I have mentioned before that the current trend for "open" or "collaborative" (to put the correct icing on it) offices is a certain kind of hell for me. To my cynical eye, it is not about fostering anything but cost savings. At my current gig its as if someone spent a but too much time on an Ikea Pinterest page. The halls are exposed concrete, for god's sake. Clearly none of these breathless "designers" looked beyond the aesthetic they desired; nor have they ever been in a jail or prison where this sort of thing is necessary. All that concrete makes everything loud
Nor did they consider that a great number of people do not work well in the middle of a party. A great number of people need
to actually focus and do work without interruption. My own work is about 85% individual work. Even that is fractured: The app under test, bug tracker, email and developer chat are all going at once. That is manageable. What isnt is having other folks having yuk fests and creating further distraction. Ive likened it to trying to assemble a house of cards on a table in a dance club.
So bitching aside, I gotta do something. Extroverts run the show, and there is a lot of financial incentive to stack people like cordwood. And this style isnt going to change anytime soon.
THe usual solutions dont work well for me. "Wear headphones" sure - but I dont want to hear anything. even music is distracting. and I get the ear sweat. blegh. Work from home - nice. if allowed to. I prefer it, actually and get heaps done. But there is always resistance to the idea - even in tech companies. and to be honest, weekly work in person is necessary
Lately I have started using a couple of things that do help a great deal. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00D8HPYXA/ref=s9_hps_bw_g107_i6
These were well reviewed and noted that in comparison to the top two units by Sennheiser and Bose they delivered similar performance (70% compared to bose) for a fraction of the cost (These were ~100 USD compared to 300 and 600 for the bose and sennheiser) In practice for me, they do a great job of muting the ruckus that is over 30 or 40 feet away. Sadly my spot is right next to a VPs secretary who is a loud gregarious sort and loves to gossip. With just the phones and the nouse canceling active, it isnt enough. I am pleasantly surprised that I can wear them for 3 hours at a stretch without discomfort.
To attenuate The Chatty Beast I have begun using another tool : http://www.noisli.com/
To generate unintrusive noise to drown out the distraction.
SO far this has worked well and I am getting more work done and spending less time telling people to shut their cake holes.