Enterprise Communications

Some Noises Reduce Productivity, Others Can Aid It

By Special Guest
Mark Derby, VP North America, Jabra
  |  November 21, 2018

Open offices comprise 70 percent of our work environments, and the average square feet per worker dropped from 225 to 151 between 2010 and 2017. While open, close-knit spaces facilitate collaboration, workers lose more than 66 percent of their productivity to the accidental noise open environments create.

Those who enjoy the ability to work wherever haven’t escaped the din, either. Instead, they’ve replaced the usual noises with new ones.

However, we don’t need to return to the days of cubicles. Noise can inhibit productivity, but if you choose the right noise, it’s possible to boost productivity. In fact, a recent Jabra (News - Alert) survey revealed a correlation between music and the elements that aid focus.

So, as you dive into another year, here are tips to help you bring the right noise to your workspace.

Identify the bad noise

Consider your work environment and write down the sounds that thwart your concentration. Maybe distractions stem from your neighbor who enjoys the occasional (or everyday) crunchy snack. Or perhaps the culprit is a nearby printer.

Bad noise can also sneak into your day through less obvious sources, such as footsteps and floorboards. So consider every inch of your workspace. While not every noise will tear you away from the task at hand, those that do will rob you of productivity. Research indicates that it can take up to 23 minutes to refocus.

Minimize the bad

This doesn’t mean that you need to get your workspace neighbor fired – rather, create barriers for distractions. If it’s the water cooler chatter, is it possible to move to another desk space? Can you move that pesky printer?

If not, consider investing in technology, such as headsets that combine passive and active noise cancellation to reduce or block the noise. Passive noise cancellation, a result of headsets’ physical features, filter out irregular, high-frequency sounds, including office chatter and nearby meetings.

On the other hand, active noise cancellation generates anti-noise that cancels ambient noise (the destructive interferences around you). Headsets with active noise cancellation detect and analyze incoming sounds and then generate a mirror anti-noise signal to cancel out low-frequency sounds such as printers and other small but consistent disturbances.

Don’t forget the people on the other end of the line either. Data suggests that 89 percent of customers will leave for a competitor after a negative customer service experience. So choose a headset with a noise-cancelling microphone to ensure surrounding sounds don’t disturb your conversation.

Still interested in additional noise-reeducation techniques? Try turning off notifications or using a headset with a busy light to show coworkers that you need to concentrate.

Crank up the good noise

Once you’ve taken steps to minimize as much bad noise as possible, it’s time to crank up the good noise by tapping sounds proven to provide focus. Need to input data? Studies show that up-tempo (100+ bpm) music can increase your performance on processing tasks. Looking for creative inspiration? Consider music that activates emotions.

But what if you’re not a music person? Consider injecting a bit of nature, such as recordings of bird songs, into your day. Some experts believe these noises reassure humans that our environment is safe, while others think the combination of sounds causes us to focus on the task at hand rather than noise. Whatever the reason, it’s clear that choosing the right noise is imperative to productivity.  

With myriad workplace distractions, from noisy neighbors to office equipment, it might seem impossible to focus. But with the right knowledge and toolset you can work with increased focused. Understand the source of bad noise, minimize it, and then tap the power of good noise to become a master of productivity. 

Mark Derby is vice president of North America at Jabra (www.jabra.com).

Edited by Erik Linask