We’ve all been there. You’re sitting at your desk, surrounded by people, dozens of projects going on all at once, and yet you could probably hear a pin drop. Never mind the glares coming from your coworker as you bash away at your keyboard.
Silence is fine in a library, or in a morgue. But that level of quiet just doesn’t seem right in a thriving office environment.
While silence can be a welcome weapon against distractions, it can also be a distraction in itself. If you have ever had to pick up the phone in a dead quiet office, with the whole room inadvertently listening in on your conversation, you’ll understand.
There are even stats to back it up.
According to a peer-reviewed study out of the University of Chicago (by Ravi Mehta, Rui (Juliet) Zhu, and Amar Cheema), “a moderate versus low level of ambient noise enhances performance on creative tasks”
The study suggested that a high level of noise (85 dB) actually “hurts creativity”, but a gentle buzz of between 50-70 dB was favourable.
Some refer to it as ‘white noise’, and it’s that background sound you might find in a coffee shop, or a coworking space, or in a business centre lounge. If only you could bottle that ‘creative noise’.
Well, some smart folks have done just that.
Ambiance, Thunderspace and Coffitivity have produced their own sounds in web and app form. Coffitivity, which aims to recreate the “ambient sounds of a cafe to boost your creativity and help you work better”, has developed numerous moods such as the gentle hum of Morning Murmur, the campus chatter of University Undertones, and even Texas Teahouse.
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As Avanta found during an extensive research process in which they developed their own ‘Sound Room’, noise can be your best friend or your worst workplace enemy.
“The sound around us has a powerful effect on our psychological state, as well as on our cognitive ability and our social behaviour,” said Julian Treasure, Chairman of The Sound Agency.
“Intelligent sound design can help improve concentration, reduce fatigue and stress, and consequently create more productive working environments.”
Treasure’s suggestions include birdsong or gentle flowing water, which may be easier on the ear than Texas Teahouse. Either way, white noise, or masking sounds, or mood music – whatever you want to call it – is worth a shot if you find your office space or lounge area a little too deathly quiet.