The background noise you’ve learned to ignore doesn’t disappear when you’re not listening. Whether it’s the sound of traffic outside your office window, a conversation between co-workers or even music — the presence of noise can have an adverse effect on your productivity. Noise pollution is a very real problem.
Of course, when you think of the term, “noise pollution,” you probably imagine a busy freeway with aggravated commuters or airplanes at a nearby airport. While these are fair examples, noise pollution isn’t always loud and distracting. Sometimes, it’s quiet and unassuming, but still detrimental to your work.
Intermittent speech is particularly influential on your ability to complete tasks. A discussion between colleagues a few feet from your desk may not seem like an issue, but it affects your performance more than continuous speech or non-speech noise. So what can you do to avoid and preempt this type of problem?
It starts with an understanding of the problem itself.
How Does Noise Pollution Affect Your Productivity?
Concerning the effects of intermittent speech, a meta-analysis of 242 studies concluded it was one of the most harmful types of noise. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most common types of noise in an office space. Many people turn to music to block out the sound, but this isn’t necessarily the best course of action.
While music tends to improve positive emotions and even accelerate the speed at which you complete tasks, it’s disruptive for reading. You might eliminate the distraction of a colleague’s conversation, but you’re not in the clear. A pair of noise-canceling headphones and your favorite album isn’t a perfect solution.
That said, your vulnerability to environmental noise in the workplace also depends on your personality type. Introverts and extroverts respond to noise differently. While introverts have far more difficulty fighting off external stimuli, extroverts have fewer issues when attempting to work through distractions.
Clearly, the relationship between noise and productivity is more nuanced than many people believe. Noise isn’t always negative, and it may provide benefits under certain circumstances. Studies have shown a moderate amount of noise can actually facilitate creativity, while too much or too little can hinder it.
Then again, you’re not completing tasks in a controlled setting, and you can’t afford to conduct research in the middle of your busy workday. You need something to ensure your productivity — something immediate and effective. Fortunately, you have a number of options to counter the effects of noise pollution.
How Can You Counter the Effects of Noise Pollution?
As mentioned earlier, the relationship between noise and productivity is nuanced. You might not get the results you’re hoping for with a pair of noise-canceling headphones and your favorite album. On the other hand, those same headphones and a white noise playlist could provide the peace of mind you’re searching for.
If you struggle to sustain your focus in a distracting environment, white noise may prove useful. It isn’t as beneficial for your concentration as silence, but it’s a reasonable alternative for those who don’t have the option of sealing themselves in a soundproof room. However, it may be a good idea to look into office soundproofing for your workplace if you and your colleagues are firmly against noise pollution at work.
Workers in remote positions may choose to create a home office rather than investing in a coworking space. This can be a helpful solution, given office noise can negatively affect your productivity and overall well-being. A silent space, such as a private office, where you can concentrate on a project is appealing.
Otherwise, you can purchase a set of earplugs, which are somewhat effective in managing noise in the workplace. In short, you have many methods of eliminating noise which will improve your ability to work in a counterproductive setting.
Review Your Options Today
As you move forward, consider the following questions: Are you applying a short- or long-term solution? Based on past experience, how do you work best?
When you view the complicated subject of noise pollution in the context of your personal situation, you’ll have an understanding of how best to proceed, and how you might amend the issue.
Noise pollution can create problems, of course, but you aren’t at the mercy of talkative co-workers, discordant traffic and the cacophony of a construction site. You have solutions which will recover your focus and lift your productivity. With that in mind, review your options and start planning a change today.