Working in a cube farm, my ears perked up to an NPR story about how other people are distracting.
“In general, if a sound is coming from another person, it’s much more disturbing than when it’s coming from a machine,” Alan Hedge at Cornell says, because, as social beings, humans are attuned to man-made sounds. He says overheard conversations, as well as high-pitched and intermittent noises, also draw attention away from tasks at hand.
Of course, open offices are worse. We are not there. (Yet!) And the plans for filling in more spaces are not leveraging open offices.
I have heard many of these like the coughing, sneezing, fingernail clippers, bizarre ringtones, and especially conversations. I have been the culprit for coughing, sneezing, and very loud conversations. Pretty sure I am noisier than most of those around me.
The new workstation keyboards in the cubefarm are much louder than the prior ones. I can hear these when before I could not. Of course, the former coworker who brought his own Logitech to work was known for his very loud typing. I’d thought it was just him. Nope. I now know it always was the keyboard.
The Fidget Cube pictured right is designed to allow people to fidget without clicking their pens. That funny enough is not a problem I’ve had to hear.
We do so much stuff over email or tickets or chat that phone calls are not very common. If I get one, then it almost certainly is a robocall or a marketer or follow-up to post conference spam because I deleted the emails.
Great headphones are how I hide from these distractions. There are fewer and fewer places to hide from others as the organization grows.
The interesting thing is these things kill productivity. They distract us from getting work done. Though, at the same time, when I overhear a conversation that I feel the need to contribute, I have involved myself and helping resolve the situation. Maybe the coworker who left lozenges on my desk was being helpful?