Office Acoustics & Why They’re Getting Worse

The modern office has become a noisy, distracting environment,and it’s only getting worse.  In a study by the Data Entry Management Association, poor office acoustics increased the errors made in data entries by as much as 27%.   Furthermore, cost-cutting tactics lead to workstations being placed more closely together than ever, with the result of more people making noise in a smaller area.  Additionally, telecommunications has become vital to doing business, resulting in the distracting sounds of phones and fax machines all day long.

Here are some seemingly random, yet beneficial tips that can help increase your productivity and concentration even in the midst of a noisy environment.

Prioritize your day. It’s easy to lose a half hour to an hour checking email.  Instead, start your day with more important tasks or items on your to-do list.  Usually, even if you’re not a morning person, you’re starting off fresh and hopefully before you’ve hit any snags.  Only check your voice mail or e-mail once or twice a day, and keep your own messages short and direct. Don’t let low priority tasks interrupt you constantly throughout the day.

Use white noise. Today’s sound masking technology is very precise and floods the background with “white” noise that focused on the spectrum of human speech. Office-wide sound masking can lower distractions by up to 51 percent by covering the excess conversations and noise in an open floor plan. You can also try a personal sound machine, if you don’t have control over the sound quality in the office.

Limit distractions and interruptions. This sounds like one of those easier said than done tips, and, well it’s true.  However, limiting your distractions is crucial because the average worker is interrupted more than 70 times each day. While you can’t control it all, you can certainly control yourself…right?  Try establishing a “no-interruption” time of about an hour to focus on important tasks (see first tip). Start by turning off all your self-distractions, like your phone and e-mail. Spend this time in focused concentration. Turn on a white noise machine to cover office noise(see second tip). You can even post a sign indicating that you currently cannot be interrupted, and a time when you will be available again. You can repeat this focused time throughout the day to make the most of your time.

Improve your posture. Crazy, unexpected one.  Bad posture is not just something your mom worries about.  Poor posture wastes energy because your body hurts and you don’t stay focused.  Even worse, you may end up with a stress injury.  Start with a good, ergonomic chair and adjust it to properly fit you. First, adjust the height of the seat so that your feet are flat on the floor. Next, move the backrest on your chair to fit the curve of your spine. You should also add portable lumbar support if your chair does not fully support your lower back. Finally, move your arm rests low enough or out of the way while typing to allow free arm movement.

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