Making a Little Noise about Productivity and Creativity

by Ken Mueller on July 9, 2013 · 6 comments

coffee shopI need noise. I always have.

Silence drives me batty, while too  much noise is a distraction. I need just the right type and amount of noise in order to get my work done. As a teenager I would do my homework while listening to music, usually in headphones. This was back in the day when my only option was a big bulky headset plugged into a stereo with a turntable. Vinyl was king. There was no Internet. No MP3s or CDs.

Other times I would join the family and do my reading or studying in front of our favorite television programs. My parents would marvel at this and question how I could possibly be learning anything, but my grades were proof enough.

I needed some background noise; some distraction. It’s why I could rarely be found working in the library while in college or grad school. I was more likely to be found someplace with at least a little bit of noise, and hopefully a cup of coffee.

And I still do. While I work I’ll be in the living room or dining room, with other people around, and there will usually be music playing.

So I found it interesting when the latest issue of my AGBeat arrived in my email, with an article about a new service called Coffitivity. Based on research related to the relationship between ambient noise and productivity, Coffitivity delivers the sounds of a coffee shop right  to your work environment, whether you work alone at home, or in a cubicle in a large office. When I posted about this interesting find on Facebook, my friend Bryan Allain chimed in with another similar site, Soundrown. He actually echoed my first thoughts regarding Coffitivity, that it sounded more like a cafeteria than the local coffee shop. But perhaps that’s because Bryan and I are spoiled by some really good coffee shops in our area. Soundrown offers not only the sounds of a rather intimate coffee shop experience, but also the sounds of waves, rain, white noise, and yes, even the sounds of kids, for those of you who do your best work when the rugrats are running around the house like crazed banshees.

While the internet is rapidly offering each of us customized experiences, now we are understanding that we each work better under different circumstances. While many are debating the issue of whether or not employees should be allowed to work remotely, others are debating whether or not to let their employees use social media during the work day.

Your employees are adults. You have two choices, which aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive:

1. Hire employees that all work alike and fit into your corporate culture

2. Develop a corporate culture that understands that everyone is different and works with employees in ways to help them be productive.

I’m not saying that only one of these is right, and the other is wrong. I think, perhaps, that number 1 might be the easier of the two, however I think number 2 might allow for more real creativity and productivity. For those employees who like isolation and quiet, provide that for them. For those that work better in groups, help them with that. Clearly there are exceptions to the rule, and this won’t work for every situation.

For me, it’s not even the same every day. Some days I work better with a little bit of hubbub going on around me, while other days the tiniest little noise bothers me and I just have to get away. A lot depends on my state of mind at the moment, as well as the task at hand.

Find what works for you, and go with it. Find what works for your employees, and try to work with them on some customizability of the workplace. Don’t let your productivity and creativity be hampered by your environment. Make the necessary adjustments, and get going!

What is your idea work situation? Do you require quiet or some level of noise? Do you work better alone, or in groups?




Sometimes I like to mix up the venues by going to a coffee shop. The rest of the time, I'll move to different areas of the home/office...including front or back decks with the birds singing and the hummingbirds zipping in and out. I can then glance out to the bike path and expand the thought process a bit.

I definitely work better with music. I'll go instrumental on Mon~Thu with Pandora stations like Lindsey Stirling, Keiko Matsui, 2 Cellos, etc. Come Friday, it's bring on the 80s Rock/Script/Hinder/ZZ Top or perhaps some Rat Pack, Buble, etc.


Thanks to my Dad, I've been trained to listen to music while I work at a young age, and now I can't operate at work without some background music. I can't listen to anything glaring though, it has to have a level of ambiance in order for it to qualify as 'working music.' 

KenMueller moderator

@MikeRathfon So that's why you were listening to Michael Bolton when I stopped by the other day?


@KenMueller I pretty much keep this jam on repeat all-day, every-day.‎ 

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