Career Testing
Career Testing
Career Testing
WORKPLACE / NOV. 26, 2014
version 3, draft 3

Surrounding Noise May Be Affecting Your Productivity

Have you ever tried to work in a certain workplace environment that was too noisy and you just couldn’t find a way to stay focused? 

Don’t worry. You’re not alone.

A study by Cambridge Sound Management determined that chatter normally distracts 30 percent of people working in open offices.

It’s one thing to work in an environment like a call center where noise is expected, but if you’re accustomed to working in your own personal office, then transitioning to a louder job setting could be detrimental to your work performance.

However, acoustical researchers found that there are two particular types of situations where sound causes a major problem for your concentration.

Intelligible Sounds Redirects Your Focus

The simplest noises may be more of a distraction than a range of sounds occurring at the exact same time.

Say for instance you go to McDonald’s to use their Wi-Fi, and while you’re there you decide to work on a few written assignments or projects for the day.

Of course there would be a lot of sound happening in that particular environment because it’s a fast food restaurant where people usually go to eat and mingle.

The only difference about this day is that the conversations and commotion you hear are at a very low volume level, to the point that it sounds completely muffled. Yet, a news program on the restaurant’s TV monitor is the only thing that’s keeping you unfocused because you can make out what’s being said.

Experts say that this type of distraction is caused by intelligibility—the ability to plainly make out public dialogue.    

When sound is inaudible it causes people to ignore it, but when it’s clear, people tend to give it meaning.

The same goes for listening to loud music or your iPod through headphones. If you can concisely make out what’s being said, then it can create some distraction. 

Silence Makes the Mind Wander

Silence can also be a major problem for most people.

I’ve experienced this one personally, and it’s just the most awkward distraction ever.

You would think that silence is the perfect solution to enhance your concentration. Acoustical specialist John Stout confirms this is actually not the case.

“Being in a very quiet space is unnerving for a lot of people,” says Stout. “Anytime you’re in an environment that is very quiet, any small noise becomes distracting.”

Stout says that being alarmed by sudden noises like an ambulance siren or passing airplane can cause frustration for anyone who is trying to stay focused. 

So, What is the Solution?

You may want to consider a way to bring the noises to a balance. Try to find an environment where the noise around you has a complete “hum” or faint sound.

Remember, the clearer you hear what’s being said, the more distracting it will be for you.

If you work in a large setting surrounded by co-workers, you may not have much of an option to choose from, but any work you do outside the office should be done in a place where there will be minimal noise.

While most people are easily distracted by intelligible conversations and sounds, not all loud environments affect people the same. 

Some people work their best with loud music playing or have the gift to block out any commotion occurring nearby. 

Ultimately, you have to find what works best for you.

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

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