Workplace Solutions: How to Work in Peace and Quiet


Distractions, distractions, distractions. Every bit of plastic with a chip is buzzing out notifications nowadays. Everyone, from your girlfriend’s sister to your cousin’s cat, needs to talk to you. And they’ll be very disappointed if it’s not NOW. And your dog still needs walking, your lunch still needs preparing, but your boss just sent you a cryptic message that’ll take the entire afternoon to decipher.

Even when you work from an office, a location literally called a ‘place of work,’ you can still get sidetracked by chattering colleagues and vibrating phones.

All the while, there’s work to do and deadlines to meet. How are you supposed to stay productive when there are so many things dragging your attention in a million different directions? After all, your cousin’s cat won’t pay your rent…

Here are some tips on how to create a quiet space to work in, minimize distractions and maximize your focus.

Find a quiet place

This one’s not easy, especially when you work in a small office. But there are usually areas where there’s less traffic, away from the kitchen or the bathroom, where people are less likely to wander aimlessly and want to talk about ‘the game’ or ‘the show.’ These places are usually protected by doors.

If you’re really struggling, you can talk to your office manager about creating a ‘quiet room,’ where talking is held to a minimum, and people can work in peace.

When you need your entire focus for a couple of hours, and people keep pestering you, you may even want to step outside the office, take a walk and sit in a park or cafe.

Find a quiet coworker

There are always people around the office that could be your partner in crime when it comes to actually doing work. If a couple of you stick together and have an agreement about keeping disturbances to a minimum, more chatty colleagues will steer clear of your circle of peace.

Having a buddy is invaluable.

Get a White Noise Machine

A white noise machine is a box that produces noise. Noise to help you battle noise? What?

At first, listen. You may not think that static hissing could help you in any way, shape, or form. However, the type of noise the machine makes is easily filtered out by our brains, but it still masks other kinds of sounds. It’s especially effective at filtering out outside noise like traffic or dogs barking.

‘White noise’ is a technical audio term. It refers to a sound that equally represents all frequencies of the audible spectrum. ‘Pink noise’ could actually be more effective for these purposes. With the harsher, high frequencies tamed and rolled off, that’s white noise.

Luckily, white noise machine manufacturers include all types and ‘colors’ of noise in their product and other ambient, relaxing sounds, like babbling brooks accompanied by birdsong or rain pitter-pattering on a tin roof. These may make you take more frequent bathroom breaks though.

Noise producing machines can also help with tinnitus as well as insomnia. They focus on a wandering mind and create a calm atmosphere.

Get noise cancelling headphones

When all else fails, noise cancelling headphones can be your saving grace.

The technology is simple – a microphone on the outside of the headset records the surrounding noise. The polarity of this signal is then switched and mixed in with the sound you get in your headphones.

This results in everything outside of the music you’re playing being considerably turned down.

The downside is, this may be too isolating of an experience. You don’t always want to be completely inaccessible and distant in the workplace.

When you do want to be completely on your own, though, they’re a godsend. On top of the noise cancellation, your headphones will be a signal for your coworkers – I’ll talk about the Superbowl in an hour or two when I get my daily tasks sorted.

Invest in panels

By far the most passive aggressive solution, investing in panels for a busy and noisy open office layout can be the only solution.

Having your own secluded corner will ensure privacy and reduce disturbances from coworkers. They may not make you the most popular person in the office, but they will help with incessant colleagues who can’t take a hint. Now, with a literal barrier between you and the guy who can’t stop yammering about the trip he and his wife took to Egypt, you’re much more likely to get some honest work in.

You can even negotiate your company paying for them. If you tell your office manager your output is suffering and that a simple premade wall will make more money for the company, only a complete amateur wouldn’t offer to fork up some cash.

Keep a tidy desk

Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy. A huge stack of papers, three coffee mugs, and yesterday’s leftovers don’t make a soothing, focusing atmosphere.

We all love the bits and pieces that make our desk feel like home, but when they clutter up your space to the point, they can be much more of a hindrance. Keep your favorites and toss out the bobblehead your lazy coworker bought you as a last minute secret Santa gift.

Take the last half hour of your shift to tidy up. This will give you a chance to reflect on the work accomplished that day, plan for the next one, and slowly shift gears from work to everyday life.

Mute the ‘Offtopic’ group chat

No one hates memes and laughing, but in a huge group chat that’s used for sharing funny images and deep discussions about ‘Succession,’ you’re bound to find distractions.

It’s impossible for more than 30 people to sync up their workflow. There’s always someone taking a break and looking for some conversation to blow off steam. Memes are hard to resist, so the best way to control yourself is muting the chat, especially when you’re in the zone.

In Conclusion

Make sure you’ve tried everything you can to remedy a distracting set of circumstances before speaking to management. Nobody likes a scab and a corporate cooperator.

Keep in mind that everyone’s got their own rhythm and flow, and the levels of quiet you may need may be desensitizing and dulling for others.

At the same time, don’t let anyone give you a hard time because you require your own peace and quiet to work. Some people are much more prone to distractions, and that’s fine.

What we’re trying to say is – feeling annoyed about distractions is the biggest distraction there is.

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