Take an isolating seat assignment or keep being miserable?

Post date: 2021-10-20 01:23:17
Views: 16
My seating assignment in our open office was making me miserable, and sick. My manager's attempt to fix this by moving me actually made it worse. Now they're offering another situation that would help in many ways, but be incredibly isolating and I already feel like I don't fit in.

The (very) long version:

The office is completely open one floor with long row desks, about 4000 people. Open air kitchens in three locations. VERY noisy and no real escaping food smells.

My team is in one of the very few semi enclosed areas, between an outer wall and a kitchen, with just enough room for two rows of desks. It's also nearly a hallways, being near a bathroom and several classrooms. There are guest groups of 50+ twice a week that come through the area and use the kitchen as well.

I am extra extra sensitive to noise, but I've been coping by cranking my headphones up (my role allows me to wear them 90% of the time). What I can't block out is the voices of people next to me – and sometimes I just don't want to feel forced to wear my headphones! Or have a headache I'm trying to prevent turning into a migraine.

Even worse, I was less than ten feet away from the kitchen. The smell of coffee makes me gag, microwave popcorn makes me sick. Literally: I had to go home twice after an asthma attack, and was using my additional inhaler at least once a week to cope.

When I first complained, I was offered a seat on the other side of the table – so about three feet further away. Not helpful. After months I was switched with a coworker on the other side of the table, about five seats down the length. Again, not enough distance to make any difference health wise. It was also super awkward, since I was the only person and moves and everyone wanted to know why they didn't get to move, the other person wasn't happy about it, and I wasn't consulted beforehand.

It's so much worse. The level of chatter from seatmates is way more frequent and loud - and one of them is naturally extra loud. He can't help it and is a nice person, but it is literally impossible to drown him out. The smell triggers have not changed one bit, now with the addition of bad body odor. To top it off, this station has smaller monitors and this directly affects how fast I can do my job (and thus, my possible bonus). IT refuses to change them out. I don't have funds to buy my own. The person at my old desk doesn't want to trade them.

Complaining made everything worse, so I've been trying to put up with it, but finally told my manager this wasn't better. Their solution? I could go to a different area (about five rows away) to an empty section and sit there.

Pluses: Larger monitors. Quieter. No direct neighbors. Greatly reduced trigger scents.

Minuses: isolation. I would be the only person at a row desk designed for fifteen people. I couldn't even see my team.

I was told I'd still be part of the team since I could join the daily meeting and talk over teams in chats. Basically working from home (which I did for a year and a half with this company, but is no longer allowed), but in office.

I'm already isolated from the team. Wearing headphones so much doesn't help, but I'm also both very shy and very private. I don't do anything exciting to talk about (or go party and get drunk), and I'm ten+ years older than 90% of the people on my team. Including my manager. I don't match the general work ethic – I prefer to find other projects when it's slow, vs socializing. Or take advantage of less competition and snag more work (piece based, bonuses over x amount. I sit around 100 daily, most of the team sits at 70ish.). I try not to say anything about that stuff because no one like a killjoy, but I'm still annoyed when it feels like they aren't pulling their weight.

I've tried to make more advances, but I seldom get responses in group chat unless it's a cat picture. Other than the new people, no one says hello or goodbye; they wouldn't even eat cookies I brought in for everyone (but other people's offerings are always eaten?). No one even asked if I was ok when loudly wheezing from asthma attacks, or when I had one of my paralyzing migraines (can't hold my head up, can't move my arms, can't walk in a straight line or without stumbling. Feels like it's really noticeable, but maybe not?)

I'm prone to easily feeling rejected so I've tried to tell myself a lot of this is in my head/not about me/would be better if I put in more effort. It's still incredibly demoralize. Moving to an area where I wouldn't be interacting at all? I might as well be invisible.

The one bright spot is the new people – I really enjoy helping people with our complex system and weird cases. Because I am right there and never act like they are annoying me, I'm the primary person they ask for help. Asking over teams is much more work, and having to walk over to help is more likely to make them feel like they're bothering someone.

Take the new spot, or not? Additional ways to deal with downsides for either? Another solution to take to my manager? (Or higher up, but I like my manager and don't want to go over their head.)
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