As a greater percentage of employees begin to spend one or more days working outside of the office, it is important to maintain a level of productivity in those alternate environments so that we may all benefit from that continued flexibility. More often than not, people who telework regularly have a home office set up to optimize the hours spent working. Others prefer an environment in stark contrast to the one they work in every other day. Regardless of the chosen location, one thing everyone will be faced with is the noise level of that spot.
A recent article and study both detailed the value of ambient noise on an individual’s level of creativity and productivity. The researchers found that getting out of your comfort zone and into a noisier environment can lead to an increase in the flow of creative juices. They clarify that the noise should be low to moderate rather than jack-hammer level, explaining that the right noise level of an“environment can induce a certain degree of ‘disfluency’ or ‘processing difficulty,’ which can disrupt your normal way of thinking in such a way that it actually enhances the sort of abstract thinking that can spur real creativity.”
Having spent many recent years either in graduate school or a flexible work environment, I have honed in on the level of noise that enables me to remain productive as well as sounds that are completely distracting. I tend to agree with the researchers on having an appropriate noise level during creative bursts and needing more quiet while reading, especially for comprehension. My personal observations go a bit further into the type of ambient noise that helps or hinders. I have found that music on low volume can add the right amount of background noise for me to write in, but most other dialogue distracts me from my work. For instance, if I have the radio on in the background, I can concentrate while the rhythm of the music is playing, but as soon as a commercial comes on, I lose my train of thought and cannot focus again until the ads are finished. So for me, working in a coffee shop might only be productive as long as I’m not surrounded by chatty people. Interestingly, the major caveat to this study was that the ambient noise theory works far better for more creative types, so those meticulous people who do not multi-task well or who need extreme focus for a detailed project might not fare as well at Starbucks.
Where do you spend your telework days? Have you found some environments more conducive to productivity than others?