- I have to tap his desk to get his attention. (You should probably listen to music or natural sounds without vocals though because language processing is a heavy-duty brain activity.)

  2. Raise the issue. When the noise is too loud, walk over and ask people to be quiet. There will be conflict, maybe a lot of conflict, but if everyone is aware of the situation it's not just a discussion between you and your boss. The telemarketers may even ask your boss to move you.

  3. Take control. The economy sucks so there are probably empty spaces in your building. Find one and move. If you have a laptop it's easy, but even desktop tops aren't heavy. Keep all your stuff in a backpack so your bohemian lifestyle is convenient. Be sure to leave a note on your desk telling people where you are and why.

  1. Become indignant - you have rights to.
  2. Consult "Office Space" movie.
  3. Make your boss watch it.
  4. Tell something along "I'll burn this place".
  5. Burn it.

Don't you have a review process at your work place? That would be the ideal place to bring it up. If they don't have that, then I'd leave as the company is obviously not worth working for - unless you're desperate for the experience then unfortunately you will have to grin and bear it (and as DJ says, with the help of a MP3 player).


copy the pages from Peopleware (or a link to the study) that people who work in noisy environments (even people who CLAIM they can listen to music while working) are less productive and not as creative.

Mention it sometimes, but don't be a nutjob about it. Find places to work/hide if you can. Come in early/stay late when it is quieter. Let your boss know about those times and how much more productive you are then.

There is not always a hard-fast number of more productivity - but what you/he/she WILL lose is the important "aha"/leaps of creativity and discoveries that make HUGE differences.

Being nervous in your cube/office at work is no way to live. At least try to get away form the center of activity.


What's wrong with noise cancelling headphones or the around-the-ear type with some white noise? It works wonders in noisy offices and they're relatively inexpensive. I use this online, free white noise generator.

And you don't have to prove squat to your boss, unless of course, you're really after that office.


It sounds like your boss just needs to trade places with you for a few days. If that doesn't convince, then no amount of anything else will either.


Send him link to #8 of Joel's test. Joel Test link


I think the best proof would be a demonstration. Is there a quiet place he could put you for long enough to tell the difference, say a month, or even a couple weeks? Maybe he'd be willing to try it. Then, if he decides to move you back, consider some of the other suggested options.


I work the afternoon shift now. I avoid the cubies by watching our kids during the day and starting work at 4pm. It is quite.

I really do enjoy being able to concentrate on my problem not on the room's buzz.

More of a work-around than a bug fix but it is possible for me.


You might as well try to explain color to the blind... If your boss needs studies or metrics to accept the simple fact that concentration is easier to achieve in a quiet environment he is beyond help. If you are in a funny mood you may want to teach him through demonstration:

  • hide some noise-making equipment in his office
  • start shouting while he is (bean-)counting
  • interrupt him constantly

One of my first jobs out of college was with a company that had "Muzak" piped through ceiling speakers in every area of the company - including the I.T. section. I had one of these right above my head over my cube and it drove me nuts. I vented about it to the boss for a couple of weeks to no avail. So I decided to come in earlier one morning with some tools to disconnect wires from the speaker. My problem was fixed but apparently it screwed up the system in the rest of the company some how... I don't know the details. Anyways, they knew I did it but I didn't get fired and they figured out how to fix my problem as well as their problem.

If I was in your situation, I might make a roof on my cube with cardboard and ducktape. That would get the message across.


I was a developer at my last job for a year and a half. It was like programming chained to a chair in the middle of a free-range arthropod colony. I did not even have a cubicle, let alone my own office. There was about 40 people in a big room. Get this: everyone had a cubicle, except for the five programmers and the VP, my boss, (who also had his own office with another desk.) My desk was literally right up next to my boss's desk. There were times I just sat at my desk for hours frozen because I couldn't think about a problem I was encountering because I was surrounded by people and was constantly aware that I was surrounded by people. Then while I was driving home, I would be able to figure out a solution within ten minutes. Once a year I would point out to my boss about that programmers could be more efficient in a more secluded environment, though I would think about it every day. In my last month there, he did give me a cubicle in the corner, which helped immensely.

At my current job, I have my own office in a quiet corner of the company. It seems like heaven in comparison.

ThomasD's solution would be good for someone who was independently wealthy and was just working for fun.

There was one good thing about the programmers being exposed like that: they were more willing to field questions than programmers usually are. I've been in places where people will put you off for a month when you just need to talk to them for a couple of minutes.


I don't know. How do you convince your boss the office needs AC so you don't freeze/melt in front of your computer? In such cases it's best to look for employment elsewhere.