The sound of silence: How noise can affect workplace productivity
There are ways to minimize noise such as noise masking, working from home and working in quiet zones.
How do you work best? Do you prefer to work in absolute silence? Do you prefer to have the radio or a television program on for background noise?
Studies have shown that unwanted noise is one of the leading environmental factors causing distraction and loss of productivity in the workplace. Whether it’s a dripping faucet, a noisy air conditioner—or even your cubicle neighbor chewing—these little annoyances eat away at our concentration.
So how exactly does noise affect your productivity?
1. Noise is tiring.
Noise is stressful—scientists have shown that it triggers our stress response, including raising our blood pressure. Even when employees are able to “tune-out” the ambient annoyances, they have to concentrate on doing so, meaning every task is automatically more laborious. This means that even if we do complete the tasks we set out to do, we are twice as tired at the end of the day.
2. Noise makes us slouch.
Noise can affect us in unexpected ways like slouching. Studies have shown that workers exposed to prolonged noises, like those you would experience in an open floor plan office setting, are more likely to slump into their chairs. It is almost as though they are trying to duck away from the noise. How does this affect your productivity? In order to avoid physical damage, you must take more frequent breaks.
3. Our ways of fighting noise can make it worse.
Many people attempt to combat the ambient noises in their offices by putting in earphones, which can work if tasks you need to complete are repetitive and lack imagination. However, if your tasks require retention of information, or for many, problem-solving skills, listening to music will make their productivity tank and eat away at their concentration.
So what can you do to make your workplace—and its noises—more manageable?
1. Sound Masking
Research has shown that employee productivity can go up as much as 38% when a sound masking system is installed. That more than compensates for the relatively low installation cost.
2. Quiet Zones
If sound masking technology is not an option for your organization, consider making a separate space for employees to work in silence. Employees can reserve this space when they have a large project that requires their full concentration.
3. Work from home
Yes, your home has noise, too, but many workers (up to 91% of remote workers) say they are more productive when working from home. Implement a reliable accountability protocol and send stressed out workers home for the day—they will thank you.
DISCLAIMER: This article expresses my own ideas and opinions. Any information I have shared are from sources that I believe to be reliable and accurate. I did not receive any financial compensation in writing this post, nor do I own any shares in any company I’ve mentioned. I encourage any reader to do their own diligent research first before making any investment decisions.
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