Many of us have been working from home for a while now. At first, it was a hard adjustment for some people. There are a lot of distractions when you’re working at home – especially if you live in a home with other people and pets.

Over time, however, I think we’ve learned how to manage those distractions. And we’ve all developed our effective and productive “at home” work routines. (My personal routine involves rolling out of bed and getting right to work while still in my pajamas. Then, around 10:00 a.m., when I’m ready for a short break, I’ll finally go get dressed.)

But now things are changing. Many people are returning to the office. And according to author Rachel Feintzeig, they’re encountering distractions that they’re no longer used to managing. Two of the biggest distractions are background noise and chatty coworkers.

In the average workplace, there’s often a lot of background noise. You can usually hear snatches of other people’s conversations, ringing phones, doors opening and closing, etc. Depending on the volume of this noise, it can be very distracting.

In addition, it’s not unusual for coworkers to stop by each other’s offices for a quick conversation (either about a project or about non-work-related topics, like the movie they just watched or what they ate for dinner last night). This can sometimes be a very welcome thing. It’s nice to talk to coworkers! It’s a great stress reliever, and can make you feel more connected with your colleagues. But it can sometimes be an unwelcome distraction. And once you’re distracted, it can take quite a while to focus and get back on task.

To manage the background noise and dissuade your coworkers from chatting with you when you’re trying to focus, you could try shutting your office door (if you have one). Or put on some headphones and play music that won’t further distract you, such as classical music, movie soundtracks with no lyrics, or the sounds of nature.

If that doesn’t prevent your coworkers from stopping by, you should just be honest with them and explain that it’s not a good time to talk. Tell them that you’ll stop by their offices later in the day, and you can catch up with them then.

Feintzeig, R. (2021, November 1). Back to the office – and all its distractions. The Wall Street Journal, p. A10.