A simple way to improve productivity in the office
Priya Wadhwa
10x Industry

A simple way to improve productivity in the office

Becoming aware of how you add to office noise is the first step.

Ever found yourself unable to work because the colleague sitting near you decided to have a telephone conversation at his desk? Or perhaps people simply kept openly talking to each other throughout the day? You’re not alone. Echoing noises in an open plan office have been affecting productivity ever since they became a thing.

Multiple studies have linked increase in noise to higher stress levels and reduced productivity. In an age where the pressure on productivity has increased, we’ve also seen average work hours increase, with working late, being available for projects over weekends as well as being accessible on vacations becoming a commonality.

This change has come at the same time when open plan offices have become very common. Yet, sadly, there have been no etiquettes to deal with the challenges put forth by them.

We’ve all guilty to sometimes taking calls at our desks, keeping WhatsApp message tunes on, eating lunch or snacking while working, or simply asking a question to a colleague sitting a desk away. It’s just a few things we all do, perhaps even unknowingly, but they all add up.

While big corporate offices sometimes had stickers reminding people to keep silent a couple of decades ago; they are all but non-existent today. In fact, we’re cultivating a culture of blocking noises — and people — out, be that through headphones or simply ignoring.

Unfortunately, this has come to a point where even after studies prove that noise is existent in offices and is affecting productivity, when one does complain about the noise or ask for leave to work from home, they’re not taken seriously — or worse, said that if they were concentrating on their work enough, the noise wouldn’t bother them.

Having said that, recently, managers and human resource departments have started taking notice, allowing people the flexibility to work from home to a certain extent. But not many people take advantage of this benefit, fearing that they get left out of important conversations and emails because they aren’t physically present in the office.

It’s become a catch 22 situation which is affecting introverts a lot more than extroverts, as found by researchers from the University College London and the University of London.

So how do we tackle this?

Believe it or not, there is an easy answer — each person in the office must play their role in keeping the noise down. So the next time you want to ask your colleague a question or show them something, do it in hushed tones and whispers instead of talking out loud, or better yet, go into a meeting room, kitchen or break room to have a conversation. Keep mobiles on silent, avoid eating at your desk, and avoid wearing noisy heels to office if you have wood or tile floors.

From the management perspective, send out a memo regarding office etiquettes, install carpets as they absorb noise better, add partitions to inhibit noise from echoing, and perhaps even install soundproof meeting rooms for taking calls.