You’ve done everything you’re supposed to do: arrive early, organize your desk, make a to-do list, and place a large bottle of water next to you. But no matter how hard you try, you just can’t concentrate at work these days. Sound familiar? You’re not alone, and there’s a reason why you keep drifting off into la la land.
Recent research has shown that visual noise is one of the biggest distractors in office spaces these days.
Visual noise refers to anything that distracts you visually, such as your coworkers congregating in a corner, extra electronics in your vicinity, or weirdly placed plants around the office. These kinds of distractions mess with your analytical thinking, creativity, and ability to concentrate.
The new kind of open floor plan that’s become popular in offices has gotten good at cutting down on aural distractions, but not so much when it comes to visual noise. Peter Reinhardt, CEO of Segment, told the Wall Street Journal that their last offices were “incredibly distracting” because of all the visual stimuli.
In 2012, Ethan Bernstein, an assistant professor of leadership and organizational behavior at Harvard Business School, conducted a study that found individuals were 10 to 15 percent more productive when they were behind a curtain or wall that guarded them from their boss’s view. Without having the supervisor’s eyes on them, they were more efficient and more creative with their work.
If you work in a bustling office with an open plan where everyone can see each other, it shouldn’t be a surprise that you have difficulty concentrating. The solution is not necessarily to lock yourself up in a dark room and stare at a wall, but there are some ways that the office space could be set up in a more productive way.
After all, according to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Environmental Psychology, a lack of visual privacy was the number 2 complaint from employees in open plan offices.
If it’s becoming a serious issue for you in the long run, don’t hesitate to speak to your supervisor about maybe making some changes. You need a suitable space for you to do your best work.