Sometimes it feels like the office is your home away from home. Just as you don't choose your family, you usually don't have a say as to which coworkers are situated close to you.
If one or more of these coworkers are loud and disruptive, not only could it detrimentally affect your productivity, it can create stress and tension between you and your fellow employees.
Here are a few approaches you can take to avoid that awkward situation.
(1) Try to Mitigate from Your End
See if this loud, disruptive coworker is something that seems to only bother you.
Some people are more sensitive to regular noise than others, and there's nothing wrong with that. You could try a pair of earplugs or decent quality noise canceling headphones, and maybe ask your work for a headset extension for your phone.
If you are allowed to listen to music while you work, remember to wear earbuds or headphones so your music doesn't disrupt other people. Also, remember to take them out of your ears before speaking so you don't end up inadvertently raising your voice when you talk. After all, fair is fair.
(2) Request Quiet From Loud Coworkers When You Need It
If you are about to take an important phone call or meeting at your desk, people are usually good about hushing a little if you politely ask those around you.
Another option is to make a sign (here's where a sense of humor will help a lot) which you can put in a visible space to signal that you need some quiet.
Try something like, "Do Not Disturb - I'm disturbed enough and on an important call!"
Of course, if your coworkers are loud and/or disruptive all the time, this is only a band-aid solution and you may have to escalate your efforts.
(3) Speak to Excessive Workplace Talkers Honestly
Honesty is usually the best policy, especially if you appear non-judgmental and polite about it. You could be blunt and straight to the point or you could take a softer, more reaffirming route.
Approach the person or group casually and collegially, like: "Hey, guys -- I gotta say, I love the camaraderie around here...sometimes it gets a little loud though, and hard for me to concentrate. I'd really appreciate it if you could be a touch quieter."
Unless your coworkers are jerks or outright dislike you already, most people are pretty cool about turning the volume down, especially if you're able to point to specific disruptions you experienced.
You can also turn it around, and ask them if there are certain things you do that are disruptive to their work.
This way, you confirm that you are genuinely looking out for the work environment and workplace harmony, rather than just being a "buzzkill."
(4) Don't Reinforce the Overly Talkative Behavior
If it's not so much a group of gossipers being loud at someone else's desk, and more like a single attention-seeking "Nosy Neil" type, take a pointer from parents of toddlers - do not always give them what they're looking for.
If you do have to respond to a coworker, give them short, to-the-point answers and look away when you're done. This way, they'll get less satisfaction from trying to pull you into their drama, and will likely focus on other people.
If they are particularly persistent, tell them calmly but firmly that you are extremely busy at the moment and are working on something time-sensitive so you "can't" talk to them.
(5) Set A Good Example
If someone comes up to you and starts talking loudly, say something like, "Let's step into this conference room so we don't disturb or colleagues."
If the person says it will only take a minute, acknowledge what they're saying in a noticeably softer voice or a whisper.
Unless your coworker is obtuse, they will usually follow suit, and may eventually get used to lowering their voice when they interact with or around you.
(6) Scout Out Alternate Locales
Sometimes it's just easier to scope out an empty office or conference room for those crucial calls or book meeting rooms.
If it's a gorgeous sunny day, get your direct dose of Vitamin D and take your reading outside with your lunch. If your office has a Zenbooth office pod, take advantage of them.
If you feel that you need more than an occasional, temporary reprieve from the disruptions, you could speak to your manager about the possibility of moving offices.
Just make sure you know how loud or disruptive any new neighbors are ahead of time. You don't want to be playing "Musical Chairs" at the workplace.
(7) Revise or Create an Onboarding Office Etiquette Guide
If your workplace hires interns or has a high turnaround, you could offer to develop some helpful onboarding materials for new hires.
This could help them acclimate to the corporate culture. Circulate drafts for comments to various team members/coworkers - including the loud and disruptive ones. Sometimes an indirect route is preferable to outright confrontation.
The best thing is, your "guide" will actually be helpful to new employees, and may also be an excellent team building exercise - the proverbial two birds, one stone scenario.
Something like this can also look good on a résumé as an example of proactive problem solving or leadership that brings benefits to the company on a higher level.
(8) Talk to Your Supervisor or HR
Sadly, not every situation or person is reasonable. If someone - or a group of individuals - really won't let up, you may wish to bring up the issue confidentially with your boss or HR representative.
As far as options go, you should exhaust the previous tips first, before getting HR or a third party involved. You can also then advise HR or your boss what attempts you have made to diplomatically deal with the situation.
A harmonious and productive work environment is always the aim of HR and management, so likely they will bring up the noise level in general and without the need to single anyone out.
Who knows, maybe these individuals have caused similar problems with previous coworkers.
If your loud colleagues are directly spoken to and you're worried about them getting mad at you, remember that unless it somehow destroys company morale, your ability to produce is much more important than how "social" your work atmosphere is.
(9) Go "Zen" and Update Your Office with Phone Booth Furniture
Bring a smart proposal to your higher-ups or office coordinator. Advise them of the problem, and then present them an option that makes sense.
Whether you need to zip in quickly to take that important phone call, or just need a quiet place to review your presentation notes before a meeting, Zenbooths are an exceptional solution to your noise or coworker disruption problem.
Zenbooths ensure privacy, with sound insulation and a double-paned glass door with magnetic latch. The booths are well ventilated with two whisper-quiet fans, and incorporate a standing desk -- something many office employees have been raving about.
You can see what's going on around you but still properly funnel your attention and concentration to your task at hand.
There are also executive models available - with sitting room for foud to six - so you can conduct quick consultations in comfort and privacy. Everyone in your office can benefit from Zenbooths on their floor!