We believe that the best way to be highly productive is to be able to get into our monoideal state. Josh Kaufman says in his book “The Personal MBA”:
“Monoidealism is the state of focusing your energy and attention only on one thing. It’s often called a “flow” state: clear, focused attention on one subject for a long period of time.”
For this to happen, potential distractions and interruptions need to be eliminated. This is the reason for some people, working early in the morning or late at night can feel very productive – because on a normal day, no one is going to call you at 4 in the morning.
However, most of us do our work in an office which does not operate at those silent, undistracted hours. The good news is, we still can manage our potential distractions by knowing what distracts us the most. This can be done by allocating a time when you want to be in your monoideal state and free yourself from distractions during that time. For example, you can put your phone into flight mode and turning off email notifications from 8 to 11 and start to check emails and communicating with the outside world from 11 until lunch. The timing will depend a lot on the type of work you are doing and how much time will you need to be in monoideal state.
Unfortunately, there are things that is out of your locus of control – there is a retrofitting job upstairs, your co-worker decided to sing along to the song he is listening to, people in the other room are laughing loudly (are they talking about their boss?) and so on. If it’s not in front of your eyes, for example pop-up notifications on your screen, most of the distractions come to you in a form of sound, or I think it’s better to call it “noise”.
Noise is a productivity killer that you might be overlooking, especially if you have passed the stage of being distracted by your phone, browsing Facebook on your computer and looking at cat videos on Youtube. Fortunately, noise is manageable in a few different ways. The most viable option for an existing office is to make noise-related rules and to make everybody aware that noise can reduce their productivity. For example, companies can make rules that retrofitting job, singing and gossiping must be done outside of office hour. Another way to fix this is to separate areas for people who want to be focused and areas where people can socialize and discuss with their co-workers.
The best way to manage noise? Is to take noise into consideration from the beginning of the design process of the working space. This can be a long and complex process where there are a lot of aspects to be considered in designing an ideal office. It needs a balance between visual pleasure, company’s philosophy, functionality, health, safety and all other aspects that we want to take into account. A lot of times, all those aspects will relate to noise or acoustics in some ways, depending on each unique case.
For us acousticians, these are the things that we typically think about when helping others to design their working space (and actually any other built environment):
- Ambient noise: We want the noise level inside of the working space to be reasonably low, whether it is intrusion from outside such as traffic, railway, aircraft and neighbouring building (neighbour’s mechanical system can be quite noisy), or the noise from inside the building such as HVAC system and lifts.
- Sound insulation: We don’t want to hear sound that we don’t want to hear from the next room, upstairs or downstairs. By designing a suitable ceiling, flooring and wall systems, a sufficient sound insulation can be achieved.
- Room acoustics: We want to be able to listen comfortably and understand verbal information that we want to. This is critical especially in meeting rooms and event space.
- Sound reinforcement and public address system: We want the sound reinforcement and public address system to be heard clearly while not disturbing others who don’t want to hear it.
All the above can also be done after the building and the working space is built. But if it’s done before it’s built, you will have a lot more options and be more cost efficient rather than changing what is already been built.
So, if you are a highly productive person, or if you want to become one, we would suggest you to consider noise in choosing the space you are working in.