Productivity Hacks for Working in a Noisy Environment
Saturday, July 22, 2023

Productivity Hacks for Working in a Noisy Environment

Modern open-plan offices are full of noisy distractions. Here's how you can cope.

Operating in a boisterous environment presents a myriad of challenges. The constant barrage of noise can be distracting, disruptive, and even detrimental to one's health, thus hampering productivity significantly. Yet, in our fast-paced society, it's often a reality many professionals have to face.

Understanding how to maintain productivity in a noisy environment is critical. Not only does it lead to better work output and efficiency, but it also enhances personal well-being, job satisfaction, and overall mental health. This article provides practical, expert-backed hacks to help you navigate and thrive in a noisy workspace. You can expect to learn strategies for managing distractions, techniques to maintain focus, and tips for creating a more conducive work environment amidst the cacophony.

Understanding the Effects of Noise on Productivity

Man asking noisy coworker to be quiet.

Noise pollution in the workplace can be a significant barrier to getting things done in the office. It not only disrupts concentration but also induces stress, leading to decreased job satisfaction and output. Scientific studies have even shown that noise can impair cognitive function, making complex tasks more difficult to execute and leading to an increase in errors and a decrease in speed.

For example, a comprehensive study conducted by Oxford Economics found that noise significantly affected employees' ability to focus on their tasks. The survey revealed that employees rate the ability to focus without interruptions as the top factor in their productivity. Yet, almost half of the respondents reported working in a noisy environment.

The study further showed that employees lost as much as 86 minutes per day due to noise distractions. This loss of productive time comes with considerable financial implications for businesses. 

The findings of the Oxford Economics study underscore the criticality of addressing noise pollution in the workplace is therefore not just an aspect of employee well-being but a significant contributor to business performance. It's an essential productivity hack for any organization operating in a noisy environment.

Investing in Noise-Cancelling Technology 

Women wearing noise cancelling headphones working across from coworker.

One effective solution for working in noisy environments is to invest in noise-cancelling technology, particularly headphones. Scientific research indicates that noise-cancelling headphones can significantly improve focus by creating a quiet personal space, even in noisy environments.  They help counteract noise by reducing unwanted ambient sounds using active noise control. This allows the user to concentrate on their tasks without distraction.

Global giant Amazon has recognized the benefits of noise-cancelling headphones in their offices. The company has provided employees with high-quality headphones to reduce distractions and improve concentration. 

Recommendations for Top Noise-Cancelling Devices

  1. Sony WH-1000XM4: Offering industry-leading noise cancellation, these headphones are lauded for their comfort and sound quality.
  2. Bose QuietComfort 45: These headphones are renowned for their comfortable fit and excellent noise cancellation capabilities.
  3. Apple AirPods Pro: With their compact design and powerful noise cancellation, these earbuds are perfect for on-the-go professionals.

Implementing Sound Masking Solutions

Sound masking is a technology designed to reduce noise distractions and protect speech privacy in workplaces. It works by adding a specially engineered background noise into the environment that 'masks' unwanted sounds, making them less disruptive. This noise is often referred to as 'white noise' and is similar to the sound of airflow. For a deeper understanding of how sound masking works, this whitepaper provides a comprehensive guide.

Johnson & Johnson's Open-Plan Offices

Johnson & Johnson, a multinational corporation, implemented sound masking in their open-plan offices to improve productivity. The solution was introduced to reduce the impact of distracting conversations and peripheral noises. Post-implementation, the company reported improved employee concentration and satisfaction, a testament to the efficacy of sound masking solutions in reducing noise pollution.

Tips for Companies Considering Sound Masking Solutions

  1. Identify the noise issues: Understanding the specific sound challenges in your workspace is crucial before implementing a sound masking solution.
  2. Choose the right system: Not all sound masking systems are the same. Consider factors like sound quality, adjustability, and cost.
  3. Involve professionals: Professional installation ensures the system is optimally configured for your specific environment.

Implementing sound masking solutions can be a game-changer for businesses aiming to enhance productivity and keep employee stress levels down in noisy environments.

