The sick, sneezy coworker. The loud talker. Even worse, the loud eater. That guy who seems to spend more time taking personal phone calls than work-related ones. What do all have in common? They're office workers who are detrimental to your productivity because they make so much (bleeping) noise.

It's unsurprising that noise is the top workplace distraction, NPR reports. They spoke with Alan Hedge, a workplace design expert and professor at Cornell. "We're tuned into trying to pay attention," Hedge says, which makes it difficult to focus on the task at hand.

Science says silence is nourishing

We already know that silence is incredibly beneficial to your brain and productivity. Researchers have discovered the absence of noise sparks new brain cell growth, reinforces your memory and encourages self-reflection. Noise reduction trumps office perks like free food, a study found.

Noisy humans are the worst offenders

Not all noise is created equal. Most people agree one type of noise is worse than the others. It's human noise. Talking, eating, coughing, sniffling all fit the bill. If it's a conversation, we end up accidentally eavesdropping because it's nearly impossible not to.

Once again, an overblown office perk that most people secretly hate is partly to blame. Open offices with their minimal furnishings and wide open space tend to reflect noise instead of absorb it. Your sick coworker becomes the source of the never-ending cough heard around the world. Hedge told NPR he recommends adding carpet, drapes and upholstered furniture to reduce noise distraction.

Another suggestion? Be part of the solution, not the problem. If you're sick, stay home. You'll not only contribute to providing your coworkers more peace and quiet, but also prevent them from catching your cold.

Published on: Nov 1, 2016
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