Coffee shops and other bustling places have become a common place for people to work, with a lot of claims that it improves productivity by having people around to hold you more accountable. This is true, to a point.
A certain level of background noise has been shown to increase productivity in short busts, however, continued exposure to noise actually has the opposite effect and shows an overall negative impact. This includes repetitive sounds like those of an espresso machine or conversations happening around you.
Most of us don’t pay that much attention to the sounds around us unless they become irritating. Even then we often simply put up with it or find ways to tune it out, but do you ever think about how those sounds impact your work, mindset, and health?
Noise is Stressful
Our bodies are deeply impacted and stressed by noise, which only adds to the stress of the work we are already doing. Prolonged exposure to loud or repetitive sounds can actually trigger both psychological and physiological stress responses. Spike in blood pressure or heart rate are the most notable.
The onslaught of pings, rings, and other sounds coming from office devices can slowly build up your cortisol, which is the primary stress hormone. But on the other hand, escaping the office for the local coffee shop and being surrounded by conversations can end up having a similar impact especially frustrating when you are trying to accomplish something.
Reducing the noise level, either by working in a different location or putting on noise canceling headphones can have a huge impact, but don’t start pumping music on those headphones right away. It might cut out all of those unwanted sounds but it may not be as beneficial as you think!
Earphones Can Make Matters Worse
Putting in your earbuds can be an easy solution to block unwanted sounds and focus in on your own world. Unfortunately this has its own set of downfalls.
It’s been shown that repetitive tasks such as data entry, design or coding can all be enhanced with music. . However, tasks that require you to retain information can suffer greatly from it – I can personally attest to this!
As an avid music lover, I have spent many years throwing on my headphones and drowning out the sounds around me and getting into a good working groove. However, there are definitely tasks that can be completed much more effectively when listing to the music at a much lower volume and being aware of one’s surroundings; writing or detailed planning, for example.
In addition, the potential health risks from listening to loud music (like hearing loss or an increased risk of ear infections from earbuds). Earbuds can be especially harmful because they put the sound so close to your inner ear, boosting levels by 9 decibels. That may not look like much but 10 decibels is the difference between having a conversation and standing next to a washing machine.
Productivity and Motivation Suffer
People have shown to be up to 66% less productive when exposed to a nearby conversation. This is especially true when the tasks include reading or writing. Whether you’re an entrepreneur or an employer, you can see the implications of a day’s productivity being cut down by two thirds.
With approximately 70% of offices now using open plan concepts, with little to no separation, people are working themselves harder and producing less. It’s easy to feel stuck in a hamster wheel,, running faster and harder while getting nowhere.
Entrepreneur.com even recently published an article called ‘Why Open Plan Offices are Bad News For Employees’.
Being in a position at work that allows me to choose where I work, whether it’s in blissful silence or in a busier open space, I can honestly say that both have their benefits. Having the ability to strike up a conversation with someone in the Hot Desk Space or in one of the lounges opens up a lot of ideas and opportunities. However, I do not get as much checked off my list during those hours. For that, I retreat to a quiet space and plow through my work.
A Well Planned Space Can Make All The Difference
The modern minimalist look popping up throughout office spaces today adds to the amount of sound we hear. Large open spaces with a lot of hard, flat surfaces only magnify sound. Use of sound dampening elements on walls or opting to use carpet flooring instead of hardwood has a huge impact on noise reduction.
Listen to this great podcast by Twenty Thousand Hertz to learn more.
At Media Mall, we have taken all of these factors into consideration in the planning and design of our office spaces. We have designed our private offices and shared spaces to help minimize the amount of noise. With noise dampening glass and segregated areas to sit and work, people can always find a quiet place focus. We even have a phone booth for people wanting to make a call in a quiet private place.
“When we designed Media Mall, we understood that people running their businesses liked the idea of working together, but they still needed their privacy. All our interior walls are filled with sound proof insulation and even the floor to ceiling glass panels are a two part glass with a sound dampening film in the centre. We made extra wide hallways to allow for people to pass others in conversation and several small lounges for meeting with clients or teams if you don’t need one of our boardrooms. The entire office is designed to allow the best of a productive and private environment while still incorporating the ability for our members to collaborate and communicate as they need to throughout the day.” – Tony Snippe