Creating a Personal Quiet Zone for Maximum Productivity

People working in separate booths.

Finding a moment of serenity in today's fast-paced workplace can be a challenge. This is where the concept of creating a personal quiet zone comes into play. A personal quiet zone is a dedicated space or time period where one can work with minimal distractions and noise, promoting focus and productivity. One study found that a quiet environment can stimulate new cell development in the hippocampus, the region of the brain associated with learning, memor, and emotion.

Implementing Your Personal Quiet Zone at Work

  1. Choose a specific location that is less frequented or noise-insulated if possible. If this is not feasible, consider noise-cancelling headphones.
  2. Set boundaries and communicate them to your colleagues. This might involve setting specific quiet hours or putting a 'Do Not Disturb' sign when you're in your quiet zone.
  3. Eliminate potential distractions. This includes turning off unnecessary notifications and creating a clutter-free workspace.

IBM has adopted the concept of personal quiet zones in its workplace design. The company's offices include a variety of workspaces, from collaborative areas to quiet zones. These quiet zones, or 'focus rooms', allow their employees to work in a distraction-free environment when needed. According to an interview with an IBM executive, this approach has seen a significant improvement in employee productivity and job satisfaction.

Practicing Mindfulness and Meditation for Noise Management

Woman meditating crossed-legged on her desk at work.

Mindfulness and meditation are another great way to manage noise distraction. Studies show that mindfulness, the practice of focusing one's awareness on the present moment, can increase resistance to distractions. Meditation, a practice that trains the mind to focus and redirect thoughts, can likewise aid in noise management by promoting better concentration and stress reduction.

Incorporating Mindfulness and Meditation into Your Work Routine

  1. Start your day with a brief meditation session to create a sense of calm and focus.
  2. Throughout the day, take short mindfulness breaks, focusing on your breath or surroundings to center yourself.
  3. Try apps like Headspace or Calm that offer guided mindfulness exercises that can be done at your desk.

Flexible Work Schedules and Remote Work 

Woman attending Zoom meeting from home.

Flexible work schedules and remote work are powerful tools that can help individuals and teams avoid peak noise times. By allowing employees to adapt their work hours to less noisy periods of the day, these arrangements can result in increased productivity and improved work-life balance. A study by FlexJobs indicates that 65% of workers are more productive in their home than at a traditional workplace.

For example, tech giant Dell has embraced flexible work schedules and remote work, resulting in significant productivity increases. According to a report by Dell Technologies, their Connected Workplace program has not only reduced their environmental footprint but also saved the company $12 million annually in real estate costs. It's a testament to the fact that flexible work schedules can boost productivity while also benefiting the organization as a whole.

Tips for Successfully Implementing Flexible Work Schedules and Remote Work

  1. Communicate expectations: Establish clear guidelines about work hours, availability, and communication methods.
  2. Maintain regular check-ins: Regular meetings can help keep everyone on the same page and foster a sense of team cohesion.
  3. Provide necessary tools: Ensure employees have the technology and resources they need to work effectively from home.
  4. Encourage work-life balance: Avoid blurring the lines between work and personal time. Encourage employees to take regular breaks and maintain a healthy work-life balance.


In this article, we have explored several practical and effective strategies for improving productivity within a noisy environment. Key points include the use of noise-cancelling headphones, scheduled quiet hours, and soundproofing workspaces. Both individuals and companies can greatly benefit from implementing these hacks. 

Noise is an unavoidable part of our lives, but it doesn't have to be a barrier to productivity. Whether you're an individual working from a bustling coffee shop or a company seeking to improve the productivity of a busy open-plan office, these proactive steps to mitigate noise disruption can turn our work environments into spaces that inspire focus and efficiency rather than hindering it.

Ultimately, our ability to work efficiently in a noisy environment hinges on how well we adapt to and manage these auditory challenges. So, why not try these hacks today and turn the noise around you into your productivity powerhouse?

Nicole Sell
LinkedIn Profile

No items found.

Latest posts.