Do you wish the people around you would SHUT UP so you could get some work done?

Apparently, yes. 

Well, at least that’s what the 60% majority of respondents to last week’s online poll – “Are you more productive in a noisy or quiet (office) environment?” – wish. One poll respondent stated: “I definitely get more work done when I get to work before everyone else arrives / work back after everyone has left. I am easily distracted.” 

Personally, I prefer to work in an environment with a bit of a hum, a bit of a vibe happening. It’s energising. You feel as though you’re not the only one actually doing anything. I do not wish to work in a tomb-like setting. Another poll respondent commented: “Working in a silent office can sometimes be a tad uncomfortable. You suddenly become aware of how much noise you are making, especially if you are having a conversation on the phone. You can feel very aware of what you are saying and are conscious that everyone is listening in. This can then distract you from what you are actually supposed to be talking about!” Yet another said: “The work place is essentially a collaborative team environment with people of all levels of seniority and skill sets. Together they are working to achieve a common goal in delivering a successful outcome for the company.” 

However, it does depend on what you’re actually attempting to get done, and the level and type of noise around you.

If you’re working on something that requires focus, attention to detail, and concentration, a quiet atmosphere is probably more suitable. I know when I was attending to our end-of-month reporting last week in the absence of our managing director (thanks very much, boss), I retreated to her office and shrieked “Don’t speak to me! I am doing sums!” whenever a colleague approached. In this age of open plan offices, it is wonderful when there are also spaces provided for employees to retreat to when uninterrupted quiet is desired: “Open plan offices may save money and increase collaboration to a certain extent but if you need to concentrate on a task, it is a completely unsatisfactory environment.” 

In an opinion piece published on the Dynamic Business website, “How to increase productivity in an open plan office”, Dr Jim Taylor had this to say: “In theory, people are more accessible, so that problems can be discussed and decisions can be made more easily.  This, in theory, should improve productivity. There is a downside however. These are noisy, busy places where there is no such thing as a private conversation. Humans value privacy, especially when discussing matters requiring sensitivity. This is virtually impossible in a busy open plan situation.” 

Plus, it’s also important to make sure you’re not the office noise pest. “Try business etiquette expert Tracey Hodgkins’s tips:

– Don’t approach colleagues while they’re on the phone. This happens too often, she says.

– Don’t speak at them when they’re concentrating – regaining concentration is time consuming.

– Try making an appointment for a conversation.” [Source]

Finally, Challenge Consulting’s Organisational Psychologist Narelle Hess directed me to a very interesting study that examined if noise and music are more distracting to introverts at work. “Many workplaces allow the playing of radio or recorded music during working hours, providing a chance to personalise and brighten the working climate. But how does music affect our ability to perform tasks at work? And does this depend on the kind of person we are?” In a nutshell, “higher extraversion eliminated the penalty from noise.” Interesting … 

How do you like your desk: Streamlined Order or Organised Chaos? Tell us in our latest online poll and stay tuned for the results in next week’s ChallengeBlog post …


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