What is the sound of your workplace? The benefits and detriment of what we hear at work.
How productive do you feel in your work environment? Ever feel that its sound can be a creativity block?
When designing your primary work environment, it is necessary to be aware of potential environmental distractions that could influence productivity and creativity. Previous research on open office settings indicates a correlation with low productivity with being easily influenced by sounds such as background noise, closing doors, and human activity (Mak 2011). Research also indicates that productivity can significantly increase by addressing such environmental conditions (Haynes 2008). There is a strong positive correlation with productivity, overall satisfaction, and the environment and the facilities of the workplace (Haynes 2008). This makes sense, as how could one feel satisfied and comfortable working in an environment that detracts from work performance? Therefore, finding environmental comfort in your work-space is essential, including mitigation of acoustic nuisances.
Other studies stress the importance of autonomy and control in a work environment (Shalley 2004). Control or perceived control over your environment plays a big factor on our mental health more than we think, even in the instance of sound and noise. For instance, imagine yourself working at home and hearing the sound of a fire truck sprinting down your street, or the dumpster truck making rounds right in the middle of an important work call. These noises are out of your locus of control and could therefore be considered environmental distractions. To take control over noise occurrences is essential in establishing a space to promote productivity and new ideas. Ayr (2001) suggests that “the psychoactive effects that noise has on humans primarily depends on both the activity carried out and on the active or passive attitude of the human being towards that noise”. Essentially, noise-induced effects will vary, and their significance depends on work tasks and personal reactivity. In one study, 45% of participants reported a loss of productivity regarding noise-induced effects (Ayr 2001).
Sounds can be a hindrance, but also a positive distraction. Especially when the sound masks other possible distracting sounds i.e. white noise. For example, the peaceful sounds of a waterfall or soft music can blanket unwanted noises that we have little control over. Positive distractions can create positive emotional responses that increase productivity and creativity. Fred (1998) suggests that positive emotions can generate and broaden cognitive aspects for connection by developing the attention scope, thereby enhancing work performance.
What is your sound threshold? How will you tailor your work environment to make it sound perfect?
By Treyanna Parker
Ayr, U (2001), An experimental study on noise indices in AC offices. Applied Acoustics 2001; 62:633-43
Barry P.Haynes (2008) , “The impact of office comfort on productivity”. .Journal of Facilities Management; Bingley Vol. 6, Iss. 1, (2008): 37-51.
Fredrickson, B. L. (1998), What good are positive emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2(3), 300-319.
Shalley, C. E. and Gilson, L. L. (2004), What leaders need to know: a review of social and contextual factors that can foster or hinder creativity, The Leadership Quarterly, 15(1), 33-53.
Vithaya Thawornwong, S., Danko, S., and Tolbert, P. (2003), The role of the physical environment in supporting organizational creativity, Journal of Interior Design, 29(1/2), 1-16.