Discover more from How to Lead Everybody (with their permission)
Distractions and Focus
What's the "right" noise level for the office?
Some people need silence and a non-distracting environment in order to focus. Logically, this makes sense. But for some other people, this silent, non-distracting environment is… torturous. If they don’t have some ambient noise (people talking, music playing, a TV on in the corner, etc.), it’s like their brains start playing something to fill the silence. Often, this can be an earworm of something an old TV-show theme, playing over and over in their heads. Imagine it—you are trying to work, but “Flintstones/ Meet the Flintstones/ They’re the modern stone-age fam-i-ly/ From the — town of Bedrock…” keeps playing over and over and over and OVER in your brain.
As leaders, we can help our people maximize their productivity by recognizing these differences and hopefully finding ways for the different personalities to get what they need in the office. Some people keep the noise and distractions within the office to a minimum, but allow staffers to wear headphones. Some have music or TV playing, but have places people can go (like an unused office or conference room) when they need silence for concentration or for a phone or video call. If there is enough space, some offices have a “quiet” room for silent work and a “collaboration” room for conversations.
Please don’t assume that everyone in the office wants/needs the same environment that you do. People on the opposite end of the “I need silence—I need stimulation” continuum will probably find your preferred environment stressful. This has been a challenge dealing with office re-design trends—for example, that “open office” layout concept that makes some people feel energized, connected, and productive gives some other people anxiety, loss of focus, and loss of productivity.
One size does not fit all. Find out what your people need, and do what you can to give them an environment in which each one of them can focus and do their best work.