The amount of online searches by people looking for a solution to annoying or loud coworkers is slowly growing. What is it about our colleagues that makes them completely disregard our personal space or need for quiet?
We’ve got some tried and true techniques below. And if your office is looking for a more modern, permanent solution to defeating office noise, we’ve released two updated office pod and meeting pod buyer’s guides.
1. Noise cancelling headphones
Noise pollution seriously affects all of us in a variety of ways. Not only is it distracting, but particularly loud, unexpected noises drive our stress levels through the roof. Noise cancelling headphones mitigate distracting sounds from the office (be it construction, unwanted communication, someone else’s music etc.) and help us focus on the task at hand.
There are PNC (passive noise-canceling) headphones that seal your ears from distracting external sounds, ANC (active noise-canceling) headphones that create a white-noise effect that matches the surrounding sounds -- or you can get headphones that do a mixture of both.
Plus, if music or a podcast helps you concentrate, the sound quality of these headphones are incredible and they keep your ears safe -- you won’t need to risk turning up the volume at your favorite part of the song. The final positive of these big, often colorful headphones is that when you wear them, people are less likely to bother you.
2. Box breathing - for dealing with office noise that triggers a strong stress response
You know the drill. Breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, slowly exhale through your mouth for four counts. As my favorite podcast discusses -- as much as it feels too simple to be true, breathing really is key. Box breathing is a tool implemented by yogis and Navy Seals alike.
It lowers cortisol, brings attention back to the body, grounding us. If noise becomes too overwhelming in your office -- do some box breathing for 3 minutes, or five to ten rounds. The noise around you may still be distracting, but I guarantee your perspective on it will have shifted.
3. Circles of Attention
Konstantin Stanislavky (a “father” of modern acting) had a great method that works for people no matter what stage you’re on. It's called the three circles of attention. The first circle is the one just around you -- your radius. The second circle is around you and your scene partner, or your more immediate surroundings, and the third is as wide as the room.
When you practice these circles, imagine a real barrier or border between you and your inner circle. Visualize it. Focus on listening to the sounds only within that circle -- i.e. your breath, your pen on paper, etc. Put everything else out of focus.
Practice shifting between each circle, widening your attention as you move from one to the next. Then, return to the smallest circle. You’ll be surprised how much of what distracts you can be mitigated by mental training.
4. Deciding on a "quiet time" for loud colleagues or roommates
As much as this sounds like naptime in kindergarten, there’s a reason this works. Whether it’s your office mates or roommates, deciding on a time (say between 1-4pm) where you all work quietly is an amazing way to get things done.
Creating a structured block of quiet time creates a bond between you and your coworkers. It builds trust and accountability -- like having a jogging buddy, but for quiet time. Not only will you have a peaceful place to work, you’ll also be motivated to use that allotted time for the work that needs the most attention.
5. Plants, the all-natural solution to excessive workplace volume
Believe it or not, plants are an amazing noise reducer. Not only are green walls super aesthetically pleasing, they’re also a great, natural acoustic insulator. Installing a green wall can take work, so in the meantime, populating your work area with plants can help with noise reduction. Especially big plants with thick leaves with a lot of surface area.
When sound bounces off flexible matter like plants, it vibrates and fractures, as opposed to when sound hits a hard wall -- it reflects right off it and bounces back into the room.
After you purchase your noise canceling headphones, you’ll have to figure out what you want to listen to. If it’s not a white noise machine -- the kind of music we listen to (and the volume at which we listen) can help or hinder productivity.
According to this article, a cognitive behavioral therapist worked with Spotify and discovered that music with 50-80 beats per minute enhanced focus and creativity. They also found that classical, cinematic and nature music also helped.
To me, this translates to "music with no lyrics that’s very emotive." It keeps you engaged emotionally, which then influences creativity -- without the distractions of lyrics that could hijack your brain.
Could this noise in the office be addressed in a direct and respectful manner? If not, there are still other ways to communicate that you need quiet besides aggressively putting your new noise-canceling headphones on.
Add your status to your slack or turn notifications off. Let the office know you’re working on one task and they shouldn’t expect to hear from you for a few hours. If it’s okay to step outside, take a call on a walk, or go to a coffee shop down the street, communicate to your team that you’ll be offline.
As Susan Cain says in her book Quiet: The Power of INtroverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking: “If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don't let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don't force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multi-tasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way.”
8. A private Zenbooth for your noisy office
And last but certainly not least, an office phone booth. I reached out to a dozen colleagues, friends and family members while I was making this list, and every single person responded that finding a private room in their office was their preferred method of dealing with noise and distractions.
Whether it was an office phone booth or booking a conference room -- having a room, with a door to close, was pivotal.
Our Zenbooths dampen outside noise, keep you cool with ventilation, and keep the vibes positive with a skylight, appealing wood design, and glass doors.
We can put on headphones, update our slack statuses, or leave the office for a walk, but nothing is as efficient and simple as walking into a Zenbooth. To learn more about our products, get in touch with us here.