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How Sound Affects Productivity

We are surrounded by sound these days. From the hum of traffic outside to the buzz of the people around us. Many even try to drown out the noise with sound of their own, popping in earbuds to listen to their favorite music or white noise app instead of what’s around them.

But what effect does sound have on our productivity and creativity? The answer may surprise you!

Sound and productivity

Ask anyone who works in an open office space about productivity and background noise, and chances are you’ll get an earful about whoever decided open office spaces were the solution. Workers often cite the background noise as a top complaint in this style of office. With so many now working in these distracting situations, researchers have begun taking a closer look at how noise and distractions may affect our productivity.

Findings suggest it may be more complicated than we think. Essentially it boils down to just the right level of noise in the right location to improve creative thinking ability. Specifically, studies have found:

  • A moderate level of background noise may distract the brain just enough to let its creative side free. This study involved participants in several groups completing standard tests with varying levels of background noise, from silence up to 85 decibels. Researchers concluded that noise levels 70 decibels and above enhanced abstract thought. However, they also found that those in the 85-decibel group had impaired information processing, reducing creativity. The findings suggest that just the right level of background noise, about the level you may find in a coffee shop, enhanced creativity beyond that of lower noise levels.
  • Avoiding interruptions, not just noise, is key to productivity. An interruption is when our brain shifts to tune into the noise. Often a conversation. While ambient noise like the hum of a coffee shop or fan can increase creativity and productivity, a sound that draws us out and interrupts our thought processes lowers productivity. Many who find themselves struggling to focus in an open office or similar space due to noise may find that it’s due to these kinds of distractions, not just the noise.


How to boost productivity in a noisy world

Increasing productivity and creativity with just the right space can be challenging in today’s noisy world. These tips can help:

  • Find space where you work best – if you have flexibility, work elsewhere. Whether it’s the restaurant on the corner, a quiet corner of your open office or your home office, find a space where you can tune in and do your best work.
  • Create your most productive space – if you have less flexibility in moving, make the most of noise-cancelling headphones, music and background noise apps. These can create the noise level that works best for you and removes many of the distractions you might otherwise tune into.

Let sound change your productivity for the better with the right strategies and tools.

If you have questions about your hearing or would like to schedule a hearing evaluation, contact our office today.

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