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Noise vs. Quiet: Which Is Better for Productivity?


If you asked a random sample of people to describe their perfect office environment, you’d probably hear a lot about noise levels — specifically, that even the most extroverted workers generally prefer a little peace and quiet, thanks, if they have to concentrate. But is it possible for a work space to be too quiet?

Ruth Graham at the Grindstone says yes. In a recent post, she mentions a new web app called Coffivity, which is supposed to bring the “moderate ambient noise” of the coffee shop right into your office, or at least, your headphones. (Although sadly, not the lattes.)

Why would you want your office to sound like a coffee shop? Because, as it turns out, total silence isn’t actually very good for productivity. A recent study in the Journal of Consumer Research found that a moderate noise level “enhances performance on creative tasks and increases the buying likelihood of innovative products.” Lower noise levels, on the other hand, increased processing difficulty, which impaired abstract thought.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

The obvious answer is to convince your boss to let you work at Starbucks from now on. But if you can’t sell that, at least you can take comfort in the fact that there are apps for every problem.

Tell Us What You Think

We want to hear from you! Do you work better when it’s not totally quiet? Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter, using the hashtag #MakeItHappen.

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(Photo Credit: Ed Yourdon/Flickr)

Jen Hubley Luckwaldt
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