Take the 2-minute tour ×
Programmers Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for professional programmers interested in conceptual questions about software development. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Just curious about this, I'm about to leave this job for a variety of reasons but one thing is that the office I work in is a full open office with a few non-programmer employees in close proximity talking nearly all day on the phone, making sales calls etc. This is obviously terrible for concentration and in my opinion laughable that someone thinks this is a proper way to run a business where the core aspect of the business is software development.

I'm just curious how common this would be, if anyone else has had a situation like this. It seems to me this is an obvious sign of a bad employer, I should have probably realized this earlier but I needed a job right away so I took it. I understand that programmers may have a shared room or space, but I would think that it would be the norm to keep things separated as far as people who talk on the phone for a living vs those who have to concentrate on a programming task.

share|improve this question
Fellow programmers can make a lot of noise too ... particularly the ones who became played in a band since they were kids. Gawd do I hate them! –  Job Feb 8 '11 at 17:32
My guess is the primary concern is software sales not software development. –  Woot4Moo Feb 8 '11 at 20:52

4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

It's very common for open plan offices. In fact quiet working conditions for programmers is quite uncommon, even amongst software companies.

A lot of employers and managers just don't get it.

share|improve this answer
hmm.. well thats why my next job is work from home, already got it lined up, I just hope I can keep that sort of situation for most of my career because its a huge difference in productivity for me –  programmx10 Feb 8 '11 at 17:22
@Rick: Heads up, there's plenty of distractions at home as well... more in some cases. –  Steve Evers Feb 8 '11 at 18:20
I'm "at work" at home right now. The kids are playing in the next room, therefore I am distracted enough to start trolling /. and new Stack Exchange sites. How I have avoided programmers.SE until now I have no idea! Conclusion: the distractions at home are different, not less, that the distractions in an office. In fact, the distractions at home are often personal distractions (kids that I love, bill that I hate) as opposed to minor annoyances at the office. This makes it harder to ignore them. –  dotancohen Feb 1 '12 at 15:10

That's the norm, unless you work at Microsoft, Fog Creek, or a Peopleware-inspired company.

I get around it with Noise Cancelling headphones (even though there are studies that show that listening to music short circuits creativity).

Your best bet? Either work at one of the Peopleware-inspired companies or create your own software company.

share|improve this answer
Noice-cancelling headphones only attenuate low-frequency noise while letting higher frequencies (human voice) in. Useless in an office environment. –  user8685 Feb 8 '11 at 17:29
@Developer Art, not entirely. Get yourself a high-end Bose model, and you will be pleasantly surprised. Alternatively, one can buy 150db - rated headphones or something like that :) - the ones that are used at shooting ranges. –  Job Feb 8 '11 at 17:31
And that's why I went with in-ear headphones, earplugs with benefits! ;) –  mezmo Feb 8 '11 at 17:32
No, it's not the norm! I know several small companies (5-20 employees) and in every single one of them, programmers are separated from the rest (sales, management etc.) –  user281377 Feb 8 '11 at 17:35
@Job: "Get yourself a high-end Bose model" - I'm wearing it now, QC15. :) If you read reviews on Amazon you also see other people complaining about human voice not being cut off. –  user8685 Feb 8 '11 at 17:40

In my experience, most companies have some level of separation. Not normally separate offices, but at least not mixing in sales and programming teams together.

If an employer doesn't at least provide somewhat quiet working conditions they most likely aren't going to care much about other good practices that increase productivity and programmer satisfaction.

share|improve this answer
and they don't... they have basically no development process other than just hack it together so it works –  programmx10 Feb 8 '11 at 17:33
@Rick: Sounds like leaving this company is a good decision. –  Bernard Feb 8 '11 at 17:37

My current working conditions are similar... Meh, might as well go into a bit of detail...

I worked in open air office for first 2 years at my current job. Constant phone calls going off literally right next to me, since there were two salesmen there. No earplugs or headphones allowed, ya know, since I couldn't possibly hear the phone when the boss or his wife wanted to call me for misc unrelated projects.

After the first two years here, I was moved 5 feet to the left and into my own "office" after the boss finally got around to taking his old desk out of here.

You'd think everything was great from the looks of it... There's a door to the outside in here and there's a door to the office separating the noisy part from my little space. Sounds good, right? Well, no. The outside door has been screwed shut for "security" since before I even started here, I learned. Also the inside door is not permitted to be shut. The reason? Not a direct quote, but essentially, this office "has the most heater register in the building and everybody gets cold if the door is shut, so you can't do that in here."

So I moved 5 ft. to the left and actually wound up worse off, cause one of the walls to my office has the bathroom behind it, and there's this 1 inch gap between the two walls creating a gap opening directly between my office and the bathroom... not to mention the 5 inch gap at the ceiling... Not only does the smell just seep right through, when the door is open, all the noise from every room in the office, not just the sales dept I was formerly stationed in, just funnels right into my office and it's actually noisier than ever here.

No complaining, though. Many have gotten fired for that before. Criticism not allowed!

tl;dr I've only worked one place before, and as far as I know, it's normal. Also, anyone out there have a replacement job for me? :P

share|improve this answer
at least I am allowed to wear a headset... but I don't want to and don't think I should have to, I don't want to listen to music while working and just having a headset on with no music is kind of weird... anyways, sounds like you should be looking for a new job too :) best of luck –  programmx10 Feb 8 '11 at 17:52
You're sick if you're letting them do to you. Get another job yesterday. –  user8685 Feb 8 '11 at 17:53
+1 to ease the pain of working there. Get another job fast, that one is bad for your health. –  Gary Rowe Feb 8 '11 at 22:50

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.