There’s a man with a pneumatic drill outside the window. He’s digging up the asphalt… again!

Actually there’s a bunch of them. They’ve got earmuffs on. The noise even from this distance of, say, 15 metres is disruptive. I can see their whole bodies vibrating with the intensity of the drills. Nothing can dampen that down.

Noise!

Living in a big city, we’re surrounded by it. We try to block it out with headphones. When I’m working at my desk I unwittingly stop noticing the constant background roar of the traffic – lorries, buses, taxis, cars in a never ending stream of people going somewhere and then back again.  But it’s always there. Noise!

What is all this noise doing to us?

Take the open plan office, that reasonably recent architectural advance designed to maximise space utilisation and communication. Recent research is showing that open plan offices actually decrease productivity and create stress. The main reason is noise. The constant exposure to and the particular sound mix of many open-plan offices inhibits employees’ abilities to recall information and perform basic tasks, like arithmetic.

The noise causes actual stress. When asked to complete a series of unsolvable puzzles, professionals in simulated open plan office conditions had higher levels of stress hormones and gave up much more readily, showing less motivation, than a control group.

In addition, the constant stream of  “irrelevant environmental stimuli” means we are effectively multi-tasking to deal with it all. And since most people in this digital era have already developed the unproductive habit of multitasking , the open plan office environment is making it worse.

In a subconscious effort to protect ourselves from the environmental onslaught we tend to hunch up,  altering our posture to a more foetal protective position, and in so doing, restrict our breathing ad create more stress.

What to do??

  1. Take a break once an hour. Get up, stretch, move, breathe.
  2. Get out of the office as often as you can, especially lunch breaks. Do not eat lunch at your desk.
  3. Find some Nature, a little piece of green, a park, a garden, somewhere where you can look at the sky, or even a favourite picture of a wonderful natural location
  4. Take time out to sit quietly with yourself and let it all be. A moment of stillness and reflection. Nothing to do , nowhere to go.
  5. Stop blaming yourself.

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A growing number of powerful reports from highly reputable organisations have repeatedly spelled out the costs to people, business and nation of mental ill health. Excellent research has outlined the main factors that impact people’s mental health at work, what causes stress, leads to burnout and increases the risk of illness. In recent years courses ...