For years I attributed my ability to work in noisy environments to the fact that I had attended a school with an open floor plan. The library was, perhaps, the noisiest place in the school, as students passed by all the time with no walls between the walkways and the bookshelves. Being able to focus on my work despite what was going on nearby served me well when I worked in an open newsroom with a police scanner that was always on.
Later I discovered that my tolerance for noise depended upon the type of work I was doing. I once managed a team that had a deadline at 5 p.m. every day. As the co-workers in the open office space around us were winding down, becoming chatty and even holding parties, our team needed to concentrate the most. Often I felt like a librarian as I asked those around us to keep the noise down.
In the last office where I worked before telecommuting, several people routinely wore headphones, whether they were listening to music or creating a cocoon of silence so they could focus on their work.
A recent piece on NPR explains that researchers have yet to discover the optimum sound level for workplaces. While even the background noise of heating vents can negatively affect work, some low level of sound can be desirable. Meanwhile, an article in The New York Times suggests that listening to music can boost your concentration. Your best bet is to choose music without lyrics and listen for a short time, perhaps 20 minutes.
How do you deal with noise in your workplace?
[Image Source: Stuart Richards]