Should Your Workplace Be Noisy or Silent?

Should Your Workplace Be Noisy or Silent?

White noise can actually be bad for you, but some types might give certain ways of thinking a specific boost.

Sometimes it’s hard to bear even the slightest bit of noise. The scrape of that guy’s chair against the floor, the way she slurps (every time!), the rustle of the magazine or the gang that keeps clearing their throats as if it’s a group activity. Background noise can make or break your workspace.

But some people seem to seek it out. So, is it better for your brain to work in silence or not?

Experts from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health cited by Scientific say it’s actually bad for us. You might break your concentration with even low-level noise, they say.

And it gets worse: being exposed to ambient noise can increase your stress levels, give you high blood pressure, a risk of coronary disease, peptic ulcers and headaches.

Related: This is Why You Should Be Biking to Work

What if you’re continually exposed? Apparently we don’t become desensitized like we might wish. It just worsens the effect. Why? Science has shown that when you’re exposed to a lot of white noise, your body can release a lot of cortisol. This is a hormone that helps bring you back to normal after a negative experience.

The problem is, if you have too much of it in your system, if affects the front of your brain. So, you may have a harder time remembering things in the short term, thinking clearly, planning, reasoning and controlling your impulses. It can also affect your higher brain function, experts say.

So what about all those people on laptops in Starbucks? Well, not everyone agrees it’s bad. According to the New York Times, if you want to start writing that novel, a coffee shop could be a perfect place to jump in.

The background noise of a coffee shop exposes you to just the right level of noise to stimulate creativity, say researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

So, are you completing your taxes or redesigning a new kitchen? Trust your instincts and get to the appropriate space. It will probably make things easier.

Photo credits: hjalmeida/Bigstock

